Happy 29th Birthday to me! While this may be the very last birthday of my twenties and therefore, the end of an era, I’m still celebrating with rainbow sprinkles on my cake and a giant, shiny unicorn pinata because the truth is, in my head, I still feel about twenty two. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m going to feel like I’m twenty two even when I’m eighty six and rocking a Chanel skirt suit in my casket.
Since we’ve just gotten back from a long holiday in India, we decided to only take a couple of days to visit somewhere fairly local for a bit of a change of scene and some time alone. Bath is a city I’ve always wanted to visit, so I look forward to turning it inside out with my favourite person and our cameras round our necks, like the little photo geeks that we are.
I’m going to be honest with you though, it took a lot longer for the Birthday fever to catch this year and for the longest time, I couldn’t feel less like celebrating. Did you ever watch that episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S when Rachel turns 30 and has a total meltdown? I always laughed at how silly she was being, but that was basically a few days ago. No jokes.
My birthdays have always been a huge deal to me and I’ve been lucky enough to have family and friends around me that show me truly wonderful birthdays that resemble a Katy Perry video every year. But my tiara wasn’t feeling its sparkliest this year, mainly because I look at other twenty nine year olds around me and I feel like I’m on a whole other page. Most of them have made down payments on their own properties, have (or are strongly considering) having children and are well-settled in their friendship groups and careers, have savings and regularly go on holiday. Basically, they all seem like they’re winning at adulting and totally have their sh*t together.
I, on the other hand, am STILL struggling with my career after moving to the UK 3 years ago, am still nowhere near closer to knowing whether having children is the right decision for us and barely have enough money to get through the month (holding my hands up to my shopping addiction), let alone actually managing to save any away. Most of my closest friends in the UK are on other pages of their lives (moving to other countries, getting new jobs, getting pregnant, etc.) and don’t have much time to hang out, and the acquaintances I do see on the regular aren’t really people I have a lot in common with or feel particularly relaxed around. Even the travel front seems almost cursed with visa and passport issues ruining almost all of our trips since last year. Hell, I can’t even remember to take my own bag when I go to the supermarket, which, for me, is the epitome of adulthood and having your sh*t together.
I can’t seem to quieten the voice in my head that says “Have you done enough in your twenties?”. Have I? Have I followed the right career path? Have I worked as hard as I should / could have? Have I traveled alone or taken enough life-changing holidays with my girlfriends? Have I been to enough concerts and festivals and epic nights out that people remember for the rest of their lives? Have I started to build a name for myself?
The chilling answer to all of those questions is ‘No’. I still haven’t gotten my twenties out of my system yet.
The fact that I’m soon going to be blowing thirty candles off my birthday cake is just plain terrifying. I mean, it feels like one minute you’re eating cold pizza at 11am in a ratty old oversized tshirt you found that probably belonged to an ex you’d rather forget, and the next you’re making a green smoothie in your matching satin pjs, listening to jazz and watering your plants before 8am. I feel about 500 years old.
Maybe I’m wrong, but it definitely feels like your thirties just have a bad reputation. It seems less footloose and fancy-free and more wrinkle cream and responsibility. Its about sleepless nights (for different reasons than the fun ones in your twenties) and diapers and playdates and judgement from people and your body not feeling quite like your own anymore. It seems a lot like putting the needs of everybody else in your life before your own, and learning to come to terms that you are the last on everyone’s priority list, your own included. And it seems like no matter how hard you try, that striking a balance between being a parent, a professional, and a partner and a person is just completely unachievable and unrealistic.
It is ridiculous, but suddenly I feel as if age is becoming a much bigger deal in my life than it used to be even as little as a year ago. From little things to a friend suggesting I try an anti-ageing skincare line instead of one for younger skin to my salon telling me I can’t have the hair colour I originally selected because It isn’t dark enough to ‘hide all my greys’ to not being considered for roles at fast-fashion companies, because they prefer to hire people fresh out of university. From being referred to as a ‘lady’ instead of a girl to being asked by acquaintances what our plans are for children because I haven’t got all the time in the world anymore. I AM TWENTY NINE, COR CRYING OUT LOUD. The ageism can’t possibly start this early, can it?
I watched an inspiring video recently that really hit home with me (you have to check it out) about not letting anybody rush you with their timelines. And while I’m lucky enough to have a husband and families on either side who are patient, supportive and understand where my head is at, it is a little hard to not feel pressure when even Mother Nature is tapping at her wristwatch, asking you to get a move on. To disassociate yourself from a life that is about being as free as a bird, to one that feels like it is what it will be for the next forty to fifty years, till I hit the bucket.
Do you ever feel similarly or am I the only one in a blind panic about my twenties coming to and end? I’m trying to remember to take things a day at a time, to not compare myself to those who have lived their whole lives in a country that is completely new to me and to remind myself that I have a lot going for me at the moment from being in a great relationship with my soulmate, financial stability even without a full-time job (for a while anyway), being on the property ladder, having a cool, fun and fulfilling hobby (that also sometimes pays me) and the best friends and family one could ask for, even though some of them live thousands of miles away. For now, that is plenty.
Despite what the future holds, today, on my twenty ninth birthday, I am making a pact with myself to always put what feels like the right decision for me first, to not rush myself to adhere to anyone else’s timelines and to priorotize living my best life for the sake of self care and mental health. Because as we’ve all witnessed, from all the tragic suicides in the news recently, that nothing in this world is more important than your own mental health.
PHOTOGRAPHY: BRONWYN MOGRIDGE CRAWFORD
And with that, I’m off to put on an anti-ageing sheet mask, stuff my face with birthday cake, secretly hate on the stick-thin twenty year old Love Island contestants and come up with the ‘perfect age’ so I can start lying to strangers about how old I am. Until the next post. xx