On the 3rd of May, I turned 30. I left my twenties and entered the third decade of my life. If I think back to when I was a child, 30 seemed, not old, but almost so far off into the future that I might never reach it. How on earth have my twenties passed me by already?
Facebook had a stark reminder for me a few mornings before, regaling me with a status update from TEN YEARS AGO, saying I was enjoying the last few days of ‘teen-hood’. Like that was ten flipping years ago?!
As I approached this day, it was funny to experience the different attitudes my family and friends had towards this milestone birthday. Some approach it with caution, warning me that my metabolism would slow down and it would be more difficult to lose weight. Others were jealous and reminded of how distant a memory their own thirtieths had become. A small minority, supported the “It’s just a number” standpoint. I think that’s the one I’ll adopt.
If I think back to entering my twenties, I can remember picturing 30 as very grown up, sensible, mature. By that point my life would be picture perfect. That’s what 30 would have looked like to 20 year old me. The 30 year old me, well, let’s just say nothing is perfect!
Family and friends who inhaled sharply and looked piteous when I reminded them I would be 30 this year, had me thinking this was some sort of failing. That, by this stage of my life there are certain things a woman (am I a woman now?) should have. Normal things. I admit, not ashamedly I might add, that I had a bit of a wobble as my birthday approached its final few minutes. I listened to that little voice in my head telling me that it was true, I should have these ‘normal’ things. That, somehow, I haven’t done enough.
Isn’t it awful how other people can affect me like that? Why do I let it happen? Who knows, but it got me thinking. I may not be who I thought I would be, or have all the things that I assumed I would have by this age, but I have changed, drastically in some respects, from I was twenty. There are things I now know, things I can say now, that I would never have assumed possible 10 years ago.
The lovely Laura, from Just Laura Jayne reminded me of that fact just this week. On her birthday, she added a post to her Instagram on ‘Five things I have learnt since my last birthday.’ I LOVED it! Five simple but oh so profound truths for where she is right now.
She inspired me to sit back, take a breath and reflect. Not on the place that others think I should be, but where I am RIGHT NOW. What I know FOR SURE and, I guess for the purpose of this blog, things I didn’t know when I turned 20.
Dear 20 Year Old Me,
You haven’t a notion what the next decade will have in store for you pet. All those plans you’re making and hope will materialise, well, some will, but some most definitely won’t.
It’s okay though. By the time you reach 30, you will have learned so much about yourself that life experience will have been more valuable to you than you could ever dream possible. I’m sorry to say that it’s not all roses. I know 20 year old you will panic about that, a lot, but you’re still standing. I promise. A lot of these experiences will be tough ones. In the midst of some, you’ll wonder if an end is in sight or what you did to deserve it. I can answer a few of those queries, but we’re still learning on this end.
The time of darkness you are about to enter will end. In a way. There is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The tears that you’ll cry, the panic attacks you will endure, the anxiety, the hand shakes…they will stop. Don’t feel fraudulent or embarrassed that you have no way of explaining why all this started. Don’t feel guilty that you have a boyfriend, a supportive family and are doing well at uni, but you still feel this dark cloud hanging over you. It’s not your fault. It was always going to happen. This is the part of your life where you’re going to learn to share a bit more of yourself. To accept help when you need it. To realise that you can’t be perfect. To understand that this is you. It’s the way you were made. It’s nothing you’ve done or neglected. It’s just a valuable lesson. And when you graduate, be proud of your accomplishment. You worked damn hard and overcame a hurdle or two to get here. Accept well wishes and all the congratulations. Enjoy your celebrations. You earned them.
A few weeks after your graduation, you’re going to get engaged by the way! To that same boyfriend you worried might not be able to cope with those foggy patches. He sticks around. Stop adding that to your list of worries as you lie awake at night. He’s in it for the long haul. Not because he feels he can’t leave you, but because he actually, genuinely, doesn’t want to.
By the way, when he gets down on one knee in Hillsborough Park with a Haribo ring, that’s not the time to take a long pause. Whether it’s your state of shock or you think he’s messing around, it’s the real proposal. Don’t leave the boy hanging! Oh, and one other thing, he thought it was weird but kinda funny that seconds before you were hanging out of a tower pretending to be Rapunzel. Just F.Y.I.
I’m sorry to say, that just before your wedding, the worst happens. Someone that should have been there, really hoped they would be there, won’t be. It will knock everyone for six and you will feel SO guilty for wanting to press on. The smiles you’ll smile will be natural, but guilt ridden. You’ll feel like you shouldn’t be completely happy because your new husband is so aware of the absence. Stop. It’s your only wedding day. Of course you’re allowed to be happy. This is meant to be the happiest day of your life. Don’t deny yourself! It might not be exactly as you imagined but think of what the alternative might have been. He will be missed but you’ll make him a part of the day. That’s all you can do.
You’ll love being married. Having your own home, (by the by, there’s plenty of drama to get that home!) making it your own, finding a new routine…you’re well suited to it. Your house may not be as you’d pictured, but be thankful you have it and a husband to share it with. Many don’t.
A few years will pass by and then you’ll be challenged. Something you thought was falling into place, won’t. You will think that you are beaten. You will think you won’t recover from this set back. You will doubt every decision. You will cry what will seem like endless tears. Panic attacks will become a daily grind once again. The unknown will terrify you. You won’t sleep. You won’t want to pretend that you’re ok. You can’t be, but through this trial you will learn something. Something you’ll wish you would have learned so much sooner…
You CAN speak your mind.
You CAN stand up for yourself.
You CAN say what’s right for you and say it at the right time.
You CAN let people know how you feel.
How will you discover all this? One day, YOU’LL JUST DO IT! It will shock you. You’ll have moments of complete disbelief- ‘Did I really just say that?’ You will say what needs to be said and you will be confident that it was the right thing to do. Through it all you will stop being a door mat, a push over, an easy touch. That Julie will be gone, forever.
All of this will be a whole lot for you to take in, but life is a journey, a learning curve and, evidently, a rollercoaster. There’ll be more in store, but you’ll be more able than ever ye girl ye!
Love from: 30 Year Old Me xox
P.S and by the way, you will get a dog and he will be spectacular!