For the last couple of years, I’ve had a mixed feeling about my own birthdays. Sure, I’d excited about the cake, the gifts and the attention. But each birthday was taking me closer to the end of my 20s.
My first issue was this sense of time running out. I hadn’t achieved much. I was still making stupid choices and well, popular culture had me convinced that it was all downhill after my 20s. Sure, Sex and The City and some Hollywood films glorified the 30s as the liberating decade for women and all, but take a look closer to home. There is no film made about a woman in her 30s rocking the pants off life (Gul Panag’s Turning 30 was a horror show, so do not cite the example of that film!).
And as for role models, post 30 most of our actresses (who wore swanky designer outfits and posed for the hottest mags) got married and started their own home décor businesses and having babies. As the birthday loomed large, just about 3 months away, I felt nothing but doom. I hit the rewind button to the build up to my 20th. I was so full of hope. I had an acceptance letter from a university. I held a ticket & a visa to a new land, I was surrounded by friends with the promise of brand new friends. And there was absolutely no pressure. None. It did not bother my parents that I was single (they must have been happy I guess). It did not bother anyone around me that I was fat (well it bothered me, but I’d forget about it the moment I saw a burger.) and life held endless possibilities ahead.
By the time I was 22, I was losing weight, was decently successful at work, and had the possibility of finding love ahead of me. Most of my twenties I spent trying to find love. Because for some reason as soon as you hit 23, if you’re single, people around you start to worry for you. I met the weirdest men, the most idiotic boys and some very, very nice men. But I only found true love towards the late 20s. Had I met him before, I could have focused on other life goals that I remained complacent about. Like making money etc.
Some people say because I have found and met the love of my life and tied the knot, the pressure of turning 30 should be a little lesser. I say, bullshit. Whether you’re married, dating, single – the pressure finds you! Find a partner, own a home, have a child, find a good school for said child, decorate said home with pretty (hence expensive things), have a stunning career, have a fat bank balance, invest, take holidays in exotic locales… blah blah blah.
But if I look back, at 19 my biggest worry was finding a career & losing wieght. At 29, those things are still major concerns on my list along with all or some of the above things. So as the 30th drew closer, I found myself waking up at 3 am with anxiety attacks. But a week away from the day, I decided to screw all of the pressure and just go ahead and celebrate.
And it was a stunning birthday, with a fantastic meal at a fancy restaurant, a huge birthday party with all of my friends (it will all feel good just until our credit card bill shows up I guess, but hey!) and a great day at work. Right up to 11.59, there was this nagging feeling that I needed to something in honour of my 20s, but at midnight, I bid them goodbye and said hello to 30, and the pain disappeared. Life was the same! I was surrounded by friends and the profound silliness by which we live.
I woke up deeply disappointed by 30. I felt none of the clarity or the fabulousness that the dawn of the new decade promised. The status of my brain pounding out of my skull was proof enough that I was still making stupid choices. But the only difference was – I was perfectly ok with accepting those stupid choices and living with their consequences (even if it meant wearing sunglasses indoors for a bit). And there was also this amazing realization that I didn’t do too badly for my 20s. I wrote and published a book, found the man I wanted to marry and married him, I switched careers like crazy and most importantly, I had some pretty good stories to share in honour of my 20s.
So balls to all that pressure of turning 30. And as for the pop culture references in the Indian scenario for 30-somethings – they haven’t happened yet cause my generation is just hitting 30. So here’s to all us 30-something kids – the first batch of millennials. Here’s to the confusion and here’s to living the stories rather than watching them! And for the record, 30 is not the new anything. 30 is just 30. Goodbye denial!