I’m not sure how much I can convey to you the sinking feeling I get, the dread that fills every pore of my being, the panic that sets in every time I think about this.
And I’m angry at myself for it. I hate that I’ve succumbed to society’s lie that says it’s all downhill from here: that your 20s are the golden era of beauty, hopes, dreams and fertility. “My eggs!” I think as I hear the tick of the biological clock tock ever louder as I approach the BIG THREE-OH.
Friends who have already passed that number roll their eyes as I groan my misery. “It’s really not that bad,” they say. Just like when they told me I wouldn’t feel a thing when having my tooth out. (Lies!)
“It’s much better the other side,” they say.
Maybe it will be. But it’s the lead-up that’s the worst.
So, to cheer myself up and look hopefully towards my impending 30s, here’s a list of the things I hope I’ll learn in the next decade in the hopes that – come 40 – I’ll look back and think: these were the glory days.
1) To be present
I’m constantly distracted – always looking to the next thing: checking my phone, looking for notifications on my Facebook page, or interactions in my Twitter timeline. I no longer want to be obsessed with capturing the moment on my smartphone rather than being in it. I want to listen wholeheartedly to my friends and family. I want to learn to be present. To focus. To be.
2) How to do smoky eyes
I’ve realised I don’t actually know how to do my make-up. Every morning consists of slapping it on and doing what I assume is right. If I ever glance at women’s magazines explaining the art of eyeliner or contouring it all looks far too much effort. Though smoky eyes do look lovely. How d’you do them?
3) That it’s ok to use the N word
No, definitely NOT that one. But for most of my life, ‘no’ has not been in my vocabulary. Because to me, ‘no’ means I’m not capable or that I’ve failed, or let people down, or that people will think badly of me. But it’s basically resulted in a decade of exhaustion, despite me being in awe of people who seem to be able to actually say it. I’m so very tired… So I might start to exercise my right to use this word more in my 30s. Watch out.
4) That it’s ok to say I don’t know
So often we feel the need to fill empty space or to give the impression that we are very clever thankyouverymuch and would never dream of admitting we don’t actually know something. I think the world would be better if we just admitted we haven’t got a clue.
5) To like my own company
Last year I went on my first ever retreat. It was weird. I’m pretty extreme on the extroversion scale and can’t go for long without human company – whether virtually or #IRL. But here’s to getting to know myself and being ok with hanging out with me in the next few years.
6) That silence is golden
Yep, more retreats needed – times away where I don’t fill every waking moment with noise – whether One Direction-type noise (ahem) or TV noise or chat noise. Just a ‘lil time with me and the Big G.
7) How to save/budget
Apparently grown-ups are supposed to do this. And now that I will officially be one, I should probably start. Alongside things like planning my week’s meals, bringing in packed lunches and not thinking that I just *have* to have that dress.
8) To listen
Far too often I find myself in conversation with a friend. ‘What do you think?’ they’ll say. And I realise – to my horror – that I’ve only half been listening. I have no clue what they’re asking about. My mind has drifted, pondering random and often selfish thoughts about my issues and not fully engaging with their stories. I’m committing to really listening to the people I love most; but also to the new voices that I hear around me.
9) It’s about quality not quantity
For the past few years, it’s been about excess – wanting and doing more and more. But here’s to living life like a fine dining experience, not an all-you-can-eat buffet.
10) That it’s ok to say goodbye
I’ve always found it hard to say goodbye. Even to inanimate objects. Aged 19, I bawled my eyes out when my first car – Daisy-the-Fiat-Punto – was towed away and resigned to the rubbish heap. I thought I’d never love another the way I’d loved her. But Daisy wasn’t good for me. Cars with mechanical failures aren’t exactly the best to drive around in. And saying goodbye to Daisy meant I could be introduced to the new love of my life: Alan the Almeira – my faithful companion over the past nine years. Love you, Al!
11) To prioritise sleep
I’ve lived the past few years thinking: ‘who needs sleep? I’ll sleep when I’m 30.’ And have survived on an average of five hours a night until I suddenly crash and spend a whole 24 hours in bed either on holiday or when visiting my parents. The lack of sleep is now catching up on me. I’ve started to look forward to getting back into bed as soon as I’ve woken up. Well, bring on the slumber. The time is now. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
12) To disconnect
Anyone else sleep with their laptop on on their bed? Check their smartphone as soon as they get up for messages, tweets, notifications? Anyone else have a major panic every time they think they might possibly have lost their iPad? Enough of that.
13) How to make good pastry
I don’t think I’ve ever even tried; merely opting for the simplest option – the ready made shop-bought type. But here’s to taking a little more time and not doing things the easy way. The pastry thing is just part of my wider wish to learn how to be a domestic goddess in my 30s – the kind that floats through the kitchen, who prepares a beef wellington before work and cooks it for guests in the evening while keeping their glasses topped up with wine. All without breaking a sweat. This’ll happen, right?
14) To give thanks in all things
Too often I’m focused on what I don’t have, what I need, what I want. Far too often, I even forget to say thanks when massive prayers have been answered. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. For the good things and even the things that I think are bad. They’re all part of the journey.
15) That I’m enough
16) To be less selfish
I think I might hide it well, but sometimes I’m taken aback by how selfish I am. From the thoughts that whir around my head, you’d have thought the world revolves around me. But here’s to being less self-absorbed and more outward-looking in the years to come.
17) To be more selfish
Yep, I have many, many selfish thoughts, as I just said. But too often I’ve found myself putting myself out to please other people. I may have been called a doormat in my time. But this doormat is getting a backbone.
18) To love my body
We live in a society that says we should do everything we can to change our bodies: that they are ugly. Just four per cent of women in a recent Dove survey were able to say that they were beautiful. If we’re created in the image of God, then we’re beautiful – ‘fat days’, ‘bad hair days’ and all. I’d love to wake up one day and be totally at ease with what I see in the mirror.
19) To banish imposter syndrome
I live with this very annoying companion. I hear it breathing down my neck in board meetings, at my book launch, doing talks at festivals or conferences: that overwhelmingly scary feeling that you’re going to get found out and that everyone will realise that you’re faking your way to competence. That you’re not good enough. That you don’t deserve a place at the table or to be on the platform. I’m going to work on banishing those constant voices and telling myself I’m worthy of being there.
20) That it’s ok to disagree
This’ll take a bit of getting to know my own mind. I’m not really sure what I think about things a lot of the time, and not being certain of my convictions means I’m more likely to go along with things that I wouldn’t if I just stopped and thought about it. Disagreement is also often presented as a negative or being argumentative – which I do my best to shy away from. But there’s beauty in diversity of opinions. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with a bit of gracious disagreement.
21) To be vulnerable
“Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together,” writes Brene Brown in her brilliant book The Gift of Imperfection. If we were all able to be a bit more vulnerable; to say ‘this hurts’ or ‘I’m struggling with this’ then it would help us all to recognise we’re broken people. But that broken people can get together and make things whole.
22) To be more organised
I seem to try a different method of organising my life each week. None seem to work, which means I feel in a constant state of chaos. So over it. When will I sort it out and become that person who plans ahead, who keeps all the plates spinning, who doesn’t have diary errors?! Help needed.
23) To pray
Here’s to embarking on a non self-centred, but contemplative, committed and deep prayer life. Not only will it be good for me, but hopefully it’ll impact all those around me.
24) That quality might cost more
Grown-ups spend more on quality things that won’t fall apart within a few months. I’ve tended to go for the cheapest option. But investing more now will save later. That’s the way grown-ups think. They are so wise.
25) To be a good role model
Living my life well is not just about me. It’s about all of those coming after me. I want to be a good role model for how to do life to my godchildren, my younger friends, cousins and any future children, nephews or nieces I have.
26) To get my five a day
Does a strawberry mojito count?
27) That I don’t have to wait to change the world
I’ll soon be 30. I need to stop putting this world-changing business off. Changing the world starts now, not ‘when I’m settled’, ‘when I’m rich’, ‘when I’m married’. It starts with me and the little bit of the world I inhabit. No more excuses.
28) The dance steps to Single Ladies
I know, I know. This is probably on everyone’s list.
29) To stop comparing myself
I do it constantly. Other women are the main objects of my comparison. Is she prettier than me? Cleverer than me? More successful? Nicer house? It’s not only tiresome, but it can have a negative impact on the relationships I have with people. It’s better to know that I’m unique and that I’m enough. See number 15.
30) That He’s made everything beautiful in its time
I love Ecclesiastes 3:11. It reminds me not to fret. That ageing is a good thing. That each day brings new life, new joys and challenges and hopes and dreams. Age ain’t nothing but a number.