Thirty under 30: the pressure’s finally off!

For large swathes of my life, I’ve spent quite a bit of time trying to live up to the best of the best, and often missing the mark by quite a bit – then beating myself up for it. I must admit I have never really been one for singular drives in one direction, which I feel make up a considerable proportion of young-adult success, particularly the sort that lands one on those age-based lists: 30 under 30, the young world changers, OMG-they’re-so-successful-at-this-youthful age. I was under the mistaken impression that if (as was pretty likely) I didn’t make it by [insert arbitrary age cut-off here], it meant that I wasn’t ever going to succeed, or that my success didn’t mean anything. The more radical thing I’ve been sitting with of late is that “success” is a nebulous and evasive concept, and even those we perceive as successful in one public area may not be successful in other fields.

I’m not single-minded on success. I have come to realise I enjoy doing too wide a variety of things to knuckle down and do my 10 000 hours or whatever it takes to get that mastery down. I’d far rather dig lots of fascinating, shallow excavations into my interests than be 100ft down a mineshaft, wondering if my motivation canary is going to snuff it at an awkward moment.

I have dabbled in a lot of things over the years, and maintained a lot of hobbies. And for the most part, I still have all of those things in my identity – I cook (a lot, and love it), I write (often, if not always somewhere visible to others just yet), I dance competitively (again, not at top level, but for fun and fitness), I run (half-marathons sometimes, but mostly 10-14km at a time), I sew (historybounding or bedazzled dancewear mostly), I… think about playing my viola sometimes? I no longer brew beer because we didn’t import our brewing kit from SA when we made the move, but I’d be keen to start again when we have a garage to store the kit in.

All this, and work and the endless cycle of another-damn-load-of-laundry; I am pretty pleased with the balance my life has had so far.

In the week running up to my twenty-ninth birthday, I was still feeling quite pandemicky-panicky about not having quite had the chance to live my best life and be productive. Wait, that needs these thingies: ” ✨productive ✨”.

In the week running up to my thirtieth birthday, I received a voicenote from a beloved friend who just wanted to check that I “wasn’t getting all existential, because being thirty is great”. My husband just packed up laughing. Apparently this is a very me thing to do. And Yes, I Know It Is A Very Me Thing to do, but I assure you, turning thirty has been such a relief.

I am no longer eligible for all those nonsense lists that cause anxiety.

I can get on with life, write my books, stick a bajillion sparkly rhinestones on a piece of skimpy stretch fabric, stick my hair in a habitual bun – in short, continue as before, but with less pressure.

This is the face of a thirty-year old with fancy National Trust hot chocolate, coz she can.

Next time I get all existential at the challenges of matching some external achievement criteria, remind me that I know I am doing pretty well, that there is always another nice cup of tea, I have at least one blank fancy notebook still to go, and that there is no such thing as too many hobbies. Jill of many trades, that’s me.

Gotta dash now – I need to knit a quick jersey or film a new youtube video or paint a quick oil painting or…

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