It’s another one of those cases where I look around and have no clue how I got here. Late 20s, with a stable professional manager job, in a long term relationship with someone else in a stable professional career, a bevvy of female workaholic friends many of whom choose to remain stubbornly “single” (and by single I don’t mean unattached, I mean unmarried, because in their view – “I can’t keep a cactus alive and you want me to get married!!?!”), parents who are homing in on retirement, a facebook feed full of big poufy wedding dresses and champagne toasts and familiar faces with new last names I do not recognise (and to a lesser extent the faces of chubby babies belonging to friends who got started earlier), conversations about the type of pram to buy and milk pumping machines have started to creep into the edges of my life, and to top it all off on the other side of the planet there is a tiny human being to whom I will be forever known as Auntie Ashley. All indications seem to point to full on adult hood, yet I have absolutely no idea how I/we got here.
When I was in high school, people in their twenties were ancient to me. I couldn’t even begin to fathom the concept of being 24, much less being, well, older than that. While my twenties don’t look anything like I thought they would – 15 year old me thought I’d be married by now, with maybe one toddler and another on the way, or working somewhere else in the world and living in a really nice chic grown up apartment with a tiny kitchen and a huge balcony space (15 year old me never thought that future me would love cooking as much as I do – now I’d sacrifice all kinds of space for a bigger kitchen) – it’s actually a pretty good place to be. Financial freedom is completely underrated. Going out there and making things happen for yourself. Also extremely underrated. The autonomy of making decisions (mostly) on your own. Fantastic.
I think a lot of folks who are fixated on their twenties are obsessed because it feels like a time where there are constant deadlines to meet – get a job, get attached, get serious, get promoted, get a house, get married, get babies… And there’s no end to the parental (and societal) reminders of these looming deadlines (trust me, you think you had the nagging bad in school? Wait till you get out of the womb and into the world because the nagging becomes about big. life. issues.)
[On a side note, the mother of a good friend of mine recently commented while we were all at her house one day that she was building a shelf. We asked her what for. She said she’s worried we’ll all be left on it so she better start making space]
You see what I mean.
But the thing is, do we have to live governed by these rules? You must admit that ours is a generation that probably looks very little like the ones before it. Career path? What’s that? Most of us will bounce around to different roles and industries before we even hit 30. House? Oh, I know what that is, and I would love one but am I likely to be able to afford it all on my ownsome anytime soon? Probably not. So let’s not stress and get on with living. As for marriage? I read about the rejigged rules for the Game of Life: they moved the Get Married space to the middle of the board, and Get Divorced space right after it. It’s not a pretty picture, approach with caution, don't settle just because you feel as though you're nearing the societal expiry date. God I hate that word. S e t t l e . Maybe that's the issue with age, it implies settling for something less than what you originally wanted so as to not get disqualified from the game of life.
You can't get disqualified in life.
What happens then? When you stop living by these pre-defined guidelines of what your life should look like at every age… Personally, the 30s don’t seem so scary – it helps to know a whole bunch of 30something year olds who are showing me how very truly awesome it can be to be there. Revelation: Life does not end once you get married yo! Not married? So what!? World = Oyster! (there was much debate over dinner yesterday about what it truly meant, but you get my meaning) As for children? There are babysitters for that! (read: very willing grandparents)
So what do we do? We concentrate on the work. Doing good with it. We concentrate on the life we have. Don’t forget to live it. Stop chasing those damn deadlines! It’s high time you put those barometers to rest, you don’t need the added pressure, there’s far more than enough of it in the atmosphere (this feels like a song, doesn’t it?)
As for the 40s, 50s, 60s? While they seem kind of far off at the moment (and 40 year old me will read this and go you silly thing, you knew nothing!) I doubt they’re as bad as we make them out to be. Fear is a function of the unknown right? So perhaps the next step is to make some 40 year old friends and gain some insight… though they will probably think me very odd indeed.
I don’t know what it is, but I’m excited. It feels like I’m standing on the edge of something but I haven’t quite figured out what that is. But that is OKAY! Hurray. We just got to embrace the ages.