Giving Up On #LifeGoals At 30

On my 25th birthday, while panicking about my proximity to 30 (I know, I hate my younger self too), my then-boyfriend told me to think about how different things had looked when I was 20, and how I had evolved as a person in the five years in between; just think what could be achieved by 30! I smiled wanly and agreed, reassured by his philosophy-lite. I now stand at the ripe old age of 30 and hear those words echo more and more often as I regularly try to count the ways in which I feel different / better. I’m something of a planner and a worrier. I like to know by Wednesday what I’m doing at the weekend because the possibility of having to spend a lengthy period of time alone with my thoughts leaves me jittery. I start to fear New Year’s Eve around August. Recently, when going through a stressful time, both personally and professionally, I realised that I wasn’t really enjoying my time on the planet. Life had become a series of obstacles to overcome: work trip to NYC, tick. Stressful meeting, tick. Break up with boyfriend, tick. I’ve been experiencing something of an existential crisis, feeling like the three key areas of life – work, relationships and home – are all severely lacking; feeling desperately scared while pondering The Future. Faced, then, with research stating that the deadline age for "success" in the UK is 32 – these so-called "successes" arranged, helpfully, in a check list – I thought, what better way to see exactly what level of failure I had reached to date. With a feeling of dread and falling self-esteem, I surveyed the list: In at number 1 on the success chart is owning your own house by the age of 31. Fat chance when you’re single and living in London mate, plus I’ve allocated all my savings to a nice holiday in Mexico. This achievement is an ever-burning candle of worry at the back of my mind so I feel equipped to brush it off, although I’m sure it will set my brain on fire when I’m trying to get to sleep tonight. Number 2… to have met your long-term partner by 29. I’ve really missed the boat on this one, a whole year over the limit. Seriously, though, while my romantic history is somewhat variable – I’ve had wonderful boyfriends and I’ve had totally shit ones – I don’t really think I’ll be alone forever. And anyway, being single is more or less the same as being in a relationship; you just have more time to watch TV. Number 3… having children by 30. Ouch. This "success" is a particularly pernicious little worry that feels especially pointed to me and, I’m sure, to millions of women across the world. I would very much like to have a baby, and I know and fear that there is a time limit. This is the one that makes me cry, unexpectedly. But am I willing to give up all of the very selfish activities I currently enjoy to have a baby right now? Nah. Number 4… a long-term career by the age of 32. Um, what does "long-term career" mean now? We’re all going to have long-term careers because no one will be able to retire until at least 70. This reminds me of the bank scene in Mary Poppins, with Mr Dawes Senior and Mr Dawes Junior, dusty old men chained to the same job; shackles passing through generations. It doesn’t have to be like that anymore! I hate to say it but I’m considered a millennial and, although I like my job, I believe I read something, somewhere, about us being multi-careered and I’m sticking to that. Money talks at number 5… you should be earning your target salary of £35,165 by 41. I feel quite smug to have not only achieved but surpassed this goal, 11 years early! I pat myself on the back and then remember how utterly pointless this list is. And then for the remaining "successes": having a pet (why is this not number one?), being able to afford to go on two holidays a year, driving a nice car… you get the picture. It’s all very Choose Life. I have achieved a grand total of two out of these 10 "successes" but I’ve definitely been doing something with my adult life, so what do I have to show for it? Well, I’ve got some friends; friends who will get in bed with you and stroke your hair and hold your hand until you’re asleep because you can’t stop crying and you think your heart is actually tearing in two. Friends who can finish your sentences and stay up all night dancing and make you laugh until you cry. So, yeah, bloody good mates. I’ve got a career that makes me proud sometimes and my mum proud all the time. I can make a passable Old Fashioned (and drink it like a pro). To quote Bridget Jones 3 (god, now I hate my current self, too): "I’ve been on quite a few long-haul holidays". And I guess I know what suits me, physically – I'm happier looking in the mirror than I ever was, I exercise, I know and like my personal style. But more than that, I know what makes me happy. I know the kind of people I want to be surrounded by and I have the confidence to speak up when something’s wrong. Not quite a tickable list – but a few good things in there, I think.

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