The pandemic has taught us a lot about our world, our communities, and ourselves – our perspectives have shifted as we’ve transitioned into a new era. For those on the cusp of a new decade, especially, 2021 has been a year of introspection, goal setting and reflection on what we want from the world over the next decade.
For those about to enter their thirties, it’s a particularly unusual time. While it’s increasingly acceptable for us to write our own narratives and live life at our own pace in 2021, cultural expectations about marriage, kids and high-flying careers in our thirties persist the world over.
We spoke to 29 women and people of other marginalised genders, all aged 29, from a vast array of backgrounds, socioeconomic situations and perspectives in 29 different countries and states. What do they all have in common? It seems there’s more hunger and excitement than regret or trepidation about this life milestone and the decade ahead.
Here’s what 29 looks like around the world.
Veronica Gisel Miranda, from Córdoba, a city in central Argentina, works as a staffing specialist.
My biggest accomplishment during my twenties was finally finding my vocation at 27. I realised my passion was human resources. I went back to school, where I’m still working on my bachelor’s degree in Human Resources Management, and started a career in recruiting at 28.
I feel I’ll get to 30 with a good life. For most of my twenties, I felt like I had to be settled at 30: married, probably with kids, a university degree, a good job and economic stability. Now, I’m approaching 30 with a degree, a decent job and none of the rest, but I’m okay with that. I’m certain I’ll be able to build the professional career I want, and the rest will come.
It’s hard for me to admit that I fear loneliness. At 26, I separated from the man I’d been with for almost 10 years. I grew up with him and was about to get married when we decided to break up because we weren’t happy, so we called off the wedding. It was painful but liberating to find out what it was like to be a grown single woman.
Today, I’ve found peace with myself and with the fact that my direct family is composed of my two dogs. But deep down, I fear loneliness. I haven’t felt love again yet, so the possibility of building a family seems far away. I focus on all the great things I have in life: my studies, my work, my family and friends. But there’s still a part of me that wants a partner and fears not finding them.
Christen Marie Martin, from Dapto in New South Wales, is a process worker and stay-at-home mum to a one-year-old daughter.
Gender equality in Australia is better than it has been in many years but it’s still a man's world. I believe we accommodate people with disabilities like me pretty well considering disabled people were once put into asylums. Now, we have support and services that cater to individuals’ needs.
In my twenties my greatest achievement was the birth of my child. I knew it wouldn't be easy given my disability, but I gave it my best. I had no pain relief and it was a quick process from start to finish.
I used to think age was just a number, but now that I’m getting older I often wonder: have I achieved everything I set out to achieve? Did I make the right choices in life? Where have I gone wrong and what can I do better? Right now, I’m most excited about the birth of my second child. I’m suffering with constant morning sickness but seeing that little baby at the end will make it all worthwhile.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be to eliminate war and judgement. We’re all unique in our own way and it has been difficult for me, having one of the rarest forms of cerebral palsy, and people looking at me funny and making comments.
Currently listening to: Mostly metal – I have Nightwish on repeat most of the time. My favourite song is "Cadence of Her Last Breath", which is where my almost two-year-old got her name from.
Amanda Coutinho is a fashion stylist in São Paulo, Brazil.
At 30, most of society expects you to be well prepared, to be married and have children. This pressure can generate frustration. For me it’s important to keep my mind in the present, to look at my achievements with gratitude and understand that everyone has their time. That way, I’m less anxious about expectations that most of the time aren't really mine.
I think 30 is an age when you start to see things more clearly. In the next decade I want to evolve as a human being, so that everything else will flow too. My greatest hope for my country is that it becomes a country with more equality, health and education for all. There is still latent gender inequality, but there are feminist struggles in search of emancipation.
Life creates fear and insecurity. I moved to another city and this adaptation phase has caused fear and uncertainty. I worry how I will adapt away from my family. I’m hopeful that things will get better around the world in terms of COVID. The vaccine has been my biggest source of excitement lately.
Currently reading: O Meu Melhor by the Brazilian author Martha Medeiros, The Physician by Noah Gordon and Indomável by Julia Quinn.
K Alexander is an actor in Toronto, Canada.
Turning 30 was something I watched both my siblings do, and I laughed while writing jokes in their birthday cards about being old. I thought I'd feel different, thought it would be this big feeling and this big entry into my next chapter but age doesn't really dictate that. But knowing I'm turning 30 has definitely made me care less about how others perceive me.
In Canada, turning 30 means having kids, buying a property, all of that kind of stuff. I don't plan on kids and I live in Toronto and am not a millionaire, so I feel they're just outdated expectations of what you're "supposed to do" rather than a realistic representation of the possibilities we have these days.
My biggest achievement in my twenties was becoming the first non-binary actor to play a non-binary character in all of Canadian media in 2014. Being LGBTQ+ in Canada is easier than a lot of places, but I'm saying this as a white LGBTQ+ person. So while my experience has been pretty positive, aside from occasional anti-trans slurs, it's not an accurate reflection of what it means to be LGBTQ+ in Canada. Over the next decade I'd love to be involved in creating content that speaks to the vast number of different experiences of queer people in Canada.
I hope Canada addresses the systemic racism that’s embedded into our society. So many people pretend we don't have the same problems as other countries. I want to see Indiginous communities being treated with far more respect. There's a lot of work to do and we need to do it in the next 10 years and keep it up forever.
Currently watching: We're Here; it's like Queer Eye but with drag and it's been a really healing show.
Jiahui Gao, is a marketing specialist at a media advertising company who lives in Beijing, China.
I’m proud to have lived and worked in both Beijing and New York during my twenties. It meant I experienced totally different cultures, lifestyles, political systems, and social values in the two countries. I relied on myself to finish my studies, to get my wonderful jobs, and to make my life comfortable and organised. Thanks to these experiences I’m an open-minded, sensible, optimistic, confident and independent person.
My biggest hope over the next 10 years is to achieve work-life balance. For me this means having a healthy body, a meaningful job, a happy family, some reliable friends, a couple of interesting hobbies and new skills in different areas. This dream sounds so ordinary, but it will require a lot of hard work and good luck.
I don’t think too much about turning 30 – age is just a number. However, I believe I’ll be more sensible, beautiful, independent, confident and more courageous at 30 than 20. I’ll have more friends and more money, so I think I feel good about it.
An old Chinese saying says that a man should be independent at 30 (三十而立). Some get married and create a family before 30 to prove their independence; some start their own business or gain a satisfying title in their companies. It seems we all need to achieve something remarkable to prove to society that we are really turning 30. This is one of the main sources of pressure for young people in China.
The stigma surrounding “leftover women” in China used to hurt and confuse me. I didn’t understand why people would attack single women, as if we were unmarketable goods left in the supermarkets waiting to be selected by men. We’re just single because we’re still looking for our ideal mate. Women should follow their heart and not take these remarks seriously.
Currently listening to: Some old songs made during Japan’s Shōwa era, including those by Akina Nakamori. They make me feel both relaxed and spirited.
Farah Aly ElRasheedy, is a digital implementation executive based in Cairo, Egypt.
I’m excited about my thirties but also scared. Scared because I feel the pressure of my career goals and excited because it’s the golden age. In Egypt, turning 30 means getting questions about your marital status and being pressured to act in ways that are “more appropriate” for your age, such as no longer wearing shorts or skirts.
Life for women in Egypt right now is mixed. I work in a multinational company that doesn't tolerate discrimination and believes in equal pay and gender equality. I also surround myself with friends who think alike and I live in an area full of expats. I'm very privileged. However, this applies to the minority of the population.
For instance, women in sports in Egypt are severely undermined. Empower Football Academy, a girls-only academy where I play soccer, was founded for that reason – there aren’t enough opportunities for women in sports. Even if there are equal rights, when it comes to practice the level of gender equality falls far below the average international threshold.
My biggest hope for my country over the next 10 years is economic growth, better education and greater tolerance of different classes, ethnic groups and religious beliefs. On a personal level, I hope to reach the level of success I always wished for with a healthy mind and body.
Currently watching: Killing Eve.
Charlotte Hui, from Paris, is a photographer and TV show host.
My greatest achievement in my twenties was travelling by myself for two months in Indonesia with just my camera and a backpack. It was proof of my independence and self confidence. I discovered new parts of me and met people from all around the world.
I’ve also learned to detach myself from family and friends’ expectations. I’ve been lost for many years and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. This led me to travel a lot, live in five different countries and try many different jobs.
When I was younger, I thought I’d be married, have kids and a stable job by 30. But it feels good to know I'm happy and fulfilled even though I have none of that. I just moved out from my parents’ place which is a big win.
I feel content starting another chapter of life with more wisdom, more experiences and more awareness of the world around me. I trust myself more and I'm more unapologetic about who I am. In my thirties I want to remain adventurous and curious, but with more purpose and wisdom in what I choose to do.
In France, the mentality is slowly changing but there are still lots of expectations about turning 30, in terms of meeting a partner, having kids, buying a place, having a well-paid and stable job. Lately, I’ve been asked a lot about my singleness and if I’m expecting to be in a relationship anytime soon.
Saying this, I have friends my age who’ve left their jobs and gone back to study. I have friends who’ve bought their first place. I have friends with two kids already. I have friends who still live with their parents and started their own business.
Currently reading: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
Dr. Magdalena Jegen, from Munich, Germany, is an assistant doctor in OB-GYN currently in München third year.
Finishing university and my doctorate was a big achievement of my twenties; as was finally learning to not doubt everything I do. Had you asked me two years ago how I felt about turning 30, I would have said I was terrified. At this stage I’m okay. I have enough friends in their thirties to know that life isn’t over when you turn 30.
Saying this, cultural expectations around 30 persist in Germany. My dad still can’t believe I don’t want to own a car or a house right now, for example. I’d love to stay happy in the next decade, to travel more and see my family more. I hope to buy a Vespa and finally run a half marathon.
It remains harder for women to get leading positions in Germany – even in medicine where more than 60% of the students are female. It's mainly due to a combination of the impossible hours we have to work and the absence of adequate childcare. Commonly, in my hospital, women either have a partner who takes on the major responsibilities, or they leave once they start having kids.
In Germany we have the luxury of so many highly educated women, and yet we are terrible at organising opportunities for them to work. We don’t have school all day long, for example, kids leave at around 2pm. We are lacking nursery places and good options for women with jobs like me. Financially and politically, there is no incentive to continue work after childbirth. Compared to other European countries, we are so far behind.
I hope that with our new government there will be a change in the establishment in the next decade; and that good childcare and enough affordable living space will finally be provided for everyone. Public transport also needs improving so that fewer people rely on cars.
Dorothy Sam, from Mankessim, a town in the Central Region of Ghana, is a core trainer of Learner Guides at CAMFED Ghana, which advocates for girls’ education.
My greatest achievement in my twenties was completing senior high school with good grades. Even though I faced challenges as a young woman from a disadvantaged background, I passed my West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) with distinction.
I have mixed feelings about turning 30. I am expected to act as an adult while supporting the family even though I am not completely financially stable and cannot contribute much. I am happy and sad at the same time looking at the responsibilities ahead of me as the first child of my family. My hopes for myself are to have a wonderful family, to be a renowned motivational speaker and to build successful businesses.
In Ghana, you are expected to be married with a family at 30. You are expected to lead by example for other youth in the community to follow, and to support your family financially and take care of your siblings.
Gender inequality in Ghana is still high. Although more women are in the labour market and schools, there are still large inequalities in some regions as women are denied the same work rights as men. Sexual violence and exploitation is increasing while the unequal division of domestic chores and discrimination in the public offices is widespread.
However, there have been tremendous improvements in recent years. More girls are in school now compared to 10 years ago and most regions have reached parity in primary education. Belonging to a network of like-minded, educated women leaders, who are entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, journalists and more, makes me hopeful for the future.
Love Jah Betty Laguerre, from Les Cayes in the Sud department of Haiti, is an administrative assistant at Providence Academy, an international school. She is also a board member at Write to Be, a female empowerment program that she helped create.
There are many things I wished to do before turning 30 and I'm so behind. When you're 30 in Haiti, you are expected to be married, have kids, that your husband or both of you have a successful career, and to be taking care of your parents. I always place too much importance on what people think of me and I hate to be a disappointment, or for others to pity me. Over the next 10 years, I hope to have my own business, to travel around the world, and to get married.
Women like me right now are not living independently in Haiti. Many either depend on their parents or a boyfriend or husband. Getting a job was my greatest achievement in my twenties. First, it's so hard to get a job in Haiti that I was lucky to get one. Secondly, it's a satisfying job because I get to do what I like, teaching, and I can't complain about the salary.
There are many differences between men's and women's rights. Whether that’s in professions, responsibilities in the family, or positions in the society. For instance, after high school, I wanted to be an electrician, but everybody – mostly women – dissuaded me by saying it's a man's job.
One of my greatest biggest fears right now is getting sick, because when you're sick and have to be hospitalised, it's easy to never go back home. I fear this for myself and my loved ones. The system sucks.
Currently reading: Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway.
P.Jaya Sirisha, from Vijayawada, a city in the southeast Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, is a stay-at-home mum of two girls under three.
Life for women in India depends on which state they were born in, their parents, their husband and their mindset. All women are not treated equally. Women like me are treated well, as I was born into an educated family and am married.
The expectation for Indian women in their twenties is to graduate, get married and have at least one kid by 30. I have successfully completed these three, so these are my biggest achievements to date according to the Indian mindset.
I am feeling sad at the prospect of turning 30, like I am getting old and my young years are over. But I am happy compared to many other women my age – I am a happy wife and mother and have reached the social, cultural and economic milestones expected of me. Becoming a mother changed my whole life. It means no free time, no privacy, no movies or meals out and no travelling. But I do love being a mom to my kids.
I hope in the next 10 years to get back to my dream job in software, to be able to buy my favourite things with my own savings – gold ornaments and dresses – and to go on a tour of the world.
I hope that India moves onto the developed countries list in the next decade. If I had the power to change the world, I would change the way men see women and would change India back to the way it was before British invasion, when it was a much richer country.
Chen Malchut is a preschool teacher and holistic therapist from Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ten years ago I created a list of things I wanted to accomplish by 30. This included completing a PhD, getting married and having at least one child, jumping off an airplane and going bungee jumping in the Alps. Well, I completed two master’s instead of a Phd; I’m not married but have been in beautiful partnerships over the years; I haven’t had my own children, but I’ve played a part in raising my partners’ children and the kids I work with; and I haven’t yet gone bungee jumping, but I did jump off an airplane.
Getting closer to 30 has been tripping me out a little. If there’s one thing I now realise that I didn’t understand at 20, it’s that life moves in mysterious ways. We can have clear ideas of where we want to go, or be totally clueless, but either way life will have its way with us. In the Jewish tradition, 30 is when you reach a new level of strength (Pirkei Avot 5:21), and 32 is the year of the heart in Hebrew numerology, so there are good times to come.
Life for LGBTQ+ people like me in my country is complicated. Someone summed it up at Pride this year: “Israel, the most progressive and simultaneously the most primitive country.” On one hand, we’re the only country in the Middle East open to different sexual and gender preferences and expressions. We can be open. On the other hand, there’s something “primitive” ingrained in the culture. It feels scary or unsafe in certain areas to be out, and people can be met with judgment, questions and comments about their identity. Israel contains within her tremendous diversity.
Currently watching: The L Word, Sense8 and Friends.
Jodi-Ann Dill, from Spanish Town, St. Catherine, is a customer service representative and mother of three children who also cares for her 15-year-old brother.
Turning 30 is a game-changer. This is when you realise that the crazy things you did in your twenties were immature. I now feel I must accomplish many things, specifically those on a personal level. In Jamaica, at 30 you are considered a mature adult and the expectation is that you should be getting things organised to make your life better. Culturally, we are expected to fall in line and do what adults do best.
Over the next ten years, I’d love to change careers. My passion is to create my own Jamaican-based freelance business geared towards providing virtual assistance services in the fields of writing, graphic design, and more. My biggest fears are being unemployed because I have a family to support. I also fear becoming ill or dying. I really don’t want my children to grow up without their mother as their father recently passed.
Life in Jamaica for women right now is challenging. We face abuse from men in all forms, and we’re mostly deemed to be vulnerable because we have children. Financially, some women are sole breadwinners and the declining value of our currency makes it harder to survive.
Gender equality doesn’t exist in Jamaica. It is sad to say that as a nation, we still make preferences in gender roles in the workplaces, churches, schools, and other important institutions. Statistics show that the adults who are abused are predominantly females. Our country is far from achieving equality.
Currently reading: Radical Candor by Kim Scott.
Niki Akiko Micklem, based in Tokyo, is the Director of Operations at a startup.
I feel a mixture of excitement and pressure, both internal and external, about turning 30. In Japan there is still pressure for women to “settle down”, to get married and have children – preferably before 30 – and to prioritise that over their careers or their other hopes and dreams. It makes me uncomfortable to think that for so many women it still has to be a choice of one or the other. In my thirties I hope to contribute to growing the company where I work, build my own company, buy a property and start a family.
Japan ranking 120th out of 156 countries in the WEF's 2021 Gender Gap Report sums up what life is like for women right now: we seem to be going backwards, or at the very least standing still, in a world that’s moving forwards.
Aside from the knock-on effects of the pandemic, many women effectively have to choose between having children and having a career. The structure and support isn't in place for them to easily do both. On paper, Japan leads in terms of paternity leave provisions, but less than 10% of fathers take it.
As in other countries, women are beginning to feel more empowered and able to choose what they want to do, which is why more women are focusing on their careers, but as with a lot of things here, policy and opinion among policymakers hasn't caught up with the changing times.
The conservative, ageing, male-dominated government doesn't want the status quo to change and doesn't believe it should change. I hope Japan will become more equal and open-minded in the coming years – not just for women but for minorities and the foreign community.
Currently watching: Master of None, Lupin and Motherland.
Austtine Ayiemba, from the city of Kisumu, is a Field Associate.
My greatest achievement of my twenties was coming out as a transgender man three years ago. It felt so good to finally accept who I am after the struggles I’d been through. I finally felt free and in agreement with myself. I first knew I was trans as a child, but because of the rural set up, I never knew what trans was. I just knew I was different. I loved doing what people described as boys' jobs and games.
I don’t feel anything about turning 30. I’m looking forward to turning 40 because they say life starts at 40, but I’ve never heard anything associated with turning 30 in my culture. My main goal for the next 10 years is to be fully transitioned – I haven’t started medically transitioning yet because it's so expensive, but I pray in future if I get donors, I will.
The general population are embracing people like me but many are still homophobic – it will take them a long time to accept us for who we are. Elections are my biggest fear right now. During elections in Kenya, there are tensions all over the country and LGBTQ+ people are always at risk of being attacked. I also live in a slum which is notorious, so during elections when there is always rioting, it’s not safe at all.
If I could, I’d make everyone financially equal. The class system sucks. I hate seeing people dying because of hunger, because they are poor and can't afford basic things like water, shelter, clothing and food. It hurts me a lot.
Currently watching: QUEER·ious.
Ivonne Azeneth Jaramillo Jacinto, from Parral, Chihuahua, is a stay-at-home mum to two children.
Reaching 30 is a big step and sometimes I feel I have not achieved enough towards becoming the person I want to be. On the other hand, I know I have achieved a lot – I am a mom who does everything she can for her children every day, and I give everything as a wife to someone who is not perfect. My greatest achievement is successfully running a home and educating my sons.
My greatest aspiration for the next decade is to finish my studies in dermatology, to graduate and to start my career in the field. I love the subject and it is important for me to feel fulfilled and independent. It will also provide an additional financial contribution to my family.
My greatest fear is having to leave my children. I suffer from diabetes and there is always the worry of not having enough time to be with them until they can take care of themselves. I have lost weight to help with my diabetes, which is an achievement that makes me happy. It has allowed me to be who I really am without feeling uncomfortable any longer.
To be a woman in Mexico is to be unstoppable but we also have to fight against macho thinking. My greatest hope for Mexico in the next decade is that there is no mistreatment towards those who cannot defend themselves, that children do not suffer, that there are places where they are not harmed and that they have a dignified life and education.
Currently reading: Two Steps From Madness by Silvia Olmedo.
Kylie Banks, from Tahawai in the Bay of Plenty, is a legal finance administrator and mother of two.
I always had a complex about being 'young' and not taken seriously. In your thirties you’re considered a 'real' adult, so I’m quite looking forward to the privilege of ageing. In New Zealand, by 30 you’re expected to have settled down or at least be planning a family, to have accomplished a career, travelled and purchased a house. But I think as long as you are happy with your decisions, who cares what you do, or don’t do?
The biggest achievement of my twenties was purchasing an olive grove and creating our own olive oil for commercial sale. We’ve just pressed our first lot of oil and have been selling to friends, family and restaurants. We love farming and being self-sufficient. I enjoy being able to go out and pick from the tree, knowing it has no nasty chemicals.
In New Zealand we’re incredibly lucky that both our leader and opposing leader are women. I didn’t vote for [Jacinda Ardern] due to her political views not aligning with my own, but she handled the pandemic with exceptional grace.
I hope country living becomes more accepted by our government, and that they realise we’re a thriving, green, passionate industry. There is a large city versus farmer divide and a huge vegetarian and vegan movement, which I’m not against, but there is a backlash against farmers who produce food, who are labelled as “dirty and cruel”. New Zealand farmers are far from that – we’re making huge changes to the ways we farm. I wish city folk stepped a day in a farmers’ boots to see what it takes to produce food for their tables. I wish everyone could live in unison regardless of beliefs or opinions.
Currently watching: Yellowstone. I also love renovating and am watching the NZ reality series The Block.
Tuke Morgan is a saxophonist and content creator based in Lagos, Nigeria. She has a two-year-old son.
When you turn 30 in Nigeria you enter a different level of adulting. People feel pressure to be married, to have moved out or have a child by this age. But everyone moves at a different pace, so don’t compare your achievements to others.
I'm actually looking forward to turning 30. Many people say I don’t look my age so it’ll be fun to see how people react when I say I’m 30. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become wiser and more self aware. I’m learning from my experiences every day so I think my thirties will be fulfilling.
My greatest achievement of my twenties was completing the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award and meeting the Duke of Edinburgh. I didn’t realise how much commitment, effort and work was required so I was proud of myself for seeing it through. I’m also proud of getting through pregnancy, raising a smart and kind child, dealing with losses in my family and having the confidence to leave my nine-to-five and go down the creative route at 24.
My plan for my thirties is to visit 40 countries by 40 and experience different cultures. I pray that I’m fulfilled work wise and that my brand is recognised and respected globally. I hope to maximise my talents and be compensated properly for my skills.
Life in Nigeria is annoying right now – the naira is getting weaker every day and it sucks that we are working so hard but the value of our money is decreasing. I hope the government starts caring for people and tries to make the lives of Nigerians easier. I hope we have 24/7 electricity and that insecurity becomes a thing of the past.
Mais Nabil Al Saqqa, from Gaza in the State of Palestine, is a translator who has an 11-month-old daughter.
My greatest achievement of my twenties was winning an equestrian jumping competition and becoming the champion of the Gaza Strip in equestrian jumping in 2016. I was the only woman who participated among 25 men. It meant a lot to me because people believed that girls over 13 riding horses was weird and Haraam. I’m thankful that my parents always encouraged me to continue, and never stopped me from achieving my dreams. I’m excited for my thirties. I think I’ll be settled into myself and care less about what other people think of me.
Life in Gaza for women is not easy. There are so many restrictions due to the conservative culture, such as the way we dress, where we go and with whom, which kind of sports we practice and so much more. We’re all living in a prison on the Gaza Strip because of the siege and the blockade over the last 15 years.
I witnessed the most recent aggression. I have a baby girl who was afraid whenever she heard explosions and I felt useless that I couldn’t protect her. I used to cover her with pillows so if anything happened to us it wouldn’t hurt her. It’s hard to express how the conflict affected me. I am traumatised, I feel afraid whenever I hear doors close heavily, or any loud noise. My biggest fear is loss in this unstable situation. In minutes things can change upside down either by escalation or war. And no one is safe.
I hope to keep growing and exploring new things, to live without fear of the next war or aggression, and to live with lightness and an ease of body, mind and spirit.
Currently watching: Game of Thrones.
Magdalena Linke-Koszek, from Warsaw, Poland, is the CEO and founder of Her Impact, a women’s career development app combining e-learning, mentoring, networking and career advice.
Leaving my job as a lawyer in a top global company and launching my own startup was the greatest achievement of my twenties, as well as giving birth to my daughter – Flavia, now one, who is only three months younger than Her Impact. I feel great about turning 30 because I can start a new chapter with experience. I’m ready for it and actually can’t wait.
In Poland, there are cultural expectations to have a husband or wife, children and to have found a good job to be self-sufficient by 30. Most of my friends don’t have husbands or wives or children. I do, but I have never thought it was mandatory to be in this position before 30. It just happened that I found the best person and I was ready early in my life.
In my thirties I’d like to become an investor who helps women like me launch companies and follow their dreams. From a business perspective, it’s a good time to start anything new in Poland because there’s a huge market waiting for new products. But from a personal perspective it’s hard to live in a country where women’s rights are still not top priority for the government, nor for many corporations.
It’s sad that the government is deciding abortion laws for women and not with us. I stand for everyone’s own decision and I would love to see the politicians engaging in women’s rights and truly listening to them. What Poland is missing is female role models in politics. I hope one day we will have one.
Currently reading: Kamala Harris’ biography The Truths We Hold.
Elena Ivanycheva, from Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a personal growth coach for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
At 20 I set big goals for my business and family life before I turned 30. I always worried I wouldn’t achieve everything in time, but when I turned 29 I realised I never had time to do everything before 30. I breathed out with relief and accepted it.
In Russia it’s expected that a woman under 30 needs to start a family and have a child. These expectations aren't important to me – this is my life and I do what I think is important.
My biggest achievements in my twenties were material and spiritual growth: building a business and team, increasing my company’s turnover, buying a car, understanding my strengths and character, and improving relationships with my family.In the next 10 years, my plan is to start a family and have children, and to scale my business.
Currently reading: Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell and the spiritual scripture of the Bhagavad Gita.
Rawan AlGhamdi, lives in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and works as a buyer/demand planner.
I’m proud of graduating as an industrial engineer from one of the top universities in South Korea and learning both Korean and English during my twenties. I’m excited to be 30. I’m already noticing changes in my personal growth and in the way I’m approaching life. I love these changes.
I fear I’ve not done enough in my twenties – I’m afraid I didn’t learn and invest enough in myself. I’ve always wanted to have my own business and my hope over the next decade is to find my passion and challenge myself to make it come true.
Marriage is one of the most common cultural expectations as girls grow older in Saudi Arabia, but these days, more women are getting married in their late twenties and early thirties. I’m not trying to meet anyone’s expectation of my age. I wish people cared less about marriage as there’s more to life and more to a woman than finding a partner.
As Saudi women, we’ve witnessed a lot of change in recent years. With allowing women to drive, dropping the male guardianship, and offering equal work rules, women are empowered and encouraged to get an education and to work in all fields. Laws are also changing to protect women and make sure women get their rights. I got my first car three years ago and it gave me a sense of independence – I no longer need to depend on a driver to do my errands.
Currently reading: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.
Rejoyce Makhetha, from Evaton in Gauteng, is an activism coordinator at Amnesty International South Africa.
Turning 30 is a blessing and I’m excited. There is so much happening in the world right now and people are dealing with so much that you have to realise that each day is an opportunity to live and do the best you can. That’s the attitude I’m taking into my thirties.
I’m proud of having my child and starting my family after laying a solid foundation for a career in the development sector in my twenties. Access to tertiary education played an important role in my becoming the woman I am and I realise that starting a family in your early twenties is frowned upon, especially for modern Black women, as our careers are expected to come first at work. So, balancing both things is by far one of my greatest blessings and achievements.
Life is challenging for most women my age and under in South Africa, with youth unemployment under the expanded definition at a staggering 74.7%, most are left with limited options for survival. A lot of under 35s are still dependent on their families or the government for survival and likely haven’t achieved their 'adult goals'. This has led many to have severe mental health issues and to some even taking their own lives.
In my thirties, I hope I achieve my personal development goals, expand my family and solidify a career and business in youth development. The world is quickly changing, but a lot of young people from disadvantaged communities are getting left behind, so I hope to ensure that all young people have access and none are left behind.
Currently watching: Buck Breaking, which seeks to explain white on Black violence and sexual exploitation.
Hye-yun Lee, from Seoul, South Korea, works as a freelance designer and runs a vintage clothes shop, @alter.ego_vtg.
In my early twenties, I was afraid of turning 30. Many women like me are also afraid, but now that I’ve realised the life I really want, I'm looking forward to it. I've experienced a lot of different jobs and through this I found what I really like. I hope to keep developing my business and to open an offline shop. I want to help the environment and the clothing waste problem.
A few years ago, women in their thirties were perceived as "old women" and called "ma'am." But now it's changed – people think that those in their thirties are still young. But while people in their twenties think they can make mistakes, those in their thirties think they’re old enough not to make mistakes.
Many women in my country still take care of their appearance to look good to others. The country definitely values beauty. People care a lot about other people's eyes. I also want to be prettier and have a better body. I feel burdened and stressed when I have business meetings because of the make up and the clothes. But these days because of masks, at least there’s less need to wear makeup to look pretty.
I fear something bad is going to happen. There’s a saying in my country that bad things happen at the ages that end in nine. It's a superstition and I didn't believe it, but maybe it's a coincidence I've been through bad things lately. I want to be 29 happily and without much trouble.
Young people are suffering from housing problems because house prices are too expensive. Gender issues are also complicated, because our conscription system means that more men are making sacrifices for the country. I hope the housing issue will be solved, and that gender conflict goes in the right direction.
Currently watching: Stranger Things, the Japanese anime series Attack on Titan and American Horror Story.
Ayan Jamal, is a radio host and presenter in Stockholm, Sweden.
It’s hard to talk about life for women in Sweden in general terms. But let’s put it like this: even if you fit the norm, society will find ways to put you down. Things are moving in the right direction but the changes are slow.
The biggest achievements of my twenties came out of learning to nourish the different sides of me. Making friends for life and setting boundaries. In my thirties I hope my health is in order and the people around me are safe. This past year has made me not take that for granted. I don’t have any fears that I carry and think about daily, I’m privileged enough to not have to deal with fear like that. But of course I fear for the wellbeing of the people close to me.
The expectations for reaching 30 in Stockholm and in the music industry that I’m a part of are opposite to the expectations I get from 'home' or the Somali community I’m a part of. My mom wouldn’t mind me settling down and starting a family, while the industry probably would love the opposite.
I hear stories every day about people being discriminated against and marginalised in Sweden, so the fight for equality continues. I hope we can find ways to coexist in our differences.
Currently listening to: NINE by SAULT, Fatigue by L’Rain and Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies by Snoh Aalegra.
Sefin Muhammed Noor Jammu, from Maabatli in the Afrin District, Syria, works for the Syrian Democratic Council in the archives and secretariat office.
I'm excited to be turning 30 and entering a new phase of life. I already live far from my family, I work and rely on myself. But I also feel sorry that I didn’t have the twenties I should have. I grew up young and assumed great responsibilities. Everyone has ambitions and dreams they want to achieve in their twenties.
Reaching 30 in Syria means reaching maturity. If a woman is not married, people look at her as if she’s a spinster. If she’s educated, they consider her mature and able to rely on herself and earn money without the need for a man. I see 30 as the height of maturity for a woman, when she can decide what she wants and make appropriate decisions.
As women in Syria, we suffer a lot, but struggle and resistance are our motto. I fear internal displacement again. I live and work in a city to help my family, while my family lives in the countryside of Aleppo. We were displaced from Afrin and have seen death, homelessness and more. We were also displaced before; at the beginning of the revolution we were forced to move.
I’ve considered leaving the country because I haven’t lived my life as I would like. I cannot achieve any of my dreams and ambitions, even to complete my university education in agricultural technology, and I don’t want my physical and mental strength to go to waste. Syria is suffering day after day, life is difficult but we want to live in peace.
Currently listening to: The music of my Kurdish culture, especially the culture of the cities of Afrin.
Cicek Karatas, is an architect from Istanbul, Turkey.
Being able to grow up in an environment where you have the freedom to believe what you want is rare in Turkey. I am very happy and grateful that I discovered my own path. I really don’t give a fuck about turning 30. I don’t think it has a big meaning. In the next 10 years, I hope I won’t forget to listen to myself. My biggest hopes for the future are that we see justice in Turkey – if it really exists – and gender equality around the world.
There has been a huge increase in femicides in Turkey, especially in recent years. We are going through very dark days. This has a lot to do with the government – the law isn’t behind us. But Turkish women have never given up on their rights and will never give up. We are really fed up with laws that support murderers and abusers. We want justice and we will get it soon. Together, we will continue to rebel and make our voices heard. And soon love will win. I’m excited for the big social change in Turkey which will come soon.
Currently reading: Gör Beni by Akilah Azra Kohen.
Danielle St James, from east London, is the founder of the charity Not A Phase and the owner of underwear brand Zoah.
As a trans person, life in the UK right now is harrowing, with media attacks, healthcare waiting times of up to 10 years and growing hatred. We don’t live in the progressive and equal utopia that we portray.
In my twenties I started a charity that supports my community and fell in love, both of which happened after I stopped drinking at 28, having spent most of my twenties drunk, and both of these things were against the odds.
I already feel completely at ease with turning 30. I’ve achieved so much in my twenties that I never thought was possible, and I see my thirties as the time to enjoy the fruits of my labour and continue to grow. As a woman, the expectation is to be married, have kids and own property at 30, but as a trans woman, you’re released of those shackles of expectation. I'm glad about this. I’ve never followed the status quo and have no intentions of doing it now.
I want to marry my partner and travel with him in my thirties. I want my charity to continue its growth in becoming a place that trans people turn to and I want my underwear brand to become the go-to source for all trans people's needs.
The next generation is exciting to me. I have a sibling who’s 13 years younger, so I’m quite tuned in to them through him and my work. They don’t ask for change, they demand it. They are so much more progressive, it's super interesting to me.
Currently reading: This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes and The Transgender Issue by Shon Faye.
Wynne Weddell was born and raised on the Yankton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Ihanktonwan Nation. She is nomadic and spends most of her time in the Pacific-Northwest. Wynne is a full-time artist specialising in vibrant beadwork with her company Rainbow Mountain Beadwork and a freelance writer focusing on environmental and Indigenous issues.
I welcome 30 with open arms; with each year I gain more knowledge of the world and I come into myself more and more, unlocking my potential. I also reflect on how much the world has changed in the past 30 years, both environmentally and technologically, and wonder what the next 30 years hold at this crucial time.
The American dream is very much alive, and expectations of marriage, a house, kids and a 40-hour work week are often associated with turning 30. This encourages people to contribute to a system fuelled by capitalism and can lead to unfulfillment due to work and lifestyle conditions. I chose to live a lifestyle that goes against these norms.
In my twenties I gained a strong understanding of the interactions between humans and the environment. My homelands were becoming threatened and polluted by oil companies, putting our waterways and livelihood at risk. I’ve since dedicated my life to protecting the land, waters, and my people while continuing to live sustainably. My biggest hope for the next decade is to see Indigenous leadership in all aspects of decision making.
Violence against women is still a huge issue, especially in Indigenous communities. There is a crisis of MMIWG2S (missing and murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two Spirits) in the US. Most murders of Indigenous women are committed by non-Native people on Native-owned land. Indigenous women are ten times more likely than other ethnicities to be murdered. I believe this problem persists due to neglect from governmental authorities, which stems from systemic racism. The US was founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples, and this crisis is an extension of the dark legacy of colonisation. Policies are being put in place, but more are needed.
Currently watching: Reservation Dogs.
All interviews have been edited for length and clarity.