I have always maintained a child-like devotion to birthdays, particularly my own. Given that there are only a mere twenty days separating my special day from Christmas, I have always had a desire to differentiate my birthday as much as possible from festive celebrations.
This year December fifth marks twenty-nine years since I came into this world mewling, flailing and rather florid in colour. As I creep ever closer to the big three-oh, I have been reflecting on all the things I have achieved in my twenties and all the things I haven’t got around to doing yet but feel like I ought to have.
There are certain life milestones that one is generally expected to have achieved by the age of thirty, or so popular culture and the Internet tell us. A quick Google yields a plethora of listicles including ‘30 financial milestones you need to hit by age 30’, ’29 things you should accomplish before you are 30’, ’30 life goals you should set for yourself before you turn 30’. It doesn’t matter its title, in my opinion, each is as inane as the next.
Usually a good list gets me off, type A personality that I am, but in my experience all lists such as these do, even the ones that try to subvert societal norms, is beat us over the head with milestones we have likely not achieved, thereby making us feel guilty and ashamed for not living up to expectations.
Of the common biggies that feature on such lists like getting married, owning a house, having at least one child, working in a ‘good’ job, earning ‘good’ money and going on many fabulous holidays, I have only managed to tick off home ownership and many holidays.
So because I don’t have a bun in my oven, a ring on my finger, and a steady well-paid job, should I feel like the last decade of my life has been wasted? Of course not. My life can’t be defined by a listicle and I’ll wager yours can’t either. And nor should it.
Yes, it would be great to own your own house by the time you are thirty but, given today’s current housing market, this isn’t a particularly realistic goal for a lot of people. I only managed it because I have a partner and my parents helped us out. Not everyone has that luxury.
Our individual situations and experiences are so unique how can we possibly compare them? Or give them a timeline? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with setting goals and aiming to hit certain milestones, but perhaps instead of striving for a generic set of achievements, we should creating a list that’s personal and unique to us. Or how about not worrying about a list at all?
We should each feel comfortable to carve out our lives in our own way in our own time without comparing it to that of others, or society’s expectations.
So after some thinking I have come to the conclusion that I am not afraid of entering the last year of my twenties because although I haven’t done some of the things lots of other people have, I have managed to do all sorts of things that would never make a listicle like those I mentioned above. And that’s okay; I don’t need to check boxes to make me feel good about my life. I am very happy.
And after all, age is just a number and all that.