That bittersweet feeling of leaving your 20s behind.
I had mentally braced myself for turning 30. I was glad to be alive and there was a lot to be thankful for. My closest friends from high school were mostly ’87 kids, so we took turns in turning 30. I would call them and tease them about growing old and they kindly reminded me that mine was a few months away as well. Facebook and Instagram were awash with pictures from photo shoots that could give Beyoncé a run for her money. There were glamorous birthday parties and lavish birthday themed vacations.
The reactions were different. My friend Funmi, cried herself sore the morning she turned 30. Nne, who turned 30 a month ahead of me, was overwhelmed with gratitude for how far she had come.
My friend Coco, also cried on the morning of her birthday. Now, my friend Coco is weird; she always referred to herself as a 30-year-old while we were 28. I guess that was her own way of keeping the 30s blues from creeping up on her. Obviously that didn’t work.
My friend Oyin, was pretty excited about turning 30. She had planned a photo shoot with hair and makeup, complete with the ubiquitous golden 30 balloons.
As for me…. I was initially excited, or at least, that’s what I told myself. I goaded myself into thinking of having a photo shoot, hosting an intimate dinner for a few friends, or even visiting my favorite home for disabled people. However, as I entered my birthday month, things got weird and I got confused with my own emotions.
Where is all this moodiness coming from?
Why am I remembering my father’s death at the most random times? I recall having to hold back tears during a client meeting because one of the client’s staff reminded me of my dad.
Where is my husband? And the twin boys I planned to have by the time I turned 30?
Why didn’t that relationship work with Mr. T? Why did I ever get involved with Mr. M? Perhaps I should never have broken up with Mr. A. We could have been married with two kids by now.
What the heck is going on with my weight? Oh well, I probably know what is going on with my weight.
What the heck am I doing with my life? Oh God! I should have written a book by now. I should have started a youth ministry, perhaps I should have a thriving business under my belt by now.
For the love of God, why are my eyes leaking water at random times?
It was a rollercoaster of emotions. I easily discarded the party plans and all other shenanigans I had planned.
Then finally, the day came.
I might have cried a bit the night before. Honestly, I don’t recall. I woke up that morning in super high spirits and an overwhelming sense of gratitude to God for every single aspect of my existence. It was a workday, so I put on my birthday dress and headed to work with an extra spring in my step.
Honestly, it was a beautiful day. I got more cakes on my 30th birthday than all my other birthdays put together (yep!) and some were anonymous *wink*. I also got to hang out with my closest friends at a nearby karaoke bar after work. It was a lovely birthday after all.
The outpour of love reassured me that “my character was good in the market” (a Yoruba saying). It did feel good to be appreciated either through words, physical gifts and the gift of presence.
It’s over two months since I turned 30 and I would like to think that nothing has changed. My hair suddenly didn’t turn grey and wrinkles weren’t mysteriously etched over my face overnight. My weight also has been kind, depending on what I have been feeding myself with. But the changes are there. A heightened sense of self-awareness was creeping up on me and it began to challenge my status-quo. I will share some of these changes:
Oxymoron right? I know, but that’s how best I can describe this. I realize that I am beginning to lose patience with a lot of things that I feel aren’t consequential or relevant to my personal development or tasks that are completely outside my responsibilities. While this isn’t necessarily always a good thing, I realized that this helps me cut out a lot or irrelevant or non-value adding activities from my daily routine. I am just a lot more conscious of how I am spending my time.
I’m really starting to care less what others think of me
Honestly, this is so liberating. And no! I don’t mean living without taking responsibilities for your actions or lack of respect for others. It’s just that I don’t have that annoying need to have people like me or the need to please everyone to my own detriment. I just can’t be bothered anymore and I have realized that I am more truthful in my communication to people.
My weaknesses are now being magnified
Who knew that failure to develop a habit of laying your bed every morning as a child could lead to sociopathic tendencies in adulthood…? Ok, I am just kidding. But, over time I realized that my weaknesses were slowly catching up with me. Those “harmless” habits and indulgences which I permitted in the past are slowly becoming full-blown character flaws that I need to fix. It gets worse as I grow older unless I take conscious responsibility for tackling them. I can’t go into details…
My boss reads BellaNaija and performance appraisal is around the corner.
I am more aware of my own mortality
The thought that life is so fickle and fleeting dawns on me more often now. In a fateful coincidence, two of my high school mates died shortly after turning 30. It got me thinking about how important it is to focus on what really matters: “why am I in this world?”, “who is thanking God for my existence?”
I find myself challenging my purpose in life and what impact and legacy I am going to leave behind.
I genuinely value my friends and family more
Riding on the point above, I seem to have developed a better appreciation for my friends (like real, close friends) and family. Having lost my best friend to cancer last year, I realize that every moment to show love to your loved ones counts. In the same vein, I have lost patience for those “I’m not sure we are friends, but let’s smile and pretend” friends.
The older I get, the kinder and more brutally honest I am with myself
I am suddenly an expert at berating myself for my mistakes and also putting them behind me as soon as I can. Biko, “I can’t come and go and die.”
One big lesson turning 30 taught me is this: success and personal achievements are based on perspectives. I recall sharing my trepidations about getting older with my close friend and she was quick to dismiss my concerns, listing my career accomplishments to me. I also recall that my sister, who had a great job at a multinational IT firm, an amazing daughter and a doting husband as at the time she turned 30, still cried when she turned 30.
If I attempt to dig to the root of the ill feelings at turning 30 for most people (women mostly, I don’t know if you men feel that way too), I guess it has to do with some deep-seated feeling of personal dissatisfaction with oneself, or a perceived loss of youthfulness, or perhaps we have been socially programmed to bookmark the age 30 as a reference point for us (and others) to assess our personal achievements. But the great news is that that is exactly what it is: a bookmark and not a destination!
Reflect, evaluate, amend and move on.
So guys how was your 30th and for those approaching 30, how are y’all doing?