I am 30 in exactly 5 months times (I wanted to publish this post when I had 6 months to go but alas it wasn't finished) so here I am now talking about my feelings regarding the big 3-0.
I was going to write a 30 before 30 list but as I made notes about things I want to achieve in the next few months I realised it was all a little dull. Apart from 'get a new piercing (maybe)', 'bleach my hair again because I miss being blonde' and 'learn some Japanese before my big holiday' there wasn't really anything interesting I wanted to do. Not for lack of trying I might add. I like to think I'm an interesting person, I try and explore London to its fullest and I'm constantly out and about discovering new places and trying new things. But it dawned on me why writing this list was such a struggle and it's because I really don't care that I'm turning 30. I'm at a stage in my life where I am happy, super content in fact and ever since I reached that point, every day feels like a blessing. Sure there are things I worry about and every now and then I find myself in that awful comparison mode but I'm able to take a step back and reassess. I love my life and that makes me feel great.
I'm realising that turning 30 doesn't have to be a big deal just because someone says it should.
My life at 29 is not how I pictured it would be when I was 19, in fact things are very different. I don't earn a certain amount, I don't own a house and I'm not married. I look back at my younger self and think how depressing that you defined a successful 30 years of life on this wonderful planet as money, property and a ring. No mention of seeing the world, no mention of life experiences and no mention of self love. But I try not to be too hard on 19 year old me because like most people my age I have been brought up in an environment where these things are the basis of success.
Buying a house (lol, more like a tiny flat in London) is something that a lot of people my age are focused on. Now, don't get me wrong I would love to own my own place instead of living in a gross flat share, but when push comes to shove there are just so many other things that I'd rather do with my hard earned cash. If you own your own place, that's awesome, well done for putting in the time to save hard and realise your dream. But that's the thing, it isn't a dream for me and it took me a good few years to realise that. I don't dream about what shade of mint green I want to paint my kitchen or how to arrange my dream living room shelfie. I dream about what it would be like to hike the Inca trial and how a one month train journey across Canada would be the ultimate adventure. For me it's travel that keeps me from saving for a deposit and whilst I am perfectly happy with that there are people out there who look down on me for making that decision. Just because you spend your money the way you want to instead of the way someone else wants you to does not devalue you as a person. Screw the conventional norms and live your life in a way that makes you happy and don't just do something because you feel like 'you're meant to'.
Getting married is another topic that's been on my mind recently, especially as I'm at that age where lots of people I know are getting engaged. I'm lucky to have found a perfect human that will always be by my side but all of a sudden I'm beginning to feel the expectations of engagement. Heck, every time I meet up with friends I don't see that often I can tell they're looking at my left hand to see if there's a ring. Steve and I openly talk about marriage but we're not engaged, I don't think we will be any time soon and even if we never do why does it actually matter? The thing that really grinds me gears is the constant expectations from other people because they think being a certain ages means you should be doing certain things. If it's not marriage, it's babies and to that I say hell no. Just because a couple is married doesn't mean that they love each other more than you and your partner. So don't get hung up about it because nobody should be making you feel bad because they've done something that you haven't.
On the subject of relationships I wanted to spend a little time saying that they are not the be all and end all of your happiness either. Yes it's a great feeling to have a special someone in your life but it's also a great feeling to be free from responsibilities with the time to do whatever you want, whenever you want. I loved being single, I never felt sad about it and that's because I made the most of my time and did fun things. But I reached a stage where I did want to find someone so I turned to the internet because let's face it, it's the easiest way to meet people these days. If you've ever dabbled in online dating you will know that it's not always an easy journey to find the right person. I had some bad experiences online but that didn't put me off and I'm glad it didn't because a little perseverance eventually lead me to Steve. To put it bluntly, you can't expect a partner to fall from the sky and into your lap so you have to get yourself out there and find someone. Be proactive about it otherwise you will end up feeling sad.
The last topic I touched on was money and what an incredibly dull subject that is. For a long time I was really fixated on earning a certain amount by a certain age. I've been brought up by middle class parents (snooze) where money always seemed important. People told me that I had to find a husband who earned x amount (double snooze) otherwise I wouldn't be able to send my future children to private school. Whilst I wasn't earning a spectacular wage in my previous job I was at the stage in my career where I was looking for a promotion. However after four years I absolutely hated my job, but the thought of changing career and taking a pay cut was scary because I was approaching 30 so I naturally assumed I should be looking for a pay rise, not the opposite.
I was applying for lots of jobs this time last year. Some in the area I was already working in and some in science communications which is where I wanted to be. Suddenly I was offered two job interviews. The first was for a science communication role that would see my take a pay cut and the second was a job promotion which would have seen me get a generous pay rise. I had the interview for the science communications role and was offered the job the same day. I deliberated for ages about what to do about the other interview. I knew I had the skills for the role and the pay rise was extraordinarily tempting. But it dawned on me that a pay rise wouldn't actually make me happy because I'd just be doing the same job, the same job that was making me miserable. It was an easy choice in the end, I accepted the science communications role and cancelled my other interview. I knew if I'd gone along to the interview and subsequently been offered the job it would have been hard for me to say no so I might not have made the right decision. I am so much happier in my new job and whilst I can't buy fancy stuff all the time I know that this feeling of contentedness far outweighs a pay check from a job that makes me miserable.
Feeling content didn't happen over night, it's taken a lot of time figuring out what I actually want from life and what I need to do to feel happy. It's also taking me a long time to accept the way I look and stop mourning the fact I'm not a slim, leggy waif. Part of this process was realising that success isn't defined by looks or the age you do something. Age is just a number after all. You don't need to look a certain way and you don't need to tick x, y and z off a list by the time you're a certain age. But that's the crux of the problem, so many people act like that you do.
People brag about 'having their shit together' but what does that actually mean? If my life was how I pictured it would be when I was 19 would I be happy? Would being skinny, married, earning however much money and owning my own place make me feel content? Who knows, a lot of those things are just acquired goods at the end of the day. But, if 'getting my shit together' actually means feeling happy with myself, dispelling self loathing thoughts and actually being proud of my life then hell yeah I am there! And that's the point I'm trying to make. I've realised that I'm not interested in people who judge me based on what I've acquired. I do not have the time or the energy to feel worthless because I haven't done the same things that they have. I'd rather spend time with people who like me for me and couldn't care less about about the things I've acquired.
Reaching 30 is the year that I've accepted myself and have come to love the things that make me, me. I'm proud of my achievements and I don't need to complete a list of pointless goals to make me feel like a worthwhile individual. I am happy, super happy in fact and at the end of the day that is all I could ever wish upon anyone else, that they learn to love themselves.
So if you take one thing away from this, please remember that it's not the way you look or the things you buy or own that define you as a person. It's the things that you do and the way you live your life that make you a great individual. Nothing is worth risking your happiness for. We only have one life so you might as well feel great about it.
So keeping with my 30 before 30 blog title here's a list of 30 things in my life that make me happy.
1. My job - I changed careers and couldn't be happier about it.
2. My crazy sisters - we may not get on a lot of the time but I know that my sisters will always be there for me when I need them to be.
3. I have literally travelled around the world and visited nearly 60 different countries in the process - this feels me with so much joy and I am so beyond grateful to have the opportunity to experiences so many cultures.
4. I might not be able to see out of them very well but my eyes are a wonderful shade of green.
5. I met someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with (looking at you Steve) and even if we never get married I'm more than happy to know he's by my side everyday.
6. Not giving a fuck about what people think of me - whether this means family, friends or strangers. I do what I want, dress how I want, eat what I want and enjoy the stress free life of not meeting anyone's expectations.
7. Living in London means I get to experience so many different things on a day-to-day basis. Whether it's world class museums, live music, unusual cuisine or different cultures. I wouldn't want to be based anywhere else.
8. I have a wonderful circle of friends who accept me for me - enough said.
9. Even though I am so thankful that my parents decided to move to London I love the fact that I'm from Northern Ireland. The emerald aisle is one of the most beautiful islands in the world and every time I visit I feel privileged that it is truly my home land.
10. I love food and trying new cuisines or the latest restaurant opening brings me so much enjoyment, especially combined with great company.
11. It may not be blonde any more but I do love my head of thick, curly hair. Plus it isn't snapping off any more so yay for that!
12. I spent 5 years of my adult life living in Derby which helped me get out of the London bubble and meet people from all walks of life.
13. I am beyond grateful and feel inspired everyday by the Internet. If it wasn't for the world wide web I wouldn't have met my boyfriend, I wouldn't have met all the friends I've made through blogging and my job probably wouldn't exist either.
14. Nothing makes me smile as much as the sweet sound of my records spinning. Music has had a big impact on my life and gives me a sense of escapism. Thank you for all the sweet melodies.
15. My wacky side comes from my Mum and I couldn't be more happy to have someone as nuts as her brought me up.
16. Shout out to my Dad who has helped me out in ways I can never be thankful enough for. From our incredible family holidays to letting Steve and I pay half price rent.
17. Blogging is the first hobby I have ever felt truly passionate about. I've been writing on this website for six years and I couldn't think of a better way to spend my free time.
18. Chocolate - yes I'm going there because the taste of a Dairy Milk bar is one of my true delights in life.
19. I might not be the best at keeping in touch but I would do anything for my friends and it makes me happy to know that people can rely on me.
20. I'm glad I have a level headed temperament, this helps me see both sides of a situation and make well informed decisions.
21. I think fashion and personal style have had a big impact of my sense of self. I've always loved clothes and whilst I definitely go through style ruts I love having the ability to express myself in something as simple as a tshirt. Being able to dress in a way that makes you feel great is so important.
22. The UK may have it flaws but living in a country where we are free to express ourselves in whatever way we please makes me feel so grateful to live here.
23. Train, planes and automobiles - being able to hop on a train to France or fly to the other side of the world never ceases to amaze me.
24. Arrested Development is the one television show I can rely on to cheer me up and make me laugh out loud even though I've watched every episode countless times. It is unbelievably funny.
25. I have always been interested in photography thanks to my parents and looking back through family photo albums or pictures I've taken myself makes me feel incredibly nostalgic.
26. The view from Waterloo Bridge at night when the lights of London glisten against the Thames is one of my all time favourite happy places.
27. Travel books and being able to read about far away lands is so fascinating. I can literally spend hours happily day dreaming in the travel section of a bookshop.
28. There are few places I feel more at home than a music festival. These weekends may be cold, wet and exhausting but they put a smile on my face which make me forget about the chores of everyday life.
29. Anything shaped as a pineapple makes me think off my internet friends which is great because they're excellent people who never fail to brighten up my day.
30. This ridiculous YouTube video my little sister made me.
Anyone who is turning 30 soon I'd like to challenge you to creating your own list. It's actually a fun thing to do as you sit down and really focus on all the great things about your life. Once you've got to the 30th point I guarantee that you'll be loving yourself a little bit more.