|source: Maruti Bitamin|
As the big 30 approached for me these past few weeks, there have been much discussions with friends, family and colleagues about this symbolic turn of age. Naturally, this lead to the invariable fear of old age we all bear in our hearts. Now that I am turning 30 today, here are a few thoughts about how it feels to get older.
Being no longer young is a notion we acquire over time, somewhere during the 20s. At least, that was the case for me, as the bank closed my "young-savings account" at 25, when the train company shut down my "young reductions", when I started earning money, paying rent and taxes.
Getting older and uglierBut as my thirtieth birthday approached, I realized how "getting older" was linked to physical appearance to so many people. "You're going to have to be more careful with the food now as pounds don't shed that easily anymore" "you'll see that you'll dye your hair like everyone else once your white hair show" "enjoy the fact that you can go out without makeup while you still can".
It seems this ancient fear of getting older, initially linked to our mortality, has cristallized over our looks in today's society. Getting older means no longer being young, thin and wrinkle-free. As my boss turned 40, exactly the same discussions surfaced, a decade later. Why is our society so afraid of the natural aging of our body? Why does it matter so much to look young and thin? We aren't merchandise now are we?
What 30 means to meCurisously, as I woke up this morning at the start of my thirties, my first thought was about everything but my looks. I thought about the career path I've chosen for myself, my masters degree and six years of experience in communications. I thought about my fiancé, who is probably the father of my children to come. I thought about what I accomplished so far and the projects ahead.
I have this fear of getting older like everyone else. I don't know if this is linked to the path of simplicity I've been following these past five years, but this doesn't cristallize in a fear of white hair and wrinkles. Rather, I sometimes wonder if I made the right life choices.
As Meg Jay says in The Defining Decade, we make a lot of determining choices in our twenties. Studies, career, life experiences that are no longer possible as we get older and have more responsibilities, a life partner and more.
Life as a tree of choicesIf life is a tree, childhood is the trunk. You are at the beginning, where all branches start and any of them is an option. At 20, you arrive at the top of the trunk, it's time to choose some branches over others. At 30, you're already quite engaged in the branch you chose, for career and personal life. There are all these choices you didn't make, all these options that are already behind you.
And to be honest, if there is one thing I fear as I turn 30, is to have missed a turn, let an opportunity go. Maybe that's why I started playing the violin again two years ago and writing fiction again eight months ago. Because these are branches I care about and I realized my twenties, full of studies and getting a job, made me neglect these things that matter so much to me.
Of course, 30 is still young, there are still many branches waiting ahead of my life tree. But I guess this is a symbolic age nowadays. The age when you are adult for real. Where life choices matter. Now more than ever, it is important to know if the branch you are standing on is the one that matters to you.
Writing matters to me. My talents in digital communication matter to me. My fiancé and our future family matter to me. Playing the violin and collecting minerals and traveling the world matter to me. Choosing the perfect anti-aging fundation to hide my wrinkles and the ideal dye to hide my white hair? Not so important to me.
As a conclusion, here are some lessons I learned as I leave the defining decade:
- Accept your emotions without judgment
- It is natural to feel down sometimes, a happy life isn't constant joy and pleasure
- People pay much less attention to us than we think - they are usually too busy wondering what we think of them
- Everybody has moments of doubt
- Our life choices are influenced by our environment in a much bigger way than we think
- Making mistakes is a way to learn and improve
- Worring about looks is a waste of time that leads to nothing. If we are lucky enough, we'll all end up looking like this anyway: