Turning 30 is certainly a cause for celebration… but what are we celebrating exactly? In ‘My Dirty 30s’, columnist Samantha Y. reflects on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly truth about what this decade spells for “ageing” millennials like herself.
Turning 30 was a milestone that I was looking forward to. Like Jennifer Garner’s younger self in 13 Going on 30, I firmly believed that once I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, I’d be 30, flirty and thriving.
As a now 31-year-old, L-O-L.
To be fair, Covid did rob me of the dirty 30 celebration I wanted. I had intended to spend the last two years of my twenties partying it up at music festivals with porta potties of questionable hygiene and going on road trips with my fellow ageing millennials. And then I’ll grow up, I promised myself.
Instead, I spent the bulk of the last two years languishing away. In a series of unfortunate events, I lost my job, threw myself into a new one, promptly burnt out and eventually got diagnosed with anxiety and depression, which had to be managed with medication and lots of therapy. It is safe to assume that I was neither flirty nor thriving when I turned 30. Come to think of it, I never had the birthday cake either.
Strangely enough, that was also the year things came together for me. I got married, became a homeowner, and am now expecting a child. I consider myself very blessed – I have a stable job, my bills are getting paid on time, I have no credit card debt and can occasionally afford to order fish at the cai png stall.
People talk about turning 30 like it’s some sort of magical milestone.
This is the age whereby we’re expected to have ticked off some unspoken checklist and suddenly have our lives together. While it certainly did seem like it happened that way for me, the reality is that I had been laying the foundation for this in the last couple of years – by working on my finances, career and relationships. To attribute all the good things in my life now to a completely arbitrary age would be a discredit to the effort I’ve put in.
And if you don’t have any of these things by 30 yet? That’s ok too. And the good new is, nobody cares – except maybe yourself and some rude, boundary-stepping boomers. I should know, because I have arrived at this milestone with all the typical expectations of a straight 30-year-old Singaporean woman. Yet, there are days where the grass looks so much greener on the other side, especially now that the world has opened up again. How can I make up for the last two years – which I had perceived as my last chance at doing everything a carefree 20-something could – now that I’m saddled down with a mortgage, husband and child?
They say 30 is the new 20, but I’m not sure if this is applicable, or even healthy, for those of us who turned 30 during the lockdowns.
We did lose two precious years which heavily impacted the trajectory of our lives, and that needs to be factored into our plans of becoming 30, flirty and thriving. And perhaps even a deadline extension.
So to the 20-somethings reading this, here’s what I wish someone had told me about turning 30: it doesn’t have to be a big deal. The world has painted a very specific picture of 30 for us, but truth to be told, it doesn’t feel all that different from 29. Or 28. And I suspect that 31 and 32 will feel somewhat the same too.
As for those of us who turned 30 during the pandemic? It’s perfectly normal to have conflicting feelings about how life has turned out for you. These days I oscillate between mourning for my younger self, yet getting excited about welcoming a new bundle of joy and all of the responsibilities it brings. There’s a lot to process, but what helped me was this ultimate realisation: 30 is whatever I want it to be.