real life

HOLLY WAINWRIGHT: 'I just interviewed 8 Gen X women. None of them are where they thought they'd be.'

Where did you think you'd be when you hit Mid?

Those lists Gen X made, the ones of things we wanted by 20, 30, 40, we scribbled them on actual paper rather than in notes apps, at the back of notebooks, in diaries with locks, in letters to our closest people. 

And now we are here in the middle of our lives with more, with less, with everything different.

I found one of those lists recently, when I was visiting my parents' home, rifling through the past, looking for photos of my father's 80th birthday party.

I wrote it when I was 20. I had already left home and moved from the big city I grew up in to the bigger city of my childhood dreams — London. And my sights were set on an even bigger one.

Future me was going to live in New York City. The life I wanted was one of shoulder pads and magazine meetings in gleaming skyscrapers, of writerly brownstones with stoops, cocktail parties and dive bars.

Watch: Hosted by Holly Wainwright, MID is a podcast that goes deep on self-care with zero shame. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

I blame the magazines I read obsessively as a teen; I knew they were all made there. And all the Norah Ephron movies with their photogenic autumnal twinkly streetscapes, and all that New Journalism I devoured, from the court of Tina Brown...


Cut three decades, life in London, in Sydney (curveball).

Do you know where I live now? In a tiny town by the sea on the opposite side of the world. My village has one pub and a bowling club. A butcher, a baker and something called a bottlo, that 20-year-old me would have happily frequented despite not knowing what the hell it was. There are no taxis, yellow or otherwise, and it's a place that definitely, definitely sleeps. From about 8pm, actually.

Would my 20-year-old self be disappointed? She'd be confused.

Because she thought she knew who we were, and that we panicked when the pavement ran out, that we didn't drive, that we liked the energy of crowds and relentless choice and lots and lots of people everywhere.

And she was right. But we… changed.

We're allowed to do that, my Mid friends. 

Change our minds, our opinions, our lives. 

Make a choice. F**k it up. Make another one. 

Take a turn. Go, uh-oh, wrong way, go back. Make another one.

Find ourselves somewhere we don't want to be. Find ourselves doing things we don't want to do. Find ourselves with someone we really shouldn't be with.

Surprise ourselves with the strength we have inside us to pull ourselves out of relationships that don't fit us, jobs that don't value us, friendships that only take.


Make mistakes and apologise for them. Learn something we didn't know.

Try something we've never tried. Return to a passion we'd talked ourselves out of. 

Leave something behind that's making us sick.

I've just wrapped the first season of a podcast about midlife. It's called MID. And to make it, I interviewed eight Gen X women (actually, scratch that — one man) about different areas of their lives in at MID. Change, when I think about it, was the defining thing.

Julie Goodwin was forced to change everything when her mental health stopped knocking to get her attention and pretty much kicked down her door.

Julie Goodwin won MasterChef Australia in 2009. Image: Channel 10. 


Shanna Whan changed the relationship with alcohol that had defined her entire adult life — and found a purpose.

Shanna Whan was awarded as Australia's Local Hero in 2022. Image:


Helen Thorn changed her relationship with exercise and food, and rebuilt herself after divorce.

Comedian and best-selling author Helen Thorn is one-half of The Scummy Mummies podcast. Image: Instagram.

Christine Anu changed the way she approached her musical career, her view of herself as a mother and how much she cared about external opinions — and made the album of her life.


Christine Anu is a singer, songwriter, and actress. Image: Instagram.

We're allowed to change. We should change, no matter how much culture encourages us to freeze-frame at 28. Whether our faces or our lives, we don't have to be stuck in the expectations we had for ourselves before we knew different.

It's not too late. 

It's not too late, it was just too early before.


It was too early, when we were 20, to truly know what it was we wanted. Too early, when we were 30, to understand what we needed.

It was too early to settle, too early to choose, too early to limit, to close doors, too early to turn our backs on experiences we didn't even know we wanted to have.

So, well, here we are, at midway thinking, 'Well, that escalated quickly.'

A LOT has happened. Some of it joyful, some of it boring, some of it devastating, some of it entirely unexpected, blindsiding, shocking.

But all that mess has woven a life.

A great big everything life, and if there is a thing I've learned, it's that not too late, or too early, for us to reset. 

In fact, it's the perfect time, because we're wise enough now to know what's in that life that matters. And how little everything else does.

What 20-year-old me really wanted was adventure. And she absolutely got it. 

It just didn't look anything like she imagined.

And that is exactly what making MID has taught me.

This is an amended version of the introduction to Episode 8 of the podcast MID. You can listen to the full episode below:

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Feature image: Instagram/Supplied.

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