My friends and I call it the crisis of the mid-twenties. The curse of ‘I have to do it before I’m 30 or I’ll be married with kids and life as I once knew it will be over.’
It’s a thought that hovers above the heads of just about every female twenty-something I know, including myself. The idea that life as we know it will end on our thirtieth birthday to be replaced by home loan repayments, washing machines and the pitter-patter of tiny feet; the belief that moment we sign a marriage certificate or mortgage papers, we’ll also sign away the opportunity to be young, carefree and completely selfish.
We rarely speak of the scary deadline, but we all know it exists. It’s the reason many of my friends have recently quit their jobs, mainlined for the airport and jumped on the first plane to ‘life experience’ (otherwise known as the Greek Islands or Rio de Janeiro.) It’s the motivation for the handful of ‘forever’ couples I know who have celebrated their 25th birthdays and broken up days later.
It’s like we’re scared of looking back in five, 10 or 30 years time and thinking we should have done more. That we should have travelled further, tried more drugs or worked harder for that promotion before children and partners were a factor in our decision making process.
It’s a terribly Gen Y way to think, isn’t it? Or is it….
“I have got stuff out of my system. I have lived overseas, lived alone and realised a great chunk of my dreams. I am more than happy to opt out for a bit as the lustre has faded from opting in. I am ready for the first time in my life to surrender and make it all about my babies, knowing I am missing out on nothing. Most importantly, I have come to quite like myself, which is vital when responsible for the emotional wellbeing of another. I wasn’t like that in my 20s or 30s, always looking over my shoulder wondering: what next?”
So why is 30 the deadline? And in the end it probably comes down to fertility and that ticking clock every one keeps going on about. Doctors say the ideal time to have kids is in your 20s, sometimes life says otherwise. Thirty feels like a happy medium; enough time to live a little after high school and hopefully still have time to fall pregnant. It’s also the age my mother was when she had me.
This is how I see it. I’m 24. I’ve been a uni bum. I’ve carried my life in a backpack and stayed in dirty hostels across Europe. I’ve studied a foreign language. I’ve worked as a checkout chick. I’ve lived in the attic of a log cabin in small town USA. I’m done with that absolute care-free stage of my life and I’m content.
Now I’ve packed up my life and moved to a new city to do what I love. I’m giving my career a red-hot go. Will I give it all up when a hubby and babies come along? Absolutely not. But if it all does come to a halt for whatever reason? I’ll know I tried.
Am I setting myself up for failure? Possibly. What happens if I blow out the candles on my 30th birthday and I’m not married or at least somewhere on the way?
Ask me in six years time.
If you’re not 30 yet, what do you hope to achieve? If you are, did you tick off enough?