'Ok wait, I am actually having a bit of a crisis now that I've turned 30.'

It's something that my partner has repeated to me for years now: "Turning 30 comes with a crisis."

Observing friends over 30 who were struggling through an assortment of issues related to work, relationships, and self-esteem, my partner kept enforcing the idea that "I didn't really get it" and that I couldn't understand, truly, what they were going through. 

I knew that my friends over 30 were experiencing a different set of hardships to the ones that I was experiencing, related to bigger life decisions and iced generously with some existential disasters – but I was told I couldn't empathise simply because I wasn't there yet. For context, my partner is three years older than me and when we started dating, I was only 26. 

To my late 20s brain, there was just this myth of something strange, disturbing and indelible that happens when you leave that decade behind. 

I also (arrogantly) believed that I was invulnerable to the Big 30s Crisis Time. I suppose I thought because I had already experienced a couple of existential crises of my own (otherwise known as periods of abject depression) and because things were going relatively smoothly in my life, there wasn't any particular need to collapse once I'd passed another decade mark. 

After all, I have a lot of love in my life from my partner, family, and friends that I value enormously, my career is going okay. In fact, I'd had my first book published a couple of weeks before my 30th birthday, and my skin seems to be holding up alright, all things considered. I'm not sitting on a whole lot of money and I certainly don't own a property – but I live in Sydney and the only people who can buy properties in their 20s here have to be either royalty or tech oligarchs. All in all, life was fine. 


Except, now I actually have turned 30. And very suddenly, I get it.

I am slipping rapidly into crisis mode. 

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The distress I'm experiencing, while not totally transparent to me yet, seems to be some delightful combination of career insecurity, confusion about starting a family, body insecurity, and questioning of my sense of self. 

I also feel a huge amount of pressure all of a sudden to be wildly successful in my work, not necessarily to make lots of money (although, yes, that would be nice) but because the successes of somebody who is in their 30s feel somewhat... less impressive than somebody in their 20s somehow. 

Back in 2012, Mamamia published a column titled "I've missed my chance to be a prodigy", which included reflections from the writer, Kate Leaver, about turning 25 years old. It sounds funny – and I literally laughed out loud at that headline – but there is absolute truth in that idea. 


We're so primed to believe that young success is the only kind that matters, largely, I guess, because it signifies that the person who has that success has some innate talent that can't be taught by experience. Whereas career success after 30? That feels... boring. As though that person has had to learn and make mistakes and get better at what they do first. Yuck. 

I would also add that as somebody who works in the media, a landscape that is highly youth-focused and oriented and relies heavily on cultural relevance, turning 30 feels kind of like being a horse who has just realised its leg is breaking.

My Big 30s Crisis Time has also been defined in part by my mounting and very profound feeling that I should still, in fact, be 24 years old. 

I'm worried about getting older – specifically, I'm worried that I'm not ready for it. I am, to be totally honest, pretty childish and immature and I don't understand how those facets of my personality quite fit into the decade which we seem to have all agreed demands a fully-formed adult. 

Listen to Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo talk about midlife crises below. Article continues after podcast. 

Laura, a social media producer here at Mamamia tells me she has the same anxieties about assuming the person you're 'supposed to be' past 30 years old – an age that she's now fast approaching. 

"Honestly, I often get told I look 'Nowhere near 30, maybe 25 or 26' or 'You don't seem nearly 30' and I'm not complaining but I'm like, 'How am I meant to look and be?' I am pretty energetic, a bit youthful in what I love, I dress quite out there... am I meant to start being serious?" 


And then there are the measurable outcomes of adulthood that, at 30, seem to become things that demand immediate answers. Marriage, home ownership, and children have all very rapidly climbed to the top of the tower of priorities and are now shaking their fists angrily at you like King Kong. 

29 is the average age that women first give birth in Australia. It's also the average age that women get married. Average first home ownership doesn't happen until 36 but the idea that I'll be able to save up enough for a deposit in that time is... semi-laughable. 

The obvious constraints of living through a cost-of-living crisis have also made these milestones even less accessible. All of this has culminated in feeling very much like the tangible aspects of becoming a bona fide adult have fallen by the wayside and I am left feeling like a slightly haggard kid wearing their mum's wardrobe.

There is, however, a single sliver of good news with every passing decade: past the age of 16, global happiness indicators seem to say that it's something accrued over time and people in their 70s tend to have the highest ratings of subjective well-being.

So, you know, maybe I'll just continue to bank life satisfaction and report back to you in four decades. 

Elfy Scott is an executive editor at Mamamia. 

Image: Supplied. 

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