Welcome to your 30s

Looking forward to the wisdom that turning 30 brings? Don't expect change overnight, writes Gala Darling.
Looking forward to the wisdom that turning 30 brings? Don't expect change overnight, writes Gala Darling.

I've noticed a trend among my twenty-something friends: they're all looking forward to turning 30. It's not just that they're excited about turning 30, either. They seem to think the ticking of the clock will create some kind of immediate change within.

They can see their 30th birthday in their mind's eye. After a quadruple-decker chocolate gateau is wheeled in front of them and they've blown out 30 candles, they are magically transformed: instantly happy with who they are, in the career they want, with the ability to orgasm at the drop of a hat.

I am thrilled to hear that a lot of us are now looking forward to pirouetting into this next phase of life. Anything is better than fearing getting older! But at the same time, I think we're being a tad delusional. Maybe our expectations are a little over-the-top.

Some people say that the time we spent in high school equals "the best years of your life". These people clearly know diddly-squat! Other, more sane, people seem to agree that your 20s are the most difficult ten years of your life. We are struggling with trying to define who we are, what we want and where we're going, all while switching jobs, hairstyles and boyfriends every other week. After this crazy juggling act, it's no wonder, then, that we are relieved to kick off a new and purportedly calmer decade.

Perhaps we spend our 20s preparing for our 30s, where real life begins.

This, of course, does not mean that your life is only valid once you turn 30 and get married or have a baby. (Don't you loathe those people who act like anyone who is childfree is superficial and shallow?  "Oh, I used to be like you, before I had little Edward. Now my life has so much meaning!") But by the dawn of our 30s, we have done the bulk of our experimentation. We have discovered what works for us as well as what looks best, from relationships to skirt-length.

Yes, in our 30s, we are told we will have more wisdom and a glut of acceptance and understanding - both of ourselves and others. But the truth is that when the clocks strikes midnight, 30 years after our birth, we will not undergo some kind of mythical metamorphosis. The passing of time does not necessarily equal instant comfort in one's own skin. Only working on ourselves, rifling through our issues and actively building our self-esteem can do that.

Contrary to what we used to think, you don't build your self-esteem and then go out and do amazing things. Parents who thought they were doing us a favour by telling us how great we are were lovely but misguided. It actually works in reverse. We are emboldened and our self-esteem is fortified by our actions. We feel better about ourselves when we challenge ourselves, try new things and finish big projects.

Affirmations are fabulous, but actions are better.

Maybe the goal should be to learn this in our 20s and reap the benefits in our 30s.

As Maya Angelou puts it: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Are you standing on the precipice of 30? How do you feel about it? Have you experienced your Saturn return yet? If you're well over the threshold, did turning 30 change you? Is life better after 30?

This story Welcome to your 30s first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.