Tag: Growing Up

Why (So Far) My 30s are Better Than My 20s

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” 
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

I’m on the cusp of another birthday so I thought I’d reflect a bit on why, thus far, my 30s are leaving my 20s in the dust. I always looked forward to my 30s in my teenage years and young adulthood and I was not wrong to do so. You could not pay me to set the clock back to my previous decade. Here are a few reasons why:

Body confidence. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a shed load of insecurities but I’m no longer crippled by excruciating self hatred for my corporeal form. Thank god, I never want to go back to that dark self-inflicted shame spiral! I also, shock surprise, actually like quite a few things about my body which is a future 21 year old me could never imagine. Which was foolish and short sighted in the extreme because I now know in my 30s that my 20s body was pretty good and I miss it.

A somewhat congealed sense of self. I feel like everyone is a bit lost or up in the air in their 20s and though on paper I was ticking a lot of boxes, the truth was that I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. My identity was all over the place and most of my identifiers were external. Now, in my early 30s, I feel like I have a handle on my personality and personhood (warts and all). I may not like all my traits, but I also know which ones I want to work on improving, and which are 100% okay to accept. I own my likes and dislikes, my strengths and my terrible weaknesses, my ambitions and my shortcomings much more handily than I could have ever imagined a decade ago.

A developed professional grounding. Ten years ago I was about to graduate university and had no clue what I was getting into. Now I’ve been able to try a couple of different jobs and ways of working, and learned the things I value in a workplace. I’ve freelanced full time and worked in offices, and while I haven’t found the perfect balance (I’d like to get more creative or writing work back into my life), I’m earning where I feel I should be at the present moment.

Fewer ****s to give. I care less about what other people think about me than I have ever done and it’s great. There are a few, carefully identified people in my life whose good opinion matters to me and whose judgement I value. The commentary or disapproval of anyone not on that list barely registers anymore. This shift has been life changing.

Goals accomplished. There have been setback and surprises and there is a long list of life goals that I feel behind on, but in my 30s I feel like I can say I’ve started achieving some of the things I’ve prioritized and that are important to me. I wanted to move back to London, and we made it happen. I wanted to try to freelance full time and I did it for three years. I wanted to be making a certain salary and I’ve hustled hard towards that goal and it’s within reaching distance. Am I where I’d thought I’d be in all cases? HELL NO. Am I okay overall? HELL YES.

I’m going to spend the weekend being grateful for where I’m at.

Mirror, Mirror…

This dialog went on regularly until once when the queen was having a bad hair day and was desperately in need of support, she asked the usual question and the mirror answered,
“Alas, if worth be based on beauty, Snow White has surpassed you, cutie.”
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, James Finn Garner

Like unto the wicked step-mother of yore, I too have a magic mirror.  But as opposed to telling me the truth, or even just what I want to hear, this mirror actively lies to me.  And it’s great! 

I have a love/hate relationship with mirrors, but it’s a relatively recent thing because I was never a mirror gazer growing up.  I heroically resisted lots of “girlifying” attempts on the part of well meaning friends and family, and had only the usual amount of angst about my looks.  Gradually I first succumbed, then became addicted to mascara, developed a late blooming but fierce love of fashion, and realized that I was a pretty decent looking girl…

Hm...maybe the lie is actually internal after all...
Hm...maybe the lie is actually internal after all...

Until!  Kiri took me home with her for the Thanksgiving break our junior year of university!  This act of kindness towards my semi-orphaned-in-a-strange-land state hid a crippling dagger which would be thrust deep by her cousin.
“I like your mirror face,” she said one day as we put on on various coats, hats, and lip gloss, preparing to head out into the cold.
“What do you mean?” I asked, pausing mid-act in swinging a scarf I’d bought in Paris around my neck.  I sensed the approaching danger.
“We all do it.  When you look in a mirror your face automatically shifts a bit.  Because the mirror’s a two dimensional surface, it reflects your three dimensional face back a little skewed, so you don’t actually look the same in the mirror as you do in real life.  We make mirror faces because we’re trying to show off our best features, it’s all psychological–”

Stupid mirrors...
Stupid mirrors...

I tuned out at that point because I was deep in the horrors.  I’d just come to terms with what I saw in the mirror!  My previous adolescent nonchalance had taken an abrupt nosedive when I came to university and saw the assorted Quirky Chic Girls, Effortlessly Stylish Girls, Not Exactly Stylish But Rich Enough To Fake It Girls, and other types you invariably bump into in a crowd of forty thousand people (I learned quick, but the lingering air of shame scuppered my aplomb).   In a matter of moments, my recently rebuilt sense of confidence had crumbled.  Parisian scarf, English hat, and new leather gloves notwithstanding, I spent the day torturing myself over my buck teeth, asymmetrical face, Hapsburg Lip, and sallow skin.

None of which I actually had, of course, but since my faith in mirrors was shattered, could I actually trust what any of them showed me?!

Years later I’ve made peace with the Mirror People (my own reflection in particular), but I’d be lying if I said my current mirror didn’t help the process a bit.  By some magic trick of the light, a flaw in the glass itself, or some other miracle, anyone who looks in that shiny surface has slightly longer and thinner legs, fuller hair, and a waist that just maybe an inch or two smaller.  Not huge changes, just enough to make you feel like a fox when you walk out the door.

Until you catch sight of yourself in a those sadistic fun-house jokes they stock GAP changing rooms with.  Hiss….