A number of months back, during a bout of relentless insomnia, I wrote a post entitled ’30 … something?’ On waking the next day, I made the decision not to share it because, although I really don’t mind giving a lot of myself, I worried that its personal nature might make those around me feel bad or less certain of my love. Plus, being awake in the middle of the night, when all around are in slumber, has a certain way of making everything feel worse. I realise now that really it was I who wasn’t in the right headspace to be quite so honest and so kept it back as an act of self-preservation.
Since writing the post however, I have made a few choices:
Choice #1 – to quit comparisons as they really are the root of all evil. ‘Compare and despair’ a director warned me recently when I had shared my revelation with him (delighted to provide me with a sound bite). He wisely advised that comparison is a habit that will only ever lead to feelings of inadequacy. ‘No matter how well I’m doing, there’ll always be Steven Spielberg’ he acknowledged. True say.
Choice #2 – to celebrate the age I am now. As someone that was never worried about age (I have a friend that’s been having crises every birthday since age 19), the lead up to my 30s took me by surprise and affected me in a way that I did not relish. I’m now a couple of years further along level 3 and I realise that I’d now love to be turning 30. And so it became apparent that lamenting ones age is another destructive mindset that will never lead to anything positive. My choice now is to wake every day and remind myself that I am younger today than I ever will be again. (I recently shared this little gem – by way of encouragement – to a work pal. She told me it was the most depressing thought she’d ever heard. Sometimes our personal mantras don’t translate so well I guess.).
Choice #3 – to follow my own dreams regardless of the status quo. I live enthusiastically and love quickly; of late, however, I have felt apologetic for this and considered it best to down play my energy and streamline my behavior. I’ve allowed my wings to be clipped even though I doubt it was the intention of anyone to do so. Ultimately though, when you act a part that isn’t you, it only leads to confusion and frustration. At the risk of sounding like a complete hippy, so long as I am not hurting anyone in the process, the only person I have to be true to is myself. And so, if I know deep down that my desire to, oh I don’t know … say, live in New York for part of my adult life, is in fact growing rather than fading, as the only person responsible for my own happiness, I need to try and make this happen.
As a consequence of these choices, I am now writing this from my home for the next month: Brooklyn, New York. I have taken myself off to experience further a city that has given me palpitations on every previous visit and had called, encouraged and recently yelled at me to come stay a while. I decided to take a break from the slog of freelancing and indulge myself in a month of writing, discovering and just being (and cocktails and Vintage and people watching and exploring and, heck every single thing on offer!) – to see if it truly is somewhere I could stay longer or if in fact this month will satisfy the yearning.
It’s the ultimate me-time and there’s no need to make excuses for it. I needed this for me but I also needed it for those around me. We thrive, support and love best when we are at our best. I’m lucky enough to have incredible people in my life that have supported, encouraged and reassured me in the lead up to this adventure and I hope to repay them by returning with enthusiasm, appreciation and some damn good insider tips for visiting NYC. The time is now (well I am still just a nipper after all!).
For the next 4 weeks, I’m going to bombard you with the fruits of my labour: photos, travel logs, blog posts, interviews, reviews and everything in between. I’ll make up for the last few months when work was busy, energy was low and enthusiasm wasn’t quite what it should be, with the blog directly suffering as a result. I’m in the city that never sleeps and I plan on relishing every moment it cares to share with me.
And so, before I sign off my first NY post, and in the name of sisterhood, dropping masks and acknowledging the need to feed our own aspirations, I am happy to share the aforementioned post (having now put it in context of course … I’m not totally brave, just yet).
With love from the Big Apple,
30 … Something?
Growing up, absolutely every female you encounter will tell you how lovely your skin is, how lucky you are to have it, will warn you to look after and beg you to appreciate it. ‘When you hit 30 it all changes’ they’ll warn. ‘It’ll be a new line a day and your arse will start to sag to-boot’. Never mind, at least by then you’ll be your best self and will have the confidence to rock whatever physical changes may come your way.
This evening I went to bed early. I created an environment I believed was conducive to an impending wonderful sleep. I turned on the blanket, I watched Girls on the laptop, I gave myself time to read my Vintage costume book and a Marie Claire article on witch doctors in Africa… all was set. I even feel asleep for God’s sake. Yet here I am at 1.40am with a weary body that just wants rest but a spinning head that refuses to cooperate. I’ve always been a bad sleeper but these days instead of big beautiful daydreams keeping me awake, it’s anxiety. Even in the depths of what I remember to be pretty comfortable dreams, vacant of the vivid images that often haunt me, the tug of breathlessness and panic yank me from my slumber and throw me in to that lonely, infuriating place of which it is so hard to find a way out.
My issues with sleep began to really surface when I lived in London aged 18. Admittedly the cocktail of partying, nicotine and broke-ness probably didn’t do much to help but I will never forget the constant feeling that I was the only person awake in the world as well as the fear and confusion that those thoughts brought. Sometimes when it got too much, or the nightmares began to terrify, my little pal in the next room would receive a visit, much to her dismay and discomfort. Beds were made for one in our rented house.
At that time my thoughts were full of London and Dublin, of staying or going, of career or study, of Mr. Right or Mr. Right now. I ached to know my own mind, to be certain of what was right for me, to make the correct decision. In the end I came home to study and never for a minute doubted the choice I made. During this time of transition however, I often thought to the years ahead and where I’d be; to the time on my hands but the feeling of urgency; to the endless possibilities and the world being my oyster. I knew the things I definitely wanted to experience and in the following years I set about achieving those ambitions. I would tick the to-do list off and sure the rest would fall in to place. By the time I would be 25 I’d have the road mapped out, and by 30? Sure I’d be selling the map to youngsters coming up behind me.
As my 20s whizzed past in a flurry of study, travel and endless partying, I relished the moments and laughed constantly. Toward the end of the decade however, I began to reflect and in turn, fret. What am I doing? What have I achieved? What do I have ahead of me? What’s my place in the world? Of course these are unnecessary self-imposed tortures but like it or not, 30 is a milestone; you may only be another year older but it’s impossible not to look back or to hear the echoes of 15 year old you and the determined affirmations you imposed on anyone that would listen. It’s impossible not to feel her disappointment in your sometimes-jaded outlook and sense her wonder as to where that spirit went.
Having probably let 29 pass me by from spending all my time desperately trying to somehow put the skids on time, 30 arrived before I knew it… and it was a riot! Never have I experienced such fuss and love by friends and family all keen to mark this momentous occasion through amazing parties, thoughtful gifts and the most beautiful of wishes. They gave me a barn dance for goodness sake! This whole Level 3 malarkey was proving much more fun than I ever imagined. So take-that, 15 year old me! It’s all fun and dancing round these parts. And the best thing about turning 30 as I saw it? I would finally have that calm mind and find that quiet comfort in the knowledge ‘you’re right where you’re meant to be’. Everyone talks about it. Once you hit 30 it’s all contentment, contentment, contentment. Go on; ask anyone … they never stop singing its praises, those 30 somethings. Well sure isn’t this just dandy altogether…
Only it doesn’t seem to just arrive on time like your PPS number. In fact I think you must have to apply but I can’t find any number online, not even a ‘contact us’ form. I could really do with getting in touch now as the old skin isn’t what it used to be and the 8 hours are more important than ever. Much like the contentment however, they’re elusive. There was an unexpected delivery although I can’t be sure when it got here – a new found ability to be much, much harder on yourself than you ever were before. The addition of this skill ensured that no achievement was ever celebrated but rather moved on from quickly, only ever pausing for some substantial self-criticism along the way. A few months ago it dawned on me that a bottle of champagne that a friend bought for me 2 years ago remained unopened. This was not because I had forgotten about it or was reserving it for one particular event. Rather it was the depressing realisation that I deemed absolutely nothing I had achieved in the interim years to be worthy of celebration. This horrible, sudden awareness assured that it was opened the following weekend with my Special Gentleman, for no reason and for every reason… but boy it was a long time coming.
Alas it’s no longer the London partying, nicotine or broke-ness keeping me awake (well the latter still does me the honour of regular visits but in Dublin the risk doesn’t seem quite as serious). No, no; now it’s something much more serious that I thought was only the reserve of gags in Rom-Coms. This, I do believe, is a biological clock. Now bear with me as it’s not as you know it, or it’s certainly not as I ever knew it. When men spoke of these crazy ladies with constant ticking I understood said women to be uncontrollably clucky, unable to help themselves from visiting Mothercare on their lunch break and flushing their pill down the toilet women. I thought they were possessed and could see nothing but seats full of babies when they looked down the bus. These women, I knew, were not the kind I related to, ever. Even the term ‘women’ was alien to me for goodness sake. I, still a girl, found such behaviour to be absolute fiction.
And in this form it certainly was, or at least I still believe that to be true. Yet there came the big 3-0 and with it trickled thoughts and considerations that felt utterly alien in my head. If I want to have a baby in my 30s but also want a career, how much time should I focus on the work before I just give it all up to start a family? Should I want more than 1 child, which I probably do, (3 I think – is there time for 3?) do I need to get around to it sooner? And what about work? Obviously motherhood will mean any career will be totally out the window but I work freelance as it is so how will I earn money? And then there’s your relationship. A perfectly loving, fun and easygoing affair that lasted a number of years because you knew basically that you wanted to be together. But are you sure? I mean are you really sure? Because if this isn’t the right father of your child you’d want to decide this soon and just make the break if necessary so you can both find someone else and have a chance of a family with them. And that’ll add at least another couple of years on to the countdown. Jesus, I’m going to have to figure this out and soon. That clock just won’t shut up. Aaaaaargh!
Sorry? Do I want kids? Have I an ache inside that I know so many others do, to feel their baby in their arms and know that you will protect them forever? Will I burst if I don’t procreate within the next year? Well no actually. I don’t. There is no yearning, no cluckiness just yet, no absolute certainty (well except that time is running out… on everything).
In an era where talent shows declare the entry of any contestant over 25 as a last-chance saloon and instant social media updates feed the constant stream of comparisons, providing ammunition to the self-critic, can we all just take a breath? Please? And how about a reality-check on the side? I know that this ever-present state of flux cannot be sustained and something will have to give (perhaps myself, giving myself a break) but the lack of clarity makes it hard to see the wood from the trees. Is it just me?
Sure, it’s now 2.20am so the clock is at it loudest and anxiety at its worst but I can’t help thinking about the 20-something that loved life so much and took each day as it came. Plans were only big ones and the map of the world the only map to which I paid attention. Where is the girl that was fun – funny even – carefree and spontaneous? Should I search her out and bring her back, resurrect that spirit and to hell with the consequences? Or will I look back and regret that I didn’t take things more seriously, make more plans and create a future that was solid?
And why, oh why Universe, did you bring me the wrinkles if you weren’t even going to send a trade off in the form of certainty?