On being nearly 30, and milestones

Warning: This is probably a bit wanky. Sorry about that.

Last week was my last birthday before 30. On reflection, I’ve achieved a fair bit so far in life, or at least, there’s enough there to keep a fairly animated, preferably wine-fuelled conversation going: I had my first regional-paper byline at 15 and wrote my first features piece at 17 (a 3,000-word profile on a fawning website I ran for my bewildered and in retrospect frankly undeserving teenage heroine, but still). I went to two good universities for undergrad and postgrad. I’ve had lead features in national publications on a comically diverse range of topics. I’ve slept with someone with slightly more money than sense, read essays about the politics of bondage for my degree (the exciting third year, natch), spent a surreal week at a now-defunct nefarious mag, and done a bit of the non-vanilla stuff in private (albeit in a tame, English way reminiscent of Peep Show – the sitcom, not the activity…). A bit incongruously here, I’ve been paid to look after other people’s children (to help them read, thankfully nothing else – I politely declined to sing Lady Gaga songs with a toy tennis racquet mic…). I’ve been known to get paid to talk about myself and have just recently been invited to a House of Lords reception off the back of doing so. I’m on good terms with a couple of people you could legitimately call public figures (you wouldn’t know their names out of context but you’d probably recognise what they’ve done). I’ve even heard the phrase: “I know your work” (granted, once, from an ex-junior employee of a media production company, referring to my posts on TV soap fan forums when I was 15…). Parts of my life resemble a Woody Allen film, largely thanks to social media, which is so central to life for us all in a way I couldn’t even have imagined even 12 or 13 years ago when I first started designing websites in-between exams.

The thing about these milestones is I’ve achieved them all in a wonky order, and there are certain rather more fundamental ones I thought I would have achieved first. In a sense this is not a surprise. My life is one of peaks and troughs, and all my milestones since birth have been in a wonky order. I was three months premature. I, quite literally, ran before I could walk. And walked before I could crawl (fact fans: If a baby walks before it crawls, it probably has a coordination disorder…knowing this now rather than when your child is 21 will save you a lot of bother). But it is strange, and the non-achievements do tend to dwarf the achievements: no-one ever thinks they will be invited to the House of Lords and have to ask for a new outfit as a birthday present because they’re absolutely skint. Similarly, the fact a trust has given me free office space two days a week, and that another organisation is paying me to travel to the other end of the country and stay in a hotel a few notches up from a Travelodge next week, whilst I still don’t actually have the money to support myself properly, is of some concern. As is the fact I want to be able to seriously consider moving abroad but don’t think I can because the anxiety attacks I’ll get in the lead-up will be so bad. Because of one particular segment of the work I do, people often ask me very serious questions about aspects of their or their children’s lives and I sometimes have to hold out my hands and say I’m not fully qualified to respond. Once, at a conference mainly for medics and educationists, I answered the inevitable “And what do you do?” saying that I wasn’t either of those just a journalist. “Never say ‘just’,” implored the delegate. “We need people like you.” Unfortunately it doesn’t feel that way enough of the time. And I hope this year will be the one that the massive peaks and troughs finally start to even out into something more manageable so that the next decade is less wonky than the last…

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One thought on “On being nearly 30, and milestones

  1. Hmm, obviously there are some things that you have every right to call lows, but if you don’t mind me saying so, it does seem as if you’re putting down your highs somewhat, in the way a non-confident person might deflect a compliment.

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