At 8pm this evening, I will turn 30. People are already wishing me a Happy Birthday, of course, but for now, I’m letting it wait until the evening before I have to acknowledge the whole thing. Some of my readers are quite a bit over 30, and I know that my thoughts on this probably don’t reflect yours, but it’s ok for us to have differing points of view on stuff without feeling invalidated by one another’s opinions, and so this is my opinion on my own 30th birthday (and why I feel this way).
I’ve been dreading this day since I turned 28, when I realized I’d wasted most of my twenties trying to get a stable income (and stable health), both hangovers from my really shit parents not doing their jobs properly (that’s not the subjective viewpoint it looks like), and suddenly I was filled with the urge to do everything left on my 30 list (the things I wanted to do before I turned 30). I didn’t have the time or money due to the aforementioned problems. Given that last year was a bit of a write off, and I basically have spent at least 5 years this decade just trying to get an education in something I could get a job in, I decided to give myself an extension, to get things done by 31.
But why is it bothering me so much that I’m turning 30? Age is just a number right? My now-husband was over 30 when we first met, and it never bothered me in the slightest.
But part of me knows that it’s different for women. It’s different for me.
I come from a place where most people got pregnant between the ages of 16 and 18, most people my age who I went to school with now have teenage children. And it’s only in the last few months that I’ve worked out what I want to do with my life (I want a job in publishing and I want to continue writing books, too) and finally had the free agency to make that happen.
Beyond that, and maybe it’s my PTSD talking, but I sorta thought I’d be dead by now. I’ve done a lot of pretty stupid stuff in the past decade (and the one before that). I don’t honestly know why I’m still here.
I’ve tried to kill myself on at least two occasions. I’ve walked away from bad situations, taking pretty much nothing with me, more than once. I’ve been electrocuted across the heart at work. I mis-landed a jump on ice skates and landed on the top of my head at high speed. I tried to stand up through a rock and hit my head so bad that, a year later, my pupils are still different sizes. I’ve driven my car through someone else’s because they parked me in. I have eaten a lot of things I shouldn’t, and been hospitalized for alcohol poisoning twice. I fell off a cliff far enough that I was certain I was going to die, and I survived because I landed in a tree. I’ve started fights with people twice my size over things most people take lying down. I skinnydipped in water with heavy metal toxicity (which I had no idea about until afterwards). I once kayaked 2 miles out to sea, to an island, with the tide going out, no lifejacket/buoyancy aid and I can barely swim one length of the pool. I have driven my car so fast that I completely burned its brakes out once on an emergency stop, and I only came to a halt half an inch from the back of an obstruction on the motorway. I nearly drowned as a small child when the priest that was supposed to be watching me went chasing after boys in swimwear and I went straight for the deep end. I climbed a snow covered Munroe (a high Scottish mountain) in January with no equipment or map. When I was sent back to school to finish my A-levels, I used to make a challenge out of running the level crossing — when the warning lights came on to signal that a train was coming, I would start running and see how far I could get before the barriers came down. If the first barrier wasn’t down, I would always keep going. Twice I had to vault over the second barrier to avoid being hit by a train.
None of that was even the stupidest stuff I’ve done (some of which I won’t ever post on here), just some of the most deadly (there’s other stuff, but again, not gonna post it because it’s really bad), but it’s illustrative of why I’m slightly surprised and a little disappointed that I’m 30 and I’m still here. In the words of Terry Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian, “You’re upright, you’re breathing; you’re fine.” That was what I lived my life by, and why I didn’t acknowledge or seek help for mental health problems until last year when everything really went to shit.
Before I got my bipolar meds, I was not only a chronic doer of really stupid shit, but I reveled in it. Facing death made me feel more alive, in a way nothing else ever will, and part of me (the part that is heavily medicated and occasionally slurs half-coherent demands for bottles of neat vodka) enjoyed doing all that stupid shit. My psychotherapist says repressing it just makes it come out worse and repeat itself more, so I just accept it. I’ve said it before, but bipolar almost always only makes me do things I wanted to do in the first place.
My parents were both chronic doers of stupid things too, and they both died when I was 27, within 5 months of one another; both were in their early fifties. As a result of their deaths, I simply cannot believe in religion (but I respect other people’s right to). I tried, but I just can’t believe it. I believe that when we die we stop existing. This life is everything. If I have the same lifespan as my parents, I’m already more than half-way through it, and what have I done with my life?
I’m not afraid of death. Sudden death is how I’d prefer to go, not a lingering, clinging one, with plenty of time for the full horror of the situation to sink in. Death doesn’t scare me. I’m afraid of getting old. Enduring. Having to keep living, day after day, fading away and getting more and more decrepit and old until one day, with a whisper or a sigh, I finally breathe my last; old and lonely.
Turning 30 was always going to be hard for me because it’s a sign that I haven’t lived hard enough, and don’t have as much time left as I’d like.
But looking into the mirror, I was pleased to see that I’m not looking so bad. All the cigarettes, alcohol, bad food, sleepless nights, 90 hour work weeks, abusive shit that happened to me, psych meds, prescription opiates, nights of homelessness and sleeping rough on newspaper have not actually had the effect on my body that you’d expect them to. Or maybe all the fresh fruit, vegetables, smoothies, long walks, longer cycle rides, orgasms and moisturizer has offset the bad stuff I did to myself.
It’s not that I worry about not looking my age, as much as I see not looking prematurely old as a sign of being healthy. I remember when my mum turned 30, and I’m looking a Hell of a lot better than she did at this age, so if outward appearances are anything to go by, maybe I’ll take after my Aunts and make it to 60 someday.
And maybe it’s time for me to turn 30. On Thursday, I asked at the security booth if something could be done at the university, and the man just assumed I was an undergraduate student. I was fairly irritated by this, since that was his basis for not doing the thing I asked him to do. But when I was parking my bike, after cycling home in the dark, I realized that I probably should have taken it as a compliment.
I still didn’t.
I fight against my worse nature, but I’m very stubborn when I make my mind up about something. Some people call that ‘driven’ or ‘single-minded’ but it’s basically stubbornness when you get down to it.
I used to name the years, to sum up how I felt about them. I haven’t done that for a while, but 2015 and 2016 have been such a shitstorm that I feel it’s worth bringing that back. Generally I name them after things that mean something to me, not things that sum up the year for everyone (that would be rudely ethnocentric of me). So 2015 is the Year of the Dead, 2016 is the Year of The Glib Toads (who have talked their way into popular votes and other similar atrocities this year. I would always rather be outspoken than mealy mouthed) and 2017 will be the Year of the Calm After the Storm. We can always re-name it if things stay bad.
So I am being dragged kicking and screaming into the Year of the Calm After The Storm. Maybe it won’t be that bad, after the last two years.
Now for the song no-one EVER links me on my birthday (swear warning):