I just celebrated my 29th birthday… Last birthday of my twenties and last year of my twenties. I have many friends who have either turned or are turning 30 this year and unanimously there seems to be a bit of a mental block about this particular birthday, but why? It seems to me that the general consensus (rightly or wrongly) is that your 20’s are for fun but you need to have your life in order by your 30’s – queue the late-twenty-something-panic! I don’t know if this is something that every generation feels but having written a couple of papers about Generation Y and their careers (and being a member of said generation) I can certainly say that this generation feels the pressure quite keenly.
It could be that our generation is a “guinea pig generation”, the first to fully feel the effects of medical advancements that change when it is biologically imperative to have children, the first also to feel the effects of the internet age which has drastically changed how we communicate and, often, how we date. Therefore, Generation Y is still applying “goal deadlines” to their own lives which are more suited to those of past generations. Regardless, however, of why the goals exist it seems that they do, so I thought I would compile a list of some of the things that I feel the pressure to achieve before the big 3 0 and others that friends have reported feeling too (friends’ are marked with a *). Let me know what you think in the comments section.
- *Get married: This seems to be a biggy and if it isn’t fully donning the white dress and saying “I do” then it seems that everybody feels the pressure to be in a “meaningful”, whatever that means, relationship by the time they are 30. Friends have also reported that the more wedding invitations drop through the letterbox the more keenly the pressure is felt. Now I love being married and married life but I also think 30 is still very young and it is just a number so if you know somebody who has this birthday looming, give them a break on the relationship inquisition!
- Have a career. No not a job, a career. Know exactly where you want to be in ten years time and be on at least the second rung of that ladder. Eeek! Talk about pressure. This is one I feel very keenly, not a week goes by where I don’t think about my next move or discuss my husband’s next move with him. Maybe we are just a bit too type A and maybe the pressure is just coming from us but I have seen many a friend wear the “panic face” when the topic of careers and age comes up. Funny how this seemed so far away five years ago.
- Have seen everything. Apparently your passport is removed from you on your 30th birthday (I hope not I intend to be abroad so getting back could be tricky) or at least so it seems if you speak to anybody about travelling. Travelling is something for your 20’s so you need to have seen the world by then, tick tock. Now this is quite tricky if you are also trying to start a career (not a job, a career) and find “the one”, phew, can you feel the stress yet? Let’s cut the travel snobbery, travelling doesn’t have to be “months” long, (sharp intake of breath from the travel hipsters), it can be days or weeks as long as you are doing what you want to do, seeing something you want to see and having new experiences so I think we will all be safe “travelling” in our 30s (just hold on tight to that passport – just in case!)
- *Have children. You knew it would be on here somewhere! I may actually start a collection jar which I will whip out every time somebody says “ooooh you’ll be having children soon”, will I? That’s news to me, nope put a tenner in the jar (it doesn’t happen often enough for £1 to make it profitable, but £10 would do nicely). You may also have noticed the little asterix as, going almost totally against the current, it’s not actually a pressure I feel (although yes the comments still irk me) but I know it’s a pressure that many of my friends feel and a bit like the marriage thing it is pretty unfair so leave your 20/30 something friends alone – please.
- *Have a house. This time last year that little asterix would not have existed next to this post and boy was I stressed. Every news item seemed to mention the housing market, that “prices were just going up from now” and “mortgages are getting harder to find”, no kidding on that last one, don’t even get me started. Luckily living in Scotland makes this a more attainable goal but friends who live in London would be lucky to buy a parking spot, so getting on the housing ladder is a big worry for them.
- Sort out your finances and get a pension. Remember your early 20s when you chatted about clothes, club nights and what was that thing, oh yeh, your degree? Now it seems to be pensions, mortgages and stocks & shares ISAs. Not to mention taking care of your credit score *yawn* but if you want to fund that retirement lifestyle then you better get going and there’s no time like before you hit 30 (apparently).
- Be in the best shape of your life – or at least achieve some extreme fitness goal. If you have read this blog for a while then you will know that I am working towards my ultimate bikini body by 30 and if you follow me on instagram you will have seen a few kale/healthy snack shots, but it’s not just me, the number of marathons/tough mudders/triathlons being done by my late-twenty-something friends is unreal! I too joined in on the madness in 2013 with a marathon of my own #HatedIt, before promptly retiring back to 10k and half marathon distance. It seems we’re all hitting quarter life crisis stage and lacing up those trainers, just to make sure we stave off the middle aged spread. Well this is one bandwagon I am well and truly on, no jumping off this one, unless that’s part of some new extreme race?! Then I’ll give it a go – who wants to sponsor me?
So what is the big deal about 30 and why does it change everything? Is Gen Y really feeling the pressure more keenly than generations past or is it the case of every generation thinking it’s the first? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Picture credits: “Wedding rings” wiki commons, christianbed.com, “Baby feet” via Vinoth Chandar on Flickr (creative commons), “house sold” www.aag.com via Flickr (creative commons).