September 10th 2020: My 29th Birthday

Well, happy birthday to me.

Today, I turned 29.

365 days from today I will, gracefully or not, vacate my twenties and leap into my fourth decade on this planet. The significance of this? Probably not as grand as I’m making it out to be.

The line dividing my twenties with my thirties is a slim one, although sitcoms and comedy films would have you believe otherwise. Many narratives would have you believe that I’m about to spend the next year trekking through a long dark tunnel only to come out the other side into an otherworldly place… and maybe I am. An otherworldly place filled with mortgages and insurance and prenatal classes and, if I’m lucky, a salary. A salary, at some point in my thirties, would be delightful. I’d love an income that ends in a K.

But I’m hoping my thirties will be filled with more than that.

I’m not expecting my life to suddenly morph into that of a more mature, more sensible, more well-rounded (well… maybe a more rounded) individual on this day in 2021. I know that the difference between September 9th and September 10th is negligible in terms of my personal development, but having said that, I do have my sights set on 30 and I have grand delusions of what kind of 30-year-old I might be.

What you’re reading is my attempt to document the process of turning those delusions into reality.

Today I turn 29, which also means that 23 days ago I was released from Tallaght hospital and 26 days ago I was admitted. The significance of that? Well, it’s more significant than today’s date or my age or any learned lifeline trajectory perpetuated by the telly.

If I’m being frank, my time in the hospital scared me. Not just because I’m still undiagnosed or because I don’t want to spend another weekend sleeping in a ward or because COVID doesn’t allow for visitors in the hospital and I’m not used to sleeping without my partner. It’s scared me because I don’t feel like myself.

I feel like a sick person, a person who’s not in control of what the future holds. That, of course, is a silly notion because there’s only so much control an individual can have over the future, but I want more of it than I currently have. I’ve always been a smidge of a control freak and it’s not exactly an endearing quality. It’s one I’ve worked on and gotten to grips with through plenty of therapy (a quick word of advice – if you’re ever in a position to access therapy free of charge through school or work, take it. It’s truly a luxury that many people won’t recognise until they don’t have it anymore) but here I am trying to reclaim a bit of control.

A few months ago one of my very best friends mentioned the idea of a ’30 Before 30′ list; 30 things to go/goals to accomplish/experiences to have by the time she turns 30. The idea, I thought, sounded great… and I still do, but now there’s an asterisk beside the word great*. The mental footnote reads: *great – if you use this list as an opportunity for self-betterment and fulfilment.

Sounds obvious, right? The alternative is that some people, like yours truly, might instead use this concept as an itemised list of reasons why they’re not yet good enough/things they have thus far failed at/an impossibly high bar which must be reached or else this person will be worth nothing as they enter their thirties. All items must be checked off this epic ‘to do’ list or else this thirty-year-old is nothing more than a glorified teenager with a bigger stomach, mysterious aches and pains and less life left ahead of them.

The other thing worth noting is that my friend brought this concept to me when she was 26. Having recently celebrated a birthday, she’s still got three years left to tackle her 30-B4-30 and I, comparatively, am a lot closer to the finish line. While she was still penning potential life goals that would make for a fun and rewarding three years ahead, I was mapping out fifteen-month calendars detailing precisely how much I would have to accomplish every month in order to achieve my mammoth goals.

I fell behind in the first month and decided to measure my goals by quarter instead of by month. It was in that first quarter that I ended up in the hospital. September marks a new quarter if I’m still going by my old schedule which I certainly am not.

As well as becoming moring flexible with my goals and deadlines, I’ve also changed the loftiness of some of my goals. I’ve removed a number of items which would have been impossible to achieve and I would have only beaten myself up over failing to complete them. The funny thing is, they’re things that I wouldn’t even be particularly proud of if I achieved them by age 30, nor would I gain any particularly valuable life experience.

The even funnier thing is that since having been in hospital I’ve actually accomplished two of the items on my 30-B4-30 list with relative ease and even one item from my 40-B4-40 list (yes, I have started putting that together too. I’m that girl). They were just items which had previously been a lower priority; things that would fulfil me emotionally without being particularly worthy of accolades. I’ve gotten a pet (two in fact! I’ve fostered a mouse from my childhood best friend and I’ve adopted a hamster in need of a home [adopting/rescuing an animal was on my 40-B4-40 list]) and now I’ve started this blog.

Both are things I’ve wanted to do for a long time but I just didn’t prioritise them because they were more about making me happy than achieving something. Since my home has turned into Chez Rodents, I’ve become SO much happier – and seemingly healthier too! My stress levels are fairly low compared with what they were before and I can no longer work into the evenings because that’s when we play with our girls (and by that, I do mean Piper The Mouse and Penelope The Hamster – actual human children are still in the future). They’ve added extra meaning to my life and I’m happier because of them – much happier than I would have been if, say, I had produced a radio documentary as was one of the items on a previous incarnation of my 30-B4-30.

And this blog, too, I’m convinced will bring me joy rather than success or accomplishment and right now that’s exactly what I’m striving for. I’ve spent long enough focusing on achievements and not enough focusing on happiness. That’s about to change and if you stick around, you’ll get to watch it happen.

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