Nobody prepares us for our adult lives. Some people slip into adulthood naturally. I on the other hand feel as though I was struck on the side of the head. My thirtieth birthday is now less than a month away and these past six months leading up to the ‘big birthday’ has been more challenging than I expected.
I have watched friends turn thirty. Some have agonised over the perfect party for months, stressing themselves and their families out to the point of fights and tears. Others have decided on the perfect arrangements, but felt a sense of emptiness when the day arrived and nothing felt right. I have watched this and been determined to avoid it by deciding on and arranging a simple party. Even I, however, have been unable to escape the reality check. I have unavoidably become aware of the fact that I am no longer a child.
This awareness affects my life in small ways. I wonder sometimes if I can actually justify crying over silly little things anymore. I find myself using the phrase, ‘well now that I am older I think/feel….’ I also look at myself in the rear-view mirror now and I notice the lines around my eyes.
In my earlier twenties I think that I was focused on independence. I wanted to be left to my own devices, I wanted to catch the train to Johannesburg on my own, I didn’t want to cook dinner, I felt irritable that my in-laws didn’t understand me. I didn’t really know what I believed in, but I knew it wasn’t what everyone else did. A form of arrogance, right? Maybe it just seemed that life had no deadlines or goalposts. One day things would get sorted out. One day I would live in a beautiful home. One day I would buy fantastic clothing and celebrate my life. One day I would be happy. There was plenty of time to be frivolous.
I sometimes wonder if the decisions that I make at thirty in response to this existential crisis are going to determine the course of the rest of my life. Or is it not that important? Will the decisions that I make now affect the way that I think and behave when I am ninety-five years old? Do I perhaps understand a bit of what my grandmother felt in the last years of her life?
She once said to me regretfully that her life had rushed by so quickly. She seemed to lose hope at the end. It was too late to change. It is very frightening to know that she lived with a disappointment that was all-encompassing at the end. It makes me think that perhaps this birthday is not so unimportant after all.