For some, hitting their 30s feels like the end of their youth, but as Anna Brech explains, that’s a really good thing
When I had my 30th birthday many moons ago, people sent me messages like “hooray – flirty 30!” and “it only gets better from now”.
I thought they were just being nice; instead, they were spot-on.
Turning 30 is like getting an upgrade after years of flying economy.
There’s an intrinsic shift: after years of niggling self-doubt and insecurity, you suddenly feel more grounded.
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You are experienced enough to avoid the mistakes you made when you were younger, but not so much that you become jaded.
Unburdened by the baggage of twenties angst, but too young to feel the full weight of the forty-something grind (mortgages, family commitments, dead-end jobs), life unfurls itself in glorious technicolour.
Here are seven reasons why your 30s is the best decade ever:
You have disposable income
Farewell, baked bean suppers. Your 30s is the period when you finally hit your stride financially.
Gone are the years when you had to choose between another drink or a taxi home.
Money, or lack of it, is no longer at the forefront of every decision you make. That frisson of suspense at cash points – where you wonder whether it will actually spit anything out – becomes a thing of history.
Instead, you can start to relish the finer things in life, with an income that doesn’t automatically hit the red two seconds after payday.
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Holidays become more frequent, especially for single travellers, as your appetite for sharing a dorm with 20 other backpackers simultaneously wanes.
You eat out at better restaurants and peruse the wine list with genuine interest. You may even morph into your dad and start shopping at Waitrose (not too often, mind).
We’re not saying you’ll be minted. Student loans will still linger; rent will still eat up three-quarters of your salary. You’ll just have a bit more cash to splash on the finer things in life: artisan cheeses from Borough Market, say, or the posh kind of gin.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
You stop caring so much
Mr Crippling Self-Consciousness who’s lingered at your shoulder from the age of 14 upwards? He sneaks out the back door.
In a revelation that will blow your mind, you suddenly realise that the things that you’d agonised over once upon a time… well, they really don’t seem to matter so much anymore.
Not invited to a pal’s wedding? You shrug and move on. Can’t recall the details of a raucous night out? Hey, we’ve all been there – and life’s too short for beer fear.
All that wondering and worrying about what people think, and who said what when, loses its edge in your 30s.
You come to understand that people’s reactions and responses are rarely to do with you, and almost always down to whatever is going on in their own lives.
By the same measure, you stop investing in your own appearance so much, too.
Pity the poor souls who spend hours slicking, tweezing, plucking and correcting before stepping out in the world. You’re riding free and easy on a hairbrush-only routine – and sometimes not even that.
Your tolerance to bullshit nosedives
That radar that sends off sonar bleeps whenever someone takes the piss or fobs you off? It really cranks up a gear in your 30s.
No more will you stand by in silence gritting your teeth at another poor excuse, or an out-and-out lie.
Instead, armed with the confidence of life experience, you develop a kickback voice.
The voice that says “no thanks, I’m busy this weekend”, when your colleague tries to offload a last-minute project.
The voice that says “I can do better” when your Tinder date cancels yet again.
The voice that says “walk away” when you invest 110% into a relationship, and get nothing in return.
Just like Kate Moss, you don’t feel the need to complain or explain. You simply demonstrate your boundaries – calmly and firmly – and move on.
It’s a wonderfully liberating tool.
People-pleasing is no longer an issue
A byproduct of not caring so much and developing boundaries means that you don’t spend every last iota of time trying to make people happy.
You can be a bit abrupt on the phone and not feel bad about it. You no longer feel the need for everyone you meet to like you.
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You pick and choose what birthdays and drinks you go to, to preserve a little me time. You can have that awkward work chat and not descend into a quagmire of doom afterwards.
You stop thinking so much about “them” (friends, neighbours, colleagues and relatives) and start concentrating on yourself.
If this sounds selfish, it’s actually the opposite: freeing up your time and energy means you can spend it with those you truly love. People and events that drain you, meanwhile, are politely shown the door.
You’re less self-involved
Ironically, as you starting making room for yourself in your 30s, your narcissistic vein also wavers.
The days, years even that you wasted in a knot of self-preoccupation in your twenties (who am I, why am I feeling like this, what do people think of me) loosens and you start developing a wider, more inclusive perspective.
It’s not like you become a glowing Samaritan overnight. But the headspace you’ve reclaimed from not looking inwards all the time means you can start noticing the people and causes that you’d like to support and give your time to.
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After years of tacking intimidating people in tense work meetings, you can throw your support full-pelt at the new kid on the block who’s wavering over every other word.
You ditch the half-baked excuses and actually spend time with your great-aunt. You babysit your friend’s kids, all three of them. You help your elderly neighbour set up a Facebook account.
You pick up the slate for people you care about, because that’s what life is about. Your comfort, coax, encourage, buoy up: because you can and it feels damn good.
You develop resilience
In your twenties, every turn of the road holds a new challenge. Life is a roller-coaster of emotion; both thrilling and terrifying.
At each new juncture, you think “am I going to survive?” And then you do, and your ego shoots up a notch.
By the time you’ve hit your 30s, you’ve gone through this process enough times to have a deep, resounding faith in yourself.
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Even new experiences are a variation on a theme. The searing turmoil of grief. The break-up you think you’ll never recover from. Redundancy. Rejection. The end of Game of Thrones.
However bad these events feel at the time, deep down you know you can handle it.
And you also become more adept at brushing off the smaller set-backs. Rather than questioning your self-worth, you merely accept that these things happen and move on.
You only do what you want to do
Perhaps the very best thing about hitting your 30s is the ability to know yourself inside out.
The third decade of life brings a degree of self-awareness and understanding that is difficult to capture in previous years.
Armed with a deeper knowledge of who you are and what you like, you start interrogating the choices you never even thought to question before.
That stultifying job you’ve been stuck in since the end of Uni because it pays well and seemed like the thing to do? You don’t have to do it anymore.
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Thought you were an accountant when really you love illustration? Go for it – no-one’s stopping you.
All this sounds obvious, but your 30s are a time when you finally realise who you are and simultaneously pluck up the courage to act on it.
No more schmoozing at awards ceremonies when you’d much prefer to be curled up at home with a good book.
No more dreary nights in with your partner when you’re actually itching for adventure.
Your 30s are your Eat, Pray, Love moment. No compromise, no excuses. Look to the future and see your horizons open up. A golden future awaits.
Fun trips for your fourth decade
Light up your life in Iceland
A snowmobile safari to the Langjökull glacier and letting healing waters of the Blue Lagoon ease your aches. Watching the Northern Lights come out to dance with zero light pollution. A 22-year-old just wouldn’t appreciate it.
Go far in Argentina
Trek through the dreamy scenery of Patagonia, reaching a viewpoint overlooking the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier, before hiking across one of the world’s last growing glaciers. Eyes sated, it’s time to please your tongue with vineyard-hopping and mouth-watering steak in an Argentinian cooking class with unlimited wine. Not for kids.
Japan, for those who can
A sushi in a masterclass, hiking the Hakone trail and dipping your bits in hot springs, while ticking off views of Mount Fuji en-route – and so very much more. Grown-ups only.