If you think of life as a giant water slide – fast, fun and a little bit scary – your 30s is the part where you fly. Sure, there are a lot of questions in the mix. “Should I have kids? Or move to Bali? What brand of Farrow & Ball blue *really* works the best?”
Yet amid this whoosh of soul-searching comes a deeper kind of confidence. With a little more life experience under your belt, you know who you are better; and that self-knowledge translates to a more contented you.
A version that doesn’t just churn away at deadlines when there’s sunshine to be had. A version that says “been there, done that” to endless relationship drama. Goddammit, a version that may not even brush their hair, or shave, unless they explicitly feel like it (grooming’s overrated, after all).
Here are just a few fun truths about life in your 30s that no-one tells you beforehand.
You have zero capacity for overtime
Where once upon a time, you would have taken on evening or weekend work with a cheery “no worries!” (while silently screaming on the inside), in your 30s, you get a lot more discerning about boundaries. Life in your 20s has taught you that churning harder only makes you more exhausted, and is frankly not worth the recognition that may or may not result. *You* know how great you are; you don’t need a gold star from the boss to prove it. Presenteeism? Not so much. Long evenings, spare time, the freedom and space to do as you please? Bring it on.
You find joy in missing out
A soft pair of pyjamas is one of life’s most underrated pleasures; a delight you’ll find fresh joy in north of the 30 mark. We like to think it’s less about getting old, and more about recognising that nights spent lurching from one sweaty pub to the next aren’t necessarily the key to eternal wellbeing. Especially when you count the cost of a monster hangover into the mix. In your 30s, you’re more at peace missing out when your body and soul demand it. The call of Netflix is loud, and altogether soothing. Cheese boards optional.
Your career becomes less about progression
Which is ironic, because your 30s is exactly the time when you start reaping the rewards of your hard work with promotions up the career ladder. But as you arrive at that long-fought-for place of manager, or director, or what have you, you start to observe: maybe this shiny new label is not all it’s cracked up to be. The fact is, a “better” job title often ends up leaving you more drained and laden down than is worth it for the money/prestige. Which is not to say you shouldn’t take it. Only that, with the newfound breadth of your 30s self, you view job titles within a wider scale of overall happiness, freedom and fulfillment – and make your decision accordingly.
You wave bye-bye to flaky dates
Or manipulative relatives. Or friends who take a lot from you without ever giving back. Whereas in your 20s, you pick up pals with barely a thought, your 30s brings with it an extra layer of scrutiny. Forget people-pleasing: you know instinctively what kind of behaviour draws you in or turns you off. And you’re willing to act accordingly. Which basically means you’re able to give a lot more time and energy to the people you love – and who love you right back.
You stop doing the “right thing”
And start doing what feels right to *you*. Obligation is a funny old thing, isn’t it? We’re all, we “should” do this, or “must” do that. But really any phrase involving those two words is a warning bell in itself. Now, we’re not saying be a selfish d**k; far from it. Rather, with the dawn of the 30s, you become more picky about the torrent of “shoulds” that gather in your cosmos. Should you really try and buy a house, just because everyone else is? Or are your savings better invested on getting started with that dream business concept? Should you take on that extra “fun” project at work that no-one else is volunteering for? Or could you use your spare time better by having afternoon tea with your nan? It’s a different kind of critical thinking – one that’ll free your mind.
Fitness becomes less gruelling
6am gym sessions lose their shine in your 30s – who needs the treadmill when you can spend two hours extra in bed? Life so far has taught you that sometimes you’re in the workout zone, sometimes you’re not. And when you’re not, there’s no point pushing it. Better still, you know yourself enough to recognise that you’ll only really commit to an exercise regime if you enjoy it. Paddle-boarding, HIIT, barre pilates: whatever floats your fitness boat, in your 30s, you’ll hit the sweet spot. Because really, life’s too short for anything else.
Grooming suddenly feels a step too far
To borrow from the imitable Bridget Jones, being a “presentable” human being can sometimes feel like being a farmer. There’s so much plucking, spraying, brushing and harvesting to be done; and the work only gets more as we get older. Call it the lockdown effect, but the 30s are a time when many of us just can’t be bothered with the extra effort that this myriad of chores begets. Who really cares if a spray tan exactly blends in with the contours of your neckline? Or your pants are on inside out? All of life’s great sages tell us it’s what is on the inside that counts. With the renewed grit and strength of your 30s, whether or not your hair is brushed or you have holes in your leggings is a worry that barely dents the surface.
You make travel a passion, not a party
That bleary lads’ trip to Mallorca or Cancun might have been fun in your 20s, but in your 30s, the idea of three-for-one tequila shots rapidly loses its appeal. Yes, you could spend your holidays getting drunk and sunburnt for two weeks on a beach in Ayia Napa (and spend the next month paying for it back home). Or you could embrace a luxe adventure that lifts you up from within; something like island-hopping on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, say; or getting up-close with “the greatest show on Earth” in Tanzania. Nights spent glamping in Jordan’s Wadi Rum, or under the remote starscapes of the Philippines, will beat any club you’ve ever been to in earlier years. And that’s a joyful discovery indeed.
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