Have we become so obsessed with youth that it feels like we’ve reached our “use by” date by the time we hit 30? Denise Li thinks that’s absolute bullshit.
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve had discussions with friends where we collectively moaned about being in our 30s. We talk about how it’s “pathetic” that no longer feel the urge to stay out past 11pm, how our hangovers now last two days (“I used to club till 5am on Wednesday nights and still show up at the office at 9am the next day!” said one friend with a tinge of sadness and pride), how we wheeze and suffer when we try to run distances longer than 2.4km, how we used to be able to eat whatever we wanted and not gain a pound.
I say that this nostalgia for our 20s has to stop. In this case, hindsight is NOT 20/20 and it seems like we’re only choosing to remember the good bits. Skyrocketing energy levels and metabolism we may have had, but does no one remember just how emotionally tumultuous and unnerving navigating the tricky territory of the 20s really was?
First job, first serious relationship, first friendship fallout … They may have been valuable learning experiences but I sure as hell am more than happy to leave all of it behind. When I look back on my 20s, all I remember is living in a haze of stress and anxiety. I was so worried about screwing up at work and in my relationships. If only someone older and wiser would have told me it was COMPLETELY OKAY to screw up, that I would learn from my mistakes in time, that making mistakes was part and parcel of the confidence-building process that would eventually bring me to where I wanted to be.
Need a reminder about why being in your 30s is awesome? Here are four.
1. We have more cash
Money may not buy your happiness, but it certainly gives you OPTIONS. Some people think it’s worth it to spend it on a car because they value their mobility and freedom. Others will use it to visit the places they always wanted to go. Whatever you choose to spend your money on, take a moment to be grateful for the fact that you no longer have to live from paycheck to paycheck.
2. It matters less what people think
The 20s tends to be a period of uncertainty, and in the fact of uncertainty, we might have been more inclined to follow the crowd. But with the experience accumulated in this decade, it becomes clearer that only we know what’s best for us. I find myself less afraid to take risks and am better able to think through about the consequences of my decisions. That kind of clarity is simply priceless.
3. Dating feels less like a minefield
I speak from my experience of being a straight woman: I think men really only become emotionally mature in their 30s. They are more likely to be upfront about what they want. and are less afraid to state what that is. Obviously, this is a bit of a sweeping statement but hey, with your accumulated wealth of dating experience during your 20s, I’m sure you’re better able to spot the red flags that a potential date could turn out to be yet another man-child, right? Plus, with your newfound confidence, you’re probably less likely to take it personally when a potential romance doesn’t work out the way you planned.
4. We have less FOMO
That’s Fear Of Missing Out. In our 20s, we might have felt compelled to meet every single social obligation we felt we had. Dinner with colleagues, followed by a night at Zouk with uni friends? Just another regular Friday night in my 20s. I used to equate “living my life to the fullest” with “stretching myself as thinly as humanly possible”. Now, I am in better appreciation of the fact that Time is an extremely limited resource, and that I am better off spending it in a way that is most meaningful to me; even if “meaningful” sometimes means heading home early on a Friday night for a good night’s sleep.
So yes, “I’m too old” is one phrase that I’m officially retiring from my lexicon. We live in a society that worships youth with far too little regard given to the wisdom that getting older brings. But I think those of us in our 30s are the most well-placed to change that perception.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.