Monday, April 15, 2024

30, Flirty and Thriving? Why I’m Happy Single, Child Free and Fabulous

Remember when you were a kid and you thought you had your whole life figured out? I bet you had a timeline, and if you have ovaries I bet it went something like this:

21 – Meet ‘The One’

24 – Land dream job

25 – Get married

27 – Buy house

30 – Have two kids

It’s what mine was anyway, because when you’re 16 and you’re planning things out, 25 is effing old and you kind of figure in nine years you’ll somehow magically get your shit together, because that’s what all of the movies you watched on Disney Channel led you to believe.

When Harry Potter actress Emma Watson turned 30, she spoke to British Vogue of the societal pressure we as women face at the milestone:

‘I was like, “Why does everyone make such a big fuss about turning 30? This is not a big deal…” Cut to 29, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I feel so stressed and anxious. And I realise it’s because there is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you’re not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you’re still figuring things out…There’s just this incredible amount of anxiety.’

And this is a woman with more money than a certain NZ church leader on a Sunday morning. Imagine how the rest of us feel.

But as I hurtle toward 30 – literally, it’s on Sunday – I can happily kick back in my rented unit, single, childfree and with a glass of very nice French rosé in my hand and say zero from five. But, as I enter what Dolly Alderton calls ‘the second act of your three-act life (if you’re lucky)’, I’ve never been happier in my life.

I know a few people who’ve had the ‘Holy Shit I’m Turning 30’ freak out and I totally get it. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for it to sneak up (well, most likely roar up) and envelop me in an anxiety-fuelled, resentful wave of panic.

I don’t get it. I’m the type of person who needs to know stuff. I mean, I’m a journalist, a lot of it is an occupational hazard. But it’s deeper than that. I’m beyond nosy, and so far from patient I make influencers hustling for a new collagen powder seem stable.  

Thirty flirty and thriving – Kelly’s entering the next decade of her life ready for the unknown.

Change is very hard for me. Always has been. And on paper, I should be freaking the fuck out, and I think 28-year-old Kelly would be. But maybe because of the pandemic, or maybe because I’m magically becoming a grown-up (unlikely), I’ve found myself willingly throwing myself headfirst into the unknown – because I’ve finally realised deep in my bones that none of us have control over anything, especially not in 2020.

In the last year I’ve suddenly become BFFs with the unknown. I moved out of my flat to a unit all on my own – and it’s still one of the best things I’ve done. I started a business with my friends – this business – after my former company crumbled cruelly and sharply during level four lockdown, taking with it the career I worked so hard and sacrificed so much for. And let’s just say I have a renewed appreciation for the old fortnightly pay cheque.

In a very unscientific poll of all of my 30+ friends, they unanimously agreed that their thirties were a vast improvement over the twenties, and you’d bloody hope so wouldn’t you.

The twenties are all about mistakes, mistakes and more mistakes. Everything comes down to trial and error because that’s just how it has to be, and I was no different.

Like the time I thought blonde highlights would look cute. (I’m very sad to say that this was actually this year, not the 21 you’d really hope for.)

Or the time that I decided I was sick of being single, so I organised five different dates with five different men at the same restaurant at the same table over five nights, apparently envisioning some kind of Carrie Bradshaw story about my week of men and figuring the odds meant I was due a happily ever after at the end of it (noooooope – in fact one particular date was so boring I resorted to trying to name all 50 US states with the dude because it was better than hearing about monster trucks and why universal healthcare is a communist mistake).

Or the time I thought going to Rhythm and Vines for the second time would somehow be better than the first horrific time because surely some random girl can’t spew on your sleeping bag two years in a row. (Turns out they can.)

I’m sure there’ll be more mistakes, especially as the four of us who launched Capsule are figuring out how the hell to run a business that includes IT and finance, two things journalists are traditionally woefully shite at.

But looking back on all of my transitions from geeky girl at high school to slightly-less-geeky-girl-because-I’m-good-at-netball, through to green, naïve baby journalist to seasoned, cynical and so-bloody-over-it editor, I’m proud of who I’ve become.

That’s not to say sometimes I don’t feel a pang of longing when my friends tell me they’re getting married, or buying a house, or having a baby – because one day, sure, that’s still the dream. But now the dream is on my terms – not society’s, not my parents’, and certainly not 16-year-old me who thought she had her whole life figured out while also thinking her Lance Armstrong ‘Live Strong’ rubber bracelet and a pink Sony Cybershot camera were the height of cool.

Also, no one I know feels like a ‘grown up’. Are you supposed to wake up one morning just knowing what the hell we’re meant to be doing? Do you magically just stop sometimes wanting to eat a devour of chips for dinner? Do you no longer feel the urge to drink a bottle of wine on a Tuesday? Does your lingerie start miraculously matching without trying? And do you finally find out where the hell the bobby pins and odd socks end up?

But I think it’s all about letting go of the ‘should’ – you know, the ‘I should be married by now; I should have bought a house by now, I should know how to roast a chicken by now’.

Because, who says?

I’m thankful every day I’m not married – if I’d ended up with any of my exes my life would be a disaster (which is why they’re exes). If I’d bought a house, I’d be up every night in panic stressing about the mortgage. If I’d ‘landed’ my dream job I wouldn’t have created it for myself. And if I had a kid they’d be shocked at Mummy’s rosé consumption and rightly questioning my parenting skills.

So, on my 30th birthday, what do I want now? I still want to find ‘The One’, but I’m prepared to wait as long as it takes. And in my head he’s not ‘The One’ now – he’s ‘Sunday Morning Man’ because these days I dream about the guy who does all the little things that make Sunday morning great – making coffee, doing the crossword in the paper, taking the dog for a walk along the beach, Sunday morning sex, brunch with too much bacon.

And one day I see a cute little house with in-built bookshelves, a fireplace, a big deck for friends to gather, a cute dining room for dinner parties.

I want to continue to be independent. I want to keep taking risks. I want to keep writing and (over)sharing and growing Capsule (feel free to help with that via our Press Patron above – you’ve come this far in the story you may as well) and, most importantly, I want to stay ridiculously hopeful and optimistic about the future.

Bottom line: I’m so glad I didn’t end up with what I thought I wanted.

Because on Sunday, when I’m surrounded by my best friends and I raise one of many glasses of Champagne to celebrate the privilege that is growing older, I’ll know I bloody earnt every last drop, and know that in one of life’s glorious moments, I’ll have everything I need.

And there’s no greater gift than that.

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