Top Thirty at Thirty

In three days’ time, I turn thirty. In some ways this doesn’t mean a lot – I just happened to be born at Christmas 1981, a few weeks earlier than expected (the first and last time I’ve been early) and it just so happens this was thirty years ago. (The act of typing ‘thirty’ several times has already given me palpitations. Moving on…) On the other hand, human beings have a need to mark milestones and rites of passage, and I’ve always been particularly given to introspection, reflection, and summation. I used to write my own ‘lists of the year’ when I was little, clearly gunning for a career as a professional pundit. So of course, being me, I’ve been musing quite a bit on turning thirty. On the whole I feel fairly chipper. Thirty definitely feels better than twenty. I may have been slightly slimmer ten years ago, but I wore hideous brown flared cords (until my dad staged an intervention and threw them in the bin) and I owned a CD of the Nolan Sisters. I was so gauche I’d never eaten sushi or drunk beer, and I’d only left the UK twice. And if the human lifespan is seventy years, the decade of thirty to forty must be the absolute peak, right? RIGHT? Anyway, here’s a few things I‘ve learned in that time, and a few things I still have to discover.

  1. Your parents get exponentially less irritating when you move out of their house.
  2. Your friends can get exponentially more irritating when you move in. Choose your housemates carefully, lest you forfeit your life, sanity, and bottle of expensive Kerastase conditioner.
  3. You might regret never going scuba diving, or bungee jumping, or alligator wrestling. BUT it’s also entirely possible you will never do these things and remain thoroughly happy on dry land, with all your limbs intact.
  4. Confidence is almost everything in life. You could be stunning, witty, and warm-hearted, but if you don’t value yourself, people will still nearly always prefer to hang out with the ill-favoured, stentorian, confident person.
  5. Those deals you get on lastminute are almost always a colossal waste of money. Trust me.
  6. Never let people take photos or videos of you when you’re drunk. It entirely erodes your ‘plausible deniability’ excuse and you will look unflatteringly shiny. 
  7. Find what you like and do it as much as you can – for a living if you’re able, or a hobby if not. You’ll be happy, and the people you meet through it will be kindred spirits.
  8. Find out what you don’t like and don’t do it (scuba diving, marathon-running etc). Whatever it is that saps your time and energy and ruins your day, just say NO. It really doesn’t matter. Get a dishwasher. Get a sat-nav. Stop sending Christmas cards. But if what you don’t like doing is showering/teeth-brushing, be prepared to live with the consequent social alienation.
  9. There are no real rules for dating, except this – be happy, be honest. Anyone who can’t cope with that is probably a commitmentphobic loser who never even gave you back your copy of Stephen King’s It, the bastard.
  10. Same applies to friendship. If you don’t have fun with someone, or feel supported, or learn interesting new facts about the world, they’re probably not worth a Christmas card. Or have I confused friends with pub-quizzes again?
  11. When you have a massive row with someone, it’s probably at least some of the way your fault. Except for that one time. That was totally all your fault, Bob.
  12. As long as you don’t fail your degree/get fired, you’ll probably never wish you’d gone home early from a fun night out.
  13. Internet dating can sometimes work, but mostly doesn’t. Why? We tend to get on with people we meet through common friends, interests, or jobs – taking this out means it’s all too random. But you can have fun looking.
  14. No, that cropped haircut isn’t ‘cute’, or ‘stylish’, whatever your parents say. You’re twenty and you look like Harry Potter. In the FIRST FILM.
  15. You can always make new friends, however old you are. And chances are they’ll be better, as you know yourself more. I’ve made more new friends this year than in the past ten.
  16. Invest in coats/boots/handbags. Do not invest in spangly tops or T-shirts with amusing slogans on them. You really won’t wear them past uni, or you really shouldn’t.
  17. Sometimes, you can get to have the job you dreamed of when you were seven.
  18. If you think something’s wrong with your health, it might actually be. You’re not wasting the doctor’s time by checking and if you put it off for months, you might end up quite screwed. So don’t.
  19. Owning property is nice, but sort of overrated. It’s not a good reason to put off doing other things with your life.
  20. Your mother was right. If you save up, you can buy a book instead of those three magazines, and it’ll be much better.
  21. If you meet someone who can quote your favourite film, book, or TV show word for word, grab them and force them to be friends with you.
  22. Sometimes the road less travelled is that way for a reason. Maybe a bear lives down there, or it’s covered in really stingy nettles. Ever wonder why all those other people went down the road more travelled? They can’t all be wrong.
  23. Follow your dreams. You can always give them up later, when it doesn’t work out, but at least try first.  Don’t fail without even actually failing.
  24. Don’t be friends with your parents on Facebook. You will never get rid of them, and every time you joke about being drunk they’ll be on the internet researching interventions and nearby dry-out clinics.
  25. Wear whatever you want. If you think you can’t sport a short skirt/leg-warmers/trilby hat at 24, then no one can.
  26. Be nice to your siblings. They grow up, and they can really hold grudges.
  27. Be tolerant to people who aren’t the same as you. They might be nice. For example, you may never share a plate of ribs with a vegetarian, but they’re people too. You can share many happy moments together instead, and you may even learn to like a ‘nut roast’, whatever that is.
  28. If someone is boring you after six months, you’re probably not going to make it. Life’s too short to listen to Brian bang on about his collection of Radiohead B-sides for another year.
  29. Some people will always be upset, whatever you do and whatever you say and whatever your opinions are. Some people are like catnip to you, and some are just whatever the opposite of catnip is. Luckily now we have the Internet so you can tell quickly from their choice of cat-videoes/forwarding of vaguely racist emails/enjoyment X-factor, and avoid avoid avoid.
  30. You don’t have to have all the answers at thirty….or ever. Do you? I bloody hope not.

And some things I’d like to have figured out by the time I’m forty:

How to drink while remaining poised and dignified, and not wake up with the horrors and ‘Nam-like flashbacks to what happened in the lift.

How not to fritter away my time on the Internet, and be a focused and productive person.

How to not compare myself to other people, and feel anxious and paranoid if I think they’ve slighted me.

How to talk to boring people without making it obvious I can’t stand them, OR become so famous I can just say, ‘You’re boring me,’ and walk away, with a reputation for being a ‘difficult genius’.

How to use clingfilm without wrapping it all round the tube.

Happy Christmas all- thanks for reading this year! Feel free to add your own life lessons below.