The Free Decade

There we were last weekend, a gaggle of thirty-something girls – some married, pregnant; others single, dating, backpacking round the world snogging boys in their early twenties. All young, gorgeous and fabulous.

It seemed to me that there are no longer any rules that dictate what we do with our lives, when we settle down. Our parents typically got married in their twenties; thirties spent with small children. But for many of us, our care-free twenties and early thirties (or more) are a free decade, a bonus that our parents never enjoyed. We live hedonistically, selfishly – party hard, earn and spend money, travel the world, work abroad, try various relationships. We settle down early or late, we divorce, we change careers, we move countries before or after kids. The only rule is that there are no rules.

Our parents rarely had this opportunity, which is why they often don’t get why a spending a year on a Thai beach is a good idea, or why it’s OK to spunk our salaries on holidays / champagne / ipads if we want to, rather than settling down. So we should enjoy this new freedom and whatever you do, don’t panic about where you are right now – there’s no timetable you need to stick to.

Make the most of your “free decade”

There is no convention that dictates what you should be doing when. Your parents are unlikely to have spent their twenties and thirties as you have or without settling down, but you have the chance to be young and carefree for longer if you want to – enjoy it!  

If you’re single and panicking

You are ten times more confident than you were in your twenties and know yourself a lot better. You’re interesting – from years of parties, relationships, travels and careers. Don’t worry that some of your friends are married, some with kids – you’ve time to do all that stuff if you want to, and when you’re ready. Remember it’s not about what happens now, it’s about longevity – don’t panic or rush*.

Why not use this time to take advantage of the things you won’t get to do so easily when you settle down – learn a new language, take a sabbatical, date inappropriate people, change jobs, move abroad.

If you’re married and/or with kids and feeling frustrated

You recall the time you danced in the mud at Glastonbury til 5am but now you’re in a new phase. If you have kids, you have the youth and energy to deal with the little tykes. Don’t be jealous of your mate who’s posting photos on Facebook of backpacking round Argentina. You’re having fun in a different way, and later on when the little ones have skipped the nest, you can enjoy getting your free time back.

Remember you ain’t old yet, no matter how you sometimes feel. You could probably do with a me-time shopping trip once in a while to buy yourself something trendy (ladies – earrings, bags and shoes count and you still look GREAT in skinny jeans). The occasional night out with the girls/boys will do you a world of good. And, although it takes a huge amount of organisation, you could still do the things you always wanted to do (travelling in Asia, camping in the Highlands) with your kids in tow.

If you’re planning to change careers, backpack round South East Asia, move to Abu Dhabi, etc, and are panicking

Remember you’re likely to be working until you’re 65 (sorry) so you have twenty, thirty years of work in you from now on.  That’s plenty of time to change careers once, twice, three times; jack in your City job and open a bookshop in the Cotswolds; become wildly successful at something; live in several different continents.  There’s no timetable you have to follow – make your own.

Always remember

  • Don’t panic or regret what you’ve done with your “free decade” – it was yours to do with what you liked. 
  • Don’t compare what you did or where you’re at with your friends, you’re your own person and they have problems too.
  • Where you are now is EXACTLY where you are supposed to be.  Relax.

* and for anyone who refers to the dreaded term “biological clock” I have this to say – my granny had kids in her mid-forties and that was back last century or something and she did quite alright…:)

13 responses to “The Free Decade

  1. I really like this post. It’s hard not to panic about where you’re going, what you want to do, what you think you might want to do, who you might like to meet if, like me, you’re still not sure -and you’re in your mid-thirties! The key is to enjoy the ride I think. Which can be tricky sometimes. Thanks for the great advice.

    • Hi there – I quite agree. I think women especially are prone to thinking the grass is always greener, but I realised recently so many of my friends are in different places but we can all be happy in different ways. Definitely agree the key is to enjoy the ride!


    • Hi,

      I just wanted to say I really like this post! (and your blog generally!). I am guilty of panicking lately…mostly because I can’t believe Im 32 and single ..and because I worry that I will never meet the right guy…I never use to panic …i guess its the age and the fact that the people around me are all settling down.
      I do know what you mean by enjoying the time and freedom we have at the moment – at times I do think how lucky I am to be able to do what I want at the moment and be free. Although I often feel like Im not really making the most of my time and freedom.

      • Thanks for your comment lovely 🙂 And here’s a few thoughts from me:

        1. DONT PANIC – you sound eloquent and I’m sure you’re gorgeous and clever and funny. You will meet someone – there is literally a man sitting astride a white horse right now going “where the fuck IS she?!”. You will meet at some point – although pulling at Tiger Tiger isn’t a great option at 32 – have you got friends who can set you up and have you tried internet dating?

        2. 32 is young. I know a really inspirational gorgeous clever 40 something who just met a lovely guy and is having a baby for the first time. She’s blissfully happy (and my inspiration).

        3. DO make the most of your time and freedom. Take up a sport you love (dance, yoga, hockey), do a course on something you’ve always wanted to do, take up photography and cooking and languages. Find a group of likeminded single friends to see films, go to exhibitions and do fun things with.

        4. DONT be jealous or think the grass is greener – everyone has problems and gets unhappy at times, life is all about phases.

        Big virtual hug from me. Sasha xxxx

      • LastSingleStanding

        hillgirl, reading your comments was like looking in a mirror for me. I see this was written a couple of years ago, so hopefully you’ve found happiness since. I too am 32, single and panicking that I will end up alone. It seems that everyone I know is in a relationship and I wonder what’s wrong with me and why nobody wants to be with me etc. I also feel resentful towards my friends that are in couples, which is a horrible thing to feel (and to admit to!). Everyone tells me it will work out in the end, but I get so down that its hard to see that this will ever happen. I guess we just have to keep trying to be positive, but its really really hard.

  2. Great blog and so true. Love it all.

    NB. Did you mean ‘spunk your salaries’?!

  3. What lovely thoughts!

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  6. very fitting for my current existential crisis. clearly cheered me up 🙂

  7. Thanks Sasha really good post and very positive. I’ve been single and enjoyed it for a long time but now I’m single and not enjoying it. Holidays are the hardest thing for me – thinking about going away as a single isn’t much fun at the moment. I’m chickening out and staying home rather than going anywhere. I need to get internet dating to find the guy I know is out there somewhere.

    • I know EXACTLY how you feel, I’ve done it myself. It is scary / humiliating but as well as internet dating I’d say spread the word to your friends that you’re feeling a little lonely and that you want to go out on Saturday nights and be set up – you never know who might have a lovely colleague / friend they can set you up with or you could discover new interests and hobbies. Best of luck and a huge internet hug coming your way xx

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