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.
- 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…:)