On turning 30

Fady Salah
7 Min Read

So I am turning the big “three-oh” in a couple of days.

I have been itching to reach this age since I was 17 and just starting college. For me, it was the magical number, the age of finally knowing who I am.

I was never keen on being a teenager. Childhood was a wonderful phase—some still accuse me of being stuck in it—that I remember fondly. Being a bookworm, I read loads of books on adolescence that when I finally became one it was more of an out-of-body experience. The angry hormones, the rebellion, and the confusion which one inevitably experiences were boring. Don’t get me wrong I had a fun, but I just wanted to get it over with. I wanted to work.

I dreamt of financial independence and travelling all over the world. Thus I went a little crazy in my 20s, trying every job that crossed my path, travelling every chance I got and even getting my masters because, at the time, there was nothing better to do. That time was a blur, a whirlwind of events and a hunger for life experience that didn’t slow down until I hit 28. I will forever be indebted to my 20s for helping me form my character, but those years lack the regality of self-acknowledgment I expected in my 30s.

But I discovered that embracing my coming 30th birthday is not really accepted in society. The following conversation happened with an acquaintance of mine a couple of years older:

She (smiling slyly): So your birthday is coming soon…

Me: Yes! I’ll hit 30 with a bang. Probably travel somewhere exotic like Tanzania. You can camp on a reserve and watch wild animals.

A pause.

She: You are excited about being 30?

Me: Yes, why wouldn’t I?

She (laughing): You will change your mind. Wait until you find out things you cannot eat and your knees starts to wrinkle and sag.

Me (slowly): Well, I play a lot of sports so am not really worried. Aging is a natural process.

She: Right!

Me: 30 is an age where you finally know who you are. I was not that sure of myself in my early 20s.  I am now comfortable in my own skin. So yes, I am excited about my coming birthday.

Variations of this conversation occurred with relatives and friends, who had the same awe about how I do not feel the doom of my 30th birthday. One conversation discussed marriage.

She: How about marriage?

Me: I don’t want to get married.

She: You are not that young any more.

Me: I am not ready to commit. I still want to do many things without the responsibility of a family. It wouldn’t be fair to them.

She: And you think men like to marry woman over 30?

Me: Any man would be lucky to marry me at any age, if I agree.

She harrumphs.

Me: And if I never get married, I’m still okay with this.

A stunned look and friends intervene fearing for the woman’s life. Misery does love company.

Youth has become a deity in this age of ours. Magazines spout articles about surgeries that make you “look younger,” fashion is sold to 50-year-olds that would look more appropriate on tweens, and “high society” holds Botox parties. Millions are spent each year on a variety of cosmetics which a number of companies test on animals. If you want to stay young, fine. Just keep the animals out of it.

Its okay to buy “miracle” creams, but don’t become a slave to consumerism and a lamenter of your lost youth. Every age has its beauty.

I wonder when feminism went out of the window to be replaced by scantily-clad 17-year-olds in music videos “shaking their booty” as 40-year old men salivate after them. This obsession with youthful, not healthy, bodies and equating youth with happiness go against every feminist notion.

When did we stop teaching our daughters that the beauty of aging comes with enhancing their minds, advancing their career and shaping their character? When did we stop teaching them that joie di vivre is not affected by how old they are, but comes from within?

When did women stop accepting themselves?

You don’t like your body? Join some sports. I would recommend Aikido, a martial art that does not require much physical power but is very effective.

You do not like your job? Change it. It is a hard first step, but start searching.

You want to get married? Check with your friends. They will almost always have someone to recommend.

You are stuck in a marriage rut? Talk to your husband. Most women never express their dissatisfaction with their marriage, and men aren’t the smartest in “sensing” what you want. If there is no change, divorce him.

You are bored? Try something new or better, something that scares you. Scuba and sky diving are always on top of the list. Or go back to school.

Take action and celebrate your health, loved ones and simply being alive.

Make lists of everything you dreamed of doing. Write them down so they become real and see how many of them you can accomplish each year.

The secret to a happy life, in my opinion, comes from the ability to hang on to the childish wonder of life, letting go of bitterness, and realise what is deemed “normal” might not fit you.

You do that and age will truly become just a number.

And now I am wondering what I will be doing on my 40th birthday…

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