Photo: J.D. 'Okhai Ojeikere, Untitled, 1970 A mix of european and african influences
We meet up as we normally do, every Thursday at 7pm.
Wednesday may be the official hump day, but Thursday was really the perfect weekday; Far enough into the week that your body has accepted waking up at an ungodly hour in an attempt to lead a productive life, but close enough to the weekend that you may begin to casually bring it up in conversation without seeming too eager.
Our talks over wine takes its usual turn: Politics, news, the state of the economy, how everything may or may not be screwed up, deep sighs over involuntary adulting, pop culture, the hunger for something new to refresh our creativity, relationship dramatics (lately; kids), and a lackluster commitment to repeating gossip no-one is really interested in, in an attempt to spice things up.
This is us, and this is our 30’s.
I never understood the big deal about turning 30. As someone with no plans to die, I long accepted that with each passing day, I get older. I will turn 30, and 40 and 50, and 100 if I had anything to do with it. I try not to buy into sexist vendetta, therefore I never dreaded turning 30 as a woman, or feeling older. In fact, I sort of always looked forward to it.
I never planned to marry or have a child before I was 30 (I’m one out of two, so I’m not doing too badly in following through with my convictions). If our 20’s was a time of freedom, exploration, kissing random strangers in bars in New York (sorry parents; you still did an awesome job), drinking too much, playing with a few frogs, partying like rock stars, hitting hard lessons, exploring our interests, and learning to be comfortable in our own skin, then I looked forward to the 30’s ushering a new era of fearless living, unapologetic acceptance of self, loving and loving honestly, openness and exploration of sexuality, staying true to your truths, and the confidence that comes with (excuse my french) truly learning to not give a f*ck.
This is us, and this is our 30’s.
I find myself looking forward to the less frequent, but more meaningful conversations with friends.
“I wish I never married so early,” one friend said to me during one of our usual catch ups. “I mean, I love my children but… it’s hard. I wish I waited.”
It may be strange to love conversations like that. But, I do. In place of endless chatter and meaningless gossip, we have long, real and difficult musings about life, religion, work, family, explore which ideas we are willing to accept, and which we are now reconsidering. Is that person the one? What does it mean to truly love? What really makes a good union?
“I don’t think I believe in the concept of monogamy. I don’t think I could ever be satisfied with just one man, forever,” another confessed.
“I feel scared even saying it, but I’m so over religion. I just don’t accept it anymore” says another who still attends church on the random Sunday or two. On the other side of that, I have deep conversation with friends with unwavering faith who have become so deeply and unapologetically entrenched in the religion of their choosing, not necessarily that which they were born into, and those finding new dimensions to their spiritual relationships due to personal and deliberate explorations.
I sent a happy birthday message to a friend that turned 30 a few months prior. In response, she said “Oh my God, we are 30, and married, and I have a kid. And I’m still poor! This wasn’t the plan!” I burst into peals of laughter, because, no, it wasn’t, especially not when we were traipsing the streets of Manhattan, dreaming up our fabulous futures.
And isn’t that the gorgeous thing about life and getting older? You can never truly map out how your life will turn out. You can only hope to make the right set of decisions to lead you to your intended destination. And hope again to have the courage to adjust your sails and catch the right winds when you need to change direction.
Because this is us, and this is our 30's.
And in your 30’s you lose the will to keep up the facade. The more in-tune you become with yourself, the more it becomes damn near unbearable to muster the will to fake it.
It becomes more difficult to work for working sake; You need to feel truly invested in whatever you are sacrificing your time and energy for.
You fall out of love with the idea of settling; for love, for work, for life, for any major decision that affects your future.
Your body will betray you: It will take you half your previous effort to gain weight, twice as much effort to lose every single pound, and hangovers come to mean that entire day is cancelled. You will learn to respect and obey your body, and answer its call to slow down or push harder.
Sleep will be your most treasured moment. You will go to bed early because you have a big presentation in the morning, or because the nanny has the day off tomorrow. You will steal winks wherever you can; on a flight or during your daily commute.
You may or may not be where you intended to be in life. You may not yet have hit financial goals, or found the love of your life. You may just be entering a new relationship, or exiting an old one. You may have a failed marriage under your belt, or be coming to grips with the fact that you are not the same doe eyed 25 year old who said “I do”. You may not have a child or even desire one. You may have a child and feel guilty about the moments you miss your freedom or the moments you truly feel like you have no idea what you are doing. You may wrestle with feelings of mediocrity or failure because everyone else’s 30's seems to be going much better than yours.
But you will know yourself. You will tighten your circle, and know who your real friends are. You will learn which traits to appreciate in people, and which to watch out for. You will learn to care less about things you thought were once so important, and be surprised at the things that may become important to you. You will be firm with your no’s and compromising in your yes’s.
You will make fake plans that you have no intentions of keeping, and when you call your friend to sheepishly cancel, you will find that you are both already in your pajamas with a bottle of wine, and a great book or movie lined up. You will appreciate the synchronicity and comfort of finding your tribe.
You will become more selective with what you choose to do with your time and who you choose to spend it with and develop less tolerance for things and people who intend to waste it.
You will learn how to handle yourself, and smell the bullshit a mile away.
You will party because you feel like it, not because you think you are missing out. You will lose that horrible 20-something need to belong, to be a part of, or to identify yourself with the status quo.
You will long to travel, explore the world, learn about new cultures, meet new people and have new experiences.
If you are lucky, you will thoroughly enjoy your own company, and it will feel like a sacrifice having to share it with others.
You will take masterful ownership of your past mistakes, and be clear about the lessons you have learned. You will learn that regret is a waste of time, and moving on is a skill to master.
You will know, completely & unequivocally; that you are young, and the only person that can permit you to feel old, is you.
You will finally understand that there is no such thing as an adult, and no-one ever feels like one.
This will make you understand your parents more. And, If you have a child, you will think back, understand their choices and appreciate their sacrifices even more.
This is us, and this is our 30's.
Well, actually, this may be you. I still have 23 days to go.
Ozzy Etomi is a writer & creative consultant based in Lagos, Nigeria. She writes about life & equality and is especially passionate about women's issues, especially women in Africa. She is a proud feminist, and a card carrying member of the Beyhive.
You can follow Ozzy on her medium page and read more of her work, here.