“People don't want their lives fixed. Nobody wants their problems solved. Their dramas. their distractions. Their stories resolved. Their messes cleaned up. Because what would they have left? Just the big scary unknown.”
– Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor
A long time ago, when I was a bright-eyed graduate fresh from university, I worked with a Dr Enid Hennessey, one of those rare women who manage to be super-intelligent and formidable, but feminine and approachable all at the same time. One day in conversation she told me that 37 had been her favourite age. It was, she said, the age where a woman was stable and independent while still retaining her youth and all the boons that accompany it.
At the time I thought my thirties were a million miles away – as you’re inclined to when barely in your twenties. Thirty-seven. No! Surely, twenty-seven was far better, I thought in all my ineffable naiveté.
Then, my twenties happened. And, Jesus Christ, they were hard. One year alone – May 2006 to April 2007 when I was 24 – damn near killed me. Arranged marriage, divorce, estrangement from my family, and losing my father – plus one or two things I’ve never written about – made for the hardest 12 months I’ve ever faced. After that, some things got better and some things got worse until, eventually, I arrived at that crest all women are taught to fear: thirty. All downhill from here, right?
Only, earlier this week while dining with two younger friends and listening to their exciting tales of love and ambition, I realised two things:
1. My life was relatively boring compared with theirs.
2. Actually, I didn’t miss all the blood-pounding excitement that comes with unrequited love, bad sex, unexpected promotions, perpetual flat-hunting, and the optimism that, while you weren’t quite doing what you were meant to be, one day you would be.
In short, I didn’t miss the drama. My experience is that women tend to instigate drama far more than men. All that anger, yearning, passion and sadness makes us feel alive – or, at the very least, worthy of a Script song.
Turning 30 seems to have dialled down my desire for drama. I still want to do big and exciting things, but I no longer feel that I have to battle for them. And I’m genuinely relieved about that. Every girl needs to battle somewhat in her twenties – it’s probably the way it should be and I wouldn’t change mine – but would I do it all again? No fucking way.
For the first time, I think I’m beginning to see what Enid meant about 37. This decade will serve up new battles I’m sure – gravity not being the least of them – but I’m quietly hopeful that it will be better than the last. Yes, there’ll be deeper laugh lines and bigger waistlines. Yes, I’ll attract fewer eyes on the commute into work. And, yes, I might be stepping into the big scary unknown, but you know what? I think it’s going be okay. I really think it will.