When you’re approaching 30, you start to reflect on your 20s and your life as a whole. You find yourself wondering if it has lived up to your expectations. My guess for most of us who are approaching 30 is that it probably hasn’t but is that such a bad thing? Here’s one of the many ways in which my life didn’t go according to my plan.
At around 18 or 19 years old, I decided one of my goals was to be married by 25.
My logic for this was that to reach a 50th wedding anniversary, myself and my partner would need to live to be around 75. I’ve never decided if I think that reasoning is sweet or silly. In any case, it seemed do-able. I was undecided about children but thought I’d be looking to have them at around 27-30. That was the plan. Spoiler: it didn’t happen and I’m learning to be okay with it.
You can’t plan when you’re going to meet someone and fall in love with them. To put a time limit on that was very naive of me, and I learnt that the hard way. It caused me to make some silly decisions.
At 23, I was in a serious relationship.
We were living together but things were not particularly great. He didn’t have a job, hadn’t done for over a year and was showing no motivation towards getting one. I wasn’t earning a lot of money so I was struggling to pay the bills. He usually had his eyes glued to his computer screen and he very rarely did anything around the house or spent time with me. We were arguing more and more.
I should have taken these as signs to walk away, but we got engaged. I took that as a symbol of his dedication and believed that things would improve. Not to mention the fact that this was right on schedule! My plan was on track! This was what I wanted, after all. If I didn’t seize the opportunity then it probably wouldn’t happen within my deadline. (Don’t feel guilty if you’re laughing at how ridiculous that is – I can laugh about it too now.)
At 25, I was single.
Thankfully, I saw sense before following through with it and called off the wedding. Things didn’t change and I knew I couldn’t stay in that relationship. That’s one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. Everyone was looking forward to the big day and to have to announce that it was no longer happening was upsetting and embarrassing. I am surrounded by such wonderfully supportive people that it didn’t take me long to realise that nobody was judging me or disappointed in me.
My plan wasn’t working out too well. When that was over and done with, I started to panic. It felt like everyone else around my age was settling down. Where on earth was I going to find somebody now? All the best people were surely taken or would have children of their own and I didn’t want to be a step-mum. That’s not to say that I don’t agree with the people who are. I have indescribable respect for step-parents but I didn’t feel it was right for me. I’d like to think that, had I met somebody who I really liked who had children, I would have risen to the challenge but I wasn’t convinced.
By 26, I had met somebody new.
Well, actually, for a short while, I made a valiant attempt to make things work with an ex. I truly believed that we were “meant to be” and that this was our time. As with many others things in life, I was wrong. Needless to say, that didn’t have a happy ending, either.
So, I lost some weight, focused on things I enjoyed doing and started to feel better about myself. I joined an online dating site a couple of months before my 26th birthday and met my current boyfriend, Neal. He didn’t have children but he did live 300 miles away. Why is there always a catch? He was great, but I’d tried long distance relationships in the past and found them too hard. Neal was determined, though, and travelled to see me as much as he could. We spent every spare second we had talking to each other. It quickly became serious and we managed to make it work.
At 27, I’m in the happiest, healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in.
Fast forward a year and a half, I’m sat in our flat, writing this post. Neal is wonderful and treats me better than I ever dreamed. I couldn’t possibly imagine being with anybody else and know, beyond any doubt, that this is the person I want to spend my life with. Whenever the time is right for us, I’m confident that we’ll tie the knot and spend many years tormenting each other. It’s a good job I didn’t settle down at 25. I wouldn’t have what I do now. Besides, if we decide it’s right for us, I could still have a child by the time I’m 30 – who knows?
That said, I do find it difficult some days when it seems like everyone else my age or younger is getting married and/or having children. I’m under no illusion that, for most of them, it’s not as perfect as it appears to be. Parenting is a huge challenge and one cute video on social media is probably 5 minutes out of an otherwise hectic day. Yet, I feel like they’re doing better than me. I feel like they’re where they should be and I’m falling behind. Isn’t that ridiculous?
So, here I am, approaching 30…
…and nothing has gone the way I thought it would. I used to scoff when people talked about the pressure to do these things. “Just don’t do it if you don’t want to.” That was my argument, never taking into account how lonely it is when everyone else is doing it and you’re not. Nowadays, I think the pressure for some of us comes less from people telling us to do it and more from feeling like we’re missing out. We’re inundated with posts and pictures and it’s hard to escape the feeling that we need to catch up. We’re not necessarily subjected to people asking us when we’re going to get married or have kids, but we are concerned because we’re not there yet. (The “yet” is very important.)
When I’m being reasonable and fair to myself, I know that there’s nothing wrong with me. My life is simply moving at a different pace to other people’s and that’s absolutely fine! Also, there’s plenty of people my age or older who are in the same situation. It really doesn’t matter. I could have followed my plan and stayed in an unhappy relationship to fulfil it, and I would have been miserable. So, I got out and maybe my life isn’t where I thought it would be, but it’s a whole lot better! Plus, we have the added bonus that we still have those things to look forward to! I’m trying to keep this mentality in play as much as I can, but it does get hard sometimes.
What about you?
If you’re reading this and can relate, I just want you to know it’s normal to feel both ways. It’s also fine to want reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with you for taking a different path. It could be that you don’t even want to get married and have kids – that’s totally cool. There are so many others ways that life can be enriching and exciting. Things can still be great, even when your life doesn’t look like other people’s. This applies to everything in life, not just relationships. It’s fine to feel jealous that other people have gorgeous weddings, crazy adventures and cute kids, but it’s important to understand that just because you don’t have it right now, it doesn’t mean you never will. Scientifically, it is more challenging to have children later in life, but there are more options now than there used to be.
No matter what stage of life you are at – a teenager, approaching 30, over 50 – just keep pushing forward with decisions that are right for you and things will work out just fine.