When I tell people I’ve written a list of ‘30 things to do before I’m 30’, it’s always with a note of embarrassment. For a start, writing such a list is, in itself, the most clichéd thing you can do before you’re 30. Screw the bungee jump, the swimming with sharks, and the trekking round Cambodia – if you really want to establish yourself as a functioning part of the hive mind, you’re going to have to get your jotter out.
For another thing, lists of this kind are nakedly neurotic – a desperate hedge against mortality. “I see your game,” say people’s eyes, when I mention it to them. “I see that your list is merely a bulwark against the slow, inevitable, grisly decline that will befall us all before the Earth is swallowed up by the sun and the universe itself expands into nothingness. But, you know, whatever, yay for bungee jumps.”
And those people and their judgey eyes would be right. That said, with just over a year to go until I’m 30, I wouldn’t mind putting some concrete goals in place. If it weren’t for the occasional self-administered pep-talk, I would probably have had no life experiences whatsoever, preferring to spend my days in a state of advanced cranial rot doing quizzes about M&Ms on Buzzfeed. So some kind of list will probably help.
It’s also a bid to alleviate my anxieties about where I am in relation to my peers. The run-up to 30 is a funny old time in that your age group is so splintered. On the one hand, you’ve got the high-achieving crowd who have already done things like popping out babies, investing in shares, and somehow buying property in London. On the other hand, you’ve got the people who still live with their parents and poorly hide the smell of hashish with floral air freshener.
The typical ‘30 before 30’ lists tend to reinforce this divide, with some of them nagging us to knuckle down to serious matters asap, and others advising that we see out our 20s in one last blast of fun. Just observe the first page of Google search results for egregious examples of both.
This list, for instance, is notable for placing hashtags next to words like ‘time’ and ‘things’ and also for suggesting that ‘having your first #baby sometime before 30 may be a good idea’. It claims that ‘After owning your own home… #everything else like planning a family, gathering for holidays, and making traditions will fall into place’, as though property, marriage and children were something you could simply wake up one morning and acquire through #forceofwill.
Conversely, this less ambitious list counsels ‘playing video games’ and ‘trolling a celebrity on Twitter’.
The Daily Mail takes a reliably chastening view of proceedings, choosing not to recommend experiences but to point out ones that are newly verboten. As of February 2016, I will no longer be allowed to chew gum, wear skirts above the knee, say ‘cool’, retain my nose piercing, sport trainers, text, live with flatmates or use the nightbus – presumably because I will be chewing lemons, wearing Amish dress capes, saying ‘top hole’, cultivating a nasal wart like a witch, sporting orthopaedic slippers, sending telegrams, living in my spinster’s cobwebby enclave and using a Stannah stairlift. I look forward to it!
Anyway, a quick scan through these links proves strangely reassuring, because it demonstrates the sheer vapidity of commodifying your life experiences. Surely, the real signs of maturing are less ‘I have a massive house’ and more ‘I have realised that my mewling ego is only one of seven billion mewling egos on the planet, and that none of us have any right to take ourselves as seriously as we do’. Still, you can’t really put that on a slideshow along with a stock image of girls hula-hooping.
As for my own list, it’s pretty banal – just the usual mix of experiences, career aims, fitness goals, a few wafts of do-goodery and stuff to stop my brain from reverting to primal soup. In the interests of avoiding further cliché (and vertigo, for that matter) I will not be doing a bungee jump.
And to the lifestyle writers of the internet, I say: you can take your ’30 things before 30′ prescriptions and shove them up your… massive house.
Categories: Millennial life anxiety
British freelance journalist living in the Netherlands