Sunday, 25 May 2014

[birthday week]

When I was in my twenties I spent a lot of time being rather anxious. Being a highly strung child, this isn't the biggest surprise ever, but it did last longer than I was expecting. After I got out of high school, I was imagining a whole host of great and awesome things to start happening, and was deeply surprised and mildly disappointed to discover they did not. At least not straight away, or with any real speed when they did come.

So it is, with relief and delight, that I am enjoying my thirties a great deal. The pay is better, the food is better, I sleep more, I drink less (comparatively speaking), I generally feel more at home in my own skin than I have in about 10 years.

I'm not sure if there's any big secret to the whole production, but I did want to share just how much better it gets as you get older. Now before you call bullshit on this, give me a moment to try and convince you.

At 22, I worked in hospitality, had been in two armed hold-ups, only accrued savings less than $500, and still wasn't real clear on what I was doing with my life. At 32, I work in the corporate world (not the greatest, I'll admit, but much more secure than hospo), have enough money month to month - let alone day to day - to make life more interesting, and have a reasonable idea of where I'd like to be in the next 5 years. Oh, and I haven't spent a Friday night fearing for my safety in a long while.

On the topic of work; in my twenties, a job was basically a way to get liquid cash, no more or less than that. It became clear pretty quickly that I'd need it for more than that, and then the anxiety set in. To be brutally honest, I made some rather interesting choices in my twenties. Nothing I regret enough to change, but definitely some I wish I'd thought twice about. A job went from being a painful way to fund the weekend, to something that might secure my future. Thank gods I got into a government job early on.

My idea of a  good night out started to evolve too; I wasn't that keen on picking my drunken partner off the floor and dragging them home, let alone trying to get myself sorted through a haze of booze. Don't mistake me here, I haven't gone all tee-total on you, I just no longer find it amusing to wake up feeling like death warmed up and $250 poorer. Surprise, surprise. That being said, I can now appreciate a good hangover like a dodgy, but good-hearted friend; you bastard, what are you doing here, but damn didn't we have a good time! In my twenties, clear and total recall of the previous evening was pretty 50/50.

Speaking of partners, dating has become much more interesting as I get older. And when I say interesting, I mean fucking horrible. And I mean that with all due affection to the practise. Maybe I'm just watching too many awkward 19 year olds' try to crack onto each other, but this is without a doubt, the most excruciating thing to watch.

Which leads to how it's now much more interesting.  When I was 24, eating garlic on a dinner date was a big no-no, though getting completely loaded and pashing your date was not. Go figure. In my thirties, not eating something you enjoy is considered weird, and kissing on the first date is done at the end. Maybe. And is not appreciated over remembering your dates name.

At 26, an actual date was considered eating together at the same place - wherever that may be - laughing at unfunny, usually racist/sexist/ignorant jokes, and then trying to get laid. In my thirties, I have discovered something a bit amazing - dating actually requires dates. A nice dinner, some playful flirting, discussion on topics we both enjoy, the promise of a repeat of previously stated occasion, and the possibility of getting laid. With someone I actually like. And find more than passingly attractive.

For those of you snickering at the above, let's cut through the crap shall we; I got laid in my twenties. On a regular basis, and with people I liked and trusted. The concept I'm trying to elucidate here is this; how much better is a kiss from someone you love, or at least really, really like? How much more interesting is intimacy with someone you've worked hard to develop trust with, who you can tell a few secrets too, and who tells you some back? If that's more than one person for you, that's sweet too. My point is how much better is it being people you know, than someone different every time? Just a thought, that's all.

On a lighter note; make up. For those of you who have known me for more than five years, you may have noticed I stopped wearing make up full time last year. Not such a big deal to some of you, I'm sure, but to others, yee-hah!! In my teens and twenties, I cursed and cried and begged and cajoled until I could wear make up. Then I spent about ten years slathering it on in layers. Some I'm not still not sure have been removed. I've got to tell you, a little dab and brush these days is all it takes, if that. What made me think I needed to look like a Manson doll is beyond me. I still wear it, but I have to say that the amount of effort is much less. Whether this is a physical thing or purely mental, I feel better about getting ready in the morning than I did a few years ago. 

Which brings me to body issues - the big one. I'm not sure exactly how bad it was for guys, but for girls, your teens and twenties are a graded scale between hell and high water days. Some days your skin is great, you're not bloated, your hair is shiny, and you feel pretty cool. Others, not so much; skin is oily and covered in blotches, you're too fat/thin/bony/squishy etc., and you can forget your hair - it looks like you let a dog groom you.

And it's not just about how you look here, it's about how you feel. When you're younger and trying to figure your personality out, it's hard to avoid all the rubbish stereotypes in the media, all the well-dressed shiny people in the street, and the general desire just to look pretty enough to catch a smile today. It didn't magically get easier as I got older, it just got less hard. I stopped caring about needing to look 300% better than everyone else. I stopped slathering on layers of make up, and just dabbed a little to brighten myself up. I started making the effort to talk to people and be pleasant, rather than waiting around to be noticed. And, lo and behold, the people around me started to notice back, and I started to attract good company too.

I'm hoping the point has come across, but if not, I'm going to make a final foray into the obvious; I love my thirties. Sure, I got lucky in some respects, but I also made my own luck. This nice house didn't just appear; I went looking for it, in my work uniform, a trick I learned from my mum at 27. This job wasn't handed to me on silver platter; I applied for it, assessed my options and realised it was a step up from my current situation. My partner didn't just fall at my feet and worship me; I worked hard to gain his trust, I got my feelings hurt a lot, and I made damn sure he was going to be the best thing that ever happened to me.

What I'm trying to say is this; it gets better. So. Much. Better. And it is nowhere near as hard as it sounds. You still have all the challenges life can throw at you. You're just much better at batting them for six. And you look way hotter doing it now than you did way back then. 

And still, if after all that, you're not convinced, then consider this; how much more comfortable do you feel being a total geek at 32 than you did at 22? I, for one, do not miss trying to play it cool.


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