One Sunday morning recently — stretched out like a croissant on the grass of Carlton Gardens — a friend said to me, “I’m 29 years old and I’ve never been to the club or worn a tiny top!”
I’m also 29, and although my friend and I both google things like “Phoebe Waller-Bridge how old when” routinely, our twenties have unfolded in markedly different ways.
I’ve spent many a night peeling my shoes off the floor of the proverbial club, and I’ve worn plenty a tiny top, but I still don’t understand how money works, and I’ve only started my “career” .
“I’m 29 years old and I still don’t understand what the jobs are,” I replied, and as these words left my mouth I realised we were saying exactly the same thing: I have a sneaking suspicion. I’ve done it all wrong.
Crisis? What crisis?
As much as I’ve tried to be very cool and relaxed about it all, the cliched late 20s existential crisis has come for me too (like The Vengabus, but do we really like to party?).
It seems rude to burden a single decade with the pressure of a lifetime, but culturally we can’t get enough of it: “Live it up while you can! Travel, party, follow your heart, your head is a wet blanket.”
But you don’t want to rent forever! Are you thinking about kids? Stay in, get eight hours of sleep, drink enough water, when the physio gives you exercises for your knees, actually do them.’
The messaging is conflicting and relative.
I haven’t made it through a single 30th birthday without being caught in a conversation where we go around the circle and list all the reasons why we’re not ready to be in our 30s.
It doesn’t matter if people have a partner, a PhD, a house, or a wallet full of (significantly devalued) Bitcoin, no one feels like they’ve done it right.
When I was 23, I went to New York with my best friend.
We shared a fold-out bed in the basement of a Brooklyn brownstone, and lived off tacos and watered-down happy hour cocktails. It was a scrappy kind of bliss.
One night on the subway, I looked up from my phone and said something to him about wanting to start saving for a mortgage. He thought about it for a moment, before replying, “Why would you want to think about that right now?”
It’s funny to me now that the thought even entered my mind. I had no interest in securing a mortgage, and practically it was near impossible.
It was just the first time I’d seen people around me doing it (through my splintered phone screen, from the other side of the world). No matter how our twenties unfold — tiny tops, big careers, stable foundations, unpredictable adventures — it feels like there’s always something missing.
Many ways to live a life
None of these are unique thoughts, of course. I also don’t know that they’re as specific to the bridge between twenty and thirty as two stressed millennials on the grass of Carlton Gardens would have you believe.
At any age, how can we really pick apart what it is we want, and what it is we think we’re supposed to want?
Maybe some people are immune to this, or maybe it’s genetic. If you are one of these people and you’ve never felt any of the pressures outlined above, you should capitalise on this and create a learning course on it as soon as possible (you’re welcome).
There are just so many ways to live a life. I’m trying my best to remember that. When I worry that I’ve spent too many years following my frustratingly impractical heart, I tell myself that my head isn’t going anywhere.
Tiny tops are for all ages and careers extend far beyond 29. I keep coming back to this quote from Sharon Olds: “I was a late bloomer. But anyone who blooms at all, ever, is very lucky.”
Chloe is a writer and artisanal snack connoisseur based in Naarm/Melbourne. She runs a monthly newsletter called tall tales, and can be found on Instagram at @chloeelisabeth.
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