Here Are the Truths, Illusions, and Life Lessons I’ve Reconciled Since Turning 30
Moving to the capital isn’t the measure of success.
My idea of success was ‘moving to London, writing for the music press and drinking in bars where Blur hang out.’ But a month’s internship in a London magazine — complete with ridiculous commutes — in my early 20s was enough to put me off the idea of ever moving to the British capital, and I’ve long since stopped caring about the lack of indie rock stars down my local boozer.
My parents’ drama-free separation was admirable.
Many of my friends tell me they still bare the scars of traumatic parental breakups, and I’ve both witnessed and — regretfully — participated in enough epic rows to know that my parents ended their 25-year-marriage with admirable restraint, especially with two hormonal teenagers in the mix. In hindsight, I’m truly grateful that the only one screaming, throwing things around and demanding to move to London was me.
Being unmarried in your 30s doesn’t mean you’ve failed at life.
I wasn’t entirely serious when, aged 15, I told my friends that I’d kill myself if I wasn’t engaged by the time I hit 30. But I was were pretty serious when I told my dad to start saving for a big wedding, because when I met Mr. Right I was going to want the full shebang. By the time I reached my 30s I couldn’t imagine anything less appealing than a big, budget-busting white wedding. I wish I could tell teenage me that she would definitely meet the love of her life in her early 30s though — in the form of a noisy, attention-seeking energy-sapping bundle she’d be proud to call her daughter.
Following your heart doesn’t always work out.
‘Listen to your heart’ sounded like sound advice to my romantic teenage mind, but unfortunately, my heart was prone to giving me some really bad advice, particularly when I’d overdone it on the cider. If I’d paid a little less attention to these dubious booze-addled instincts and more attention to the thoughts and feelings of my friends and short-lived boyfriends, then I might have felt a little less lonely when karma bit me on the butt with depressing regularity, my new ‘loves’ lost interest and I had to crawling back to the friends I’d seriously pissed off.
‘Feminist’ is not an insult.
Teenage me was deeply embarrassed by the fact that my mother was a politics lecturer who wrote books about feminism. In the late 80s and early 90s, ‘feminist’ was lazy media shorthand for butch man-hater. Weren’t we all post-feminists? We had a female prime minister, for heaven’s sake. Although my mum is neither butch nor a man-hater, I was still prone to yelling ‘go and shave your legs’ during mother-daughter rows. (I still remember her quite valid retort: ‘I would if you didn’t keep stealing my razors’). Little was I to know that I was going to end up living in Brazil, where macho culture is frighteningly pervasive, and that I’d end up staunchly espousing the feminist viewpoints I’d scorned in my youth.
Being an introvert was no bad thing.
I wish I’d known that there was a term for my crippling fear of making phone calls and love of disappearing into a book. And that, although I’d still hate phone calls and public speaking by the time I reached my 30s, I’d be perfectly happy in my own company, and have no qualms about striding out into the world on my own, and on my own terms.
I was never going to be super skinny.
The ‘super waif’-look Kate Moss and her buddies were rocking in the 90s wasn’t working out for me, no matter how obsessively I restricted my calorie intake and leapt around to celebrity workout videos. I needed to accept my curves, get some proper fuel inside me and go running. Get into power yoga. They both turned out to be a lot more addictive than Slimfast shakes.
That it didn’t matter a jot anyway.
I found it excruciatingly embarrassing to come from a village called ‘Broadbottom’ when I was the teenage owner of what I saw as a humiliatingly large backside, and I wasn’t to know that my big rear was to shrink beyond recognition over the course of the years. Nor was I to know that, ironically, my downsized butt and I would be spending many years in Brazil, where big bottoms are cause for celebration, and where the owner of a local shop would repeatedly try to coerce me into buying shorts with bum padding to enhance my meagre British butt.
I shouldn’t look to my idols for lifestyle tips.
It was fine to idolise Kurt Cobain, Richey Manic and Sylvia Plath, but that didn’t mean I needed to try and cultivate a ‘tortured artist’ persona of my own. And I should have known I was never going to be cut out for a life of rock-and-roll excess either, although that didn’t stop me from trying to be a hard-partier. I got panic attacks after drinking too much coffee, for heaven’s sake, I was never going to be Courtney Love.