June 1st is here, bringing with it the promise of warmer and sunnier days. But all I can focus on is the sound of the shackles locked onto my ankles, dragging on the floor as I walk the green mile towards my thirtieth birthday.
A bit dramatic, I know. But bear with me. I never thought I would be that person who was afraid of a mere number, but this summer starts a countdown towards a day that represents how I have failed myself throughout my first decade as an adult.
Five years ago, I felt the same about turning twenty-five. I was nervous about what it meant if it meant anything at all, but I found relief in that I at least wasn’t turning thirty yet. I ended up feeling fine the day after my birthday, finding that twenty-five wasn’t all that different from twenty-four.
The failures of my twenties continuously stare me down; a period which brought an unexpected illness, depression, anxiety, debt, isolation, confusion, and several heartbreaks. But the worst failure of them all is the fact that I am the only one responsible for holding myself back in life. Holding myself back from my full potential, hell!, even my half-potential by doubting myself, putting others first and being too insecure about exploring life.
I believe that low self-esteem has contributed heavily to my mental health issues. Low self-esteem has told me lies such as that other people deserve the things I want, but I don’t because something is wrong with me.
Healthy relationships? Nope, that’s for other people who deserve it.
Traveling and seeing places I’ve always dreamt of? Nope, you aren’t going anywhere.
Working hard and building a career that fulfills you? Hell no, that ain’t for people like you, girl.
Those beliefs acted as an anchor in my twenties, an anchor that sunk me to the bottom of the sea. No matter how hard I tried to fight it, I would always end up on the ocean floor. Too scared to try anything. Too tired to try anything, as battling my own mind every day became exhaustive.
Anxiety has always been a constant companion of mine, as well as depression. I longed for a normal life filled with close friends, travel, and healthy relationships that weren’t clouded by codependence. To be educated, hold a job and not have a body that didn’t betray me every single day with aches, pain, and fatigue. I just didn’t know how to make it happen for myself.
I relied on others to bring me comfort and safety. I relied on others to take me on adventures instead of putting my big girl panties on and doing it myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had wonderful experiences and have been fortunate enough to travel around a bit, leaving the safety of my nest in Oslo. But it was never on my own accord.
Turning thirty has forced me to take a long hard look at who I’ve been for the better part of a decade, maybe even who I’ve been for my entire life. Too timid for risk-taking, too nervous to lead a normal life. The weight of regret has been heavy on my shoulders as I see all of the times I should have lived more. While most people look back at their twenties and regret partying too much, spending recklessly or settling down too soon; I wish I would have believed in myself enough to be able to live and let loose.
Set aside all of that, being a single woman who wants a family and a romantic partnership that will turn into a stable and loving marriage is terrifying on its own. I can feel time slipping through my fingers and the very real possibility of not settling down in time to have biological children is getting so close, I can feel its hot breath on my neck. That’s shit you don’t have to worry about in your twenties, especially as I spent most of those years partnered up with men who turned out not right for me. Not that I would rather still be with them, I just wish I could’ve gone through this revolution a bit earlier than twenty-nine.
This past year since the breakup, I have been making leaps and bounds in growth, making up for nine years of remaining stalled in a standstill. But it can never make up for the time that’s been lost to lying in bed crying, the time I spent believing I wasn’t good enough.
I don’t have all the answers now, but I do know that after experiencing the humility that only heartbreak can bring, that I have dared to live for the first time in my life. I still struggle with dark days, I still hear the voice in my head telling me to stay home, and that I’m not good enough. On the dark days, I’ve learned how to give myself what I need. I tell the anxiety to hush up and sit down. I tell the scars on my heart that I see their pain but it’s just not true, I am good enough. I am just as worthy of a good life than any other person.
Perhaps the shackles and chains dragging behind my feet are the ways of old, trying desperately to claw themselves to me in an attempt to preserve its own survival. They sense that I am becoming and growing into who I was always meant to be, instead of standing still in ways that no longer serve me. I’m finding my purpose more and more with every day that passes, gaining traction as I keep achieving things I never thought I would achieve.
Psychology degree? Check.
Stable job? Check.
A close group of friends? Double check.
Traveling? Heck yeah, I’m even doing it solo.
Expressing my most inner deepest thoughts and feelings on the internet to a bunch of strangers? Um. Check?
I can’t change what happened in my twenties, I can only change today. And by changing today, I create a better future for myself. I know that my experience with getting older isn’t unique. My dad, who is sixty-eight years old told me that turning thirty was his hardest birthday, but once he got it over with, he felt better. My older sister told me she didn’t start to feel secure until her early thirties. Maybe turning thirty isn’t all that bad after all. I don’t know, check in with me after September ends.