By Hayley Doyle
Think, 30th birthday.
Remember Joey Tribbiani crying over his candles and screaming, “Why, God, why?!”
In the Stephen Sondheim musical, Company, the lead role of Bobby is prodded and poked by all of his best friends on his birthday, all of whom are coupled up and grown up, living respectable lives in New York. They’re simply baffled as to why Bobby cannot settle down. He’s turning 30 for goodness sake!!
And honestly, I was a mess. I cried on the eve of my 30th birthday. Oh, the things I’d wanted by the time I was 30 and alas, I didn’t have. It seemed that life beyond 30 would be some sort of void. Where nothing was possible. Where you were destined to rapidly age and fester, like a Disney villain with the sole purpose of hunting down the beauty of youth to destroy it. I felt like I was surrounded by 30 year olds who had it sorted. And I believed they pitied me. Neither of course, was true. But trying telling that to a frazzled and fragile 29 year old. So it was no surprise that Carrie Bradshaw was full of angst at the thought of turning 35 back in 2001. And as for anybody approaching 40, well, good luck to them.
Welcome (finally!) to a world where we’re actively encouraged to see age as a privilege. Because it is. It is a privilege. Or at least, we’re retraining our brains to accept this. Hollywood and the media created a taboo on age and made anything beyond a college graduate seem tragic and past-it. But the truth is, with every year we’re here, the more we get to do. And how lucky does that make us?
We’ve read the quirky birthday cards and shared the memes; 40 is the New 30. But does that mean that 39 year olds across the globe are now in a state of distress at entering into a new decade? Are they screaming, “Why, God, why?” Well, I should hope not. In a world that’s quite frankly spinning out of control and also in a hurry to speed up faster than Usain Bolt, in our favour, it’s slowed down the ageing process! And here are eight reasons why…
1. Thank you, Medicine
Human lifetime has extended dramatically in the last century, thanks to advancements such as antibiotics and vaccines. Although our health still declines as we get older, researchers are working towards medicines that address the fundamental underlying causes that are resulting in cancer and heart disease. This will greatly improve and maintain our health and independence before we pack our bags for the care home. Andrew Steele, a biologist and the author of Ageless: The new science of getting older without getting old, says, “And that means preventative treatments… and stop people getting ill in the first place.” The future is set to focus on health-span rather than lifespan. So you might find yourself reading another article in years to come called, Why 80 is the New 40. Watch this space…
2. Un-Settling Down
Getting hitched and buying a house was the ideal for many, once upon a time. As we’ve progressed, the modern world has begun to accept that not everybody wants that. And if they do, then they certainly don’t want to be tied into a mortgage five minutes into their 20s. There are places to see, things to do, people to meet! The mindset has shifted away from this rush, and now, folks are taking their time and making more rounded decisions about how they want to eventually settle down in the future. Although, other factors have added to this. The increase in house prices and stricter mortgage lending rules have made it near impossible for anybody to get onto the property ladder until they’re much older, sadly relying on inheritance money to slap down a deposit. The average age of a first-time buyer in the UK is currently 34, whereas the average age in 2007 was 28, and back in 1997 it was 26. So if you’re worried about having nowhere solid to slide into your slippers, you’re not alone. Embrace not being tied down for a little longer.
3. Cover Girl Shift
Did you know that if Sandra Bullock, Naomi Campbell or Reese Witherspoon are on the cover of a glossy magazine, sales shoot through the roof? These women have been plastered upon pages for decades now and their star is shining more brightly than ever. But when they started their careers in the 80s and 90s, cover girls were not women. They were young girls. Youth was sold as beauty. Success was seen as making it big whilst still small. We were forced to admire teen midriffs and having-it-all pretty much all-of-a-sudden. Today, we might still scour and scroll magazines for anti-ageing tips, but age is no longer a taboo. Celebrities are proudly speaking about how wonderful they feel to be at this stage of their life, inspiring others to feel the same way. They dismiss the idea of that void after a certain age and prove that it’s possible to keep achieving, perhaps even higher than before.
4. Fit at 40+
The changes in how we approach fitness into our 40s and beyond has been phenomenal. If you watch a bunch of retro movies, you’ll only ever see a female character of this age bracket working out by wearing a sweatband doing a brisk walk, just to keep the old heart pumping. But nowadays, I’m sure Lululemon are running out of leggings! There’s no shelf-life on keeping active. The gym is not for twenty-somethings. I am 41 and more active now than I was a decade ago, that’s for sure. I lift heavier, walk further and the overall pace of my life is simply faster. My friends are strong; physically strong. It’s become an integral part of our routine. And quite simply, people are refusing to be pigeon-holed any longer. You don’t have to stop shopping at certain shops for clothes when you reach a certain age. Wear what you want. Wear it proud. And the fitter you feel, the better.
5. Delaying the Baby Train
Perhaps related to the price of property and wanting to get that “sorted” first, many people are now choosing to start a family later in life. Back in 2009, the largest age group to register births in the UK was 25-29. But a recent report at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that for the first time since records began, half of the women in England and Wales haven't had children by the time they reach 30. Numbers of mothers under the age of 20 are dropping, whereas the number of those age 45 and over are increasing. And let’s face it, as draining as parenthood can be, running around after toddlers all day (on minimum sleep) will force you to keep fit, and therefore young!
6. Back to School
I love how many people I know either approaching 40 or over 40 who have decided to go back to school. And guess what? They’re LOVING it. The pressure at 18 to decide what we should do for the rest of our lives was astounding (and perhaps, this outlook is starting to change?). So rather than staying unsure, bitter or regretful, deciding to study again has created a fresh, youthful movement for those no longer considered youth. We need people to love their work in order for the work to be good, worthwhile, meaningful. Why should it matter if somebody entered into that profession at 25 or 55? Mental happiness should be pursued at all costs. So don’t be afraid to get yourself a new pencil case. Do what you love. And if that means learning how to do it first, run and catch the next bus now!
7. Career Goals
Make-up on before dawn. Rollers out, hair set. Spend the day wearing Marigolds and have dinner on the table by six. Oops. It’s not the 1950s anymore! Women have careers and they are brilliant at them. So now that we continue to progress in the workplace throughout relationships and motherhood, our most impactful work is happening between the ages of 40-60. Hitting the big 4-0 can be the absolute start of our working life. So what if you’ve made mistakes? You’re still standing. And yeah, you’ve learnt a hell of a lot over the years, but there is so much more growth in you. And by the time you reach 40, you know this. You know it ain’t over. Far from it, in fact. You have decades ahead of you. So bring all of that wisdom you’ve gathered so far, and dance forward with the grace you embody.
8. Time-stealing Pandemic
Yep. Thanks for that, Covid. Remember 2020? Oh, and 2021? Other than staying in, what’s left that we’d like to remember? I can hear a huge majority screaming, “NOT MUCH”, which is why we’re all adamant to make up for lost time. The pandemic has taught us many things, and if we can take any positives out of such a terrible period, it’s to live life! Grab it! Seize it! This has given humanity a level that we’re all standing on together. Every age group suffered. We all missed out on aspects of normal life that had so far been a given. And now, we’re taking it back. So rather than dwell upon getting older, we can feel excited about the future again. To see people. To connect. I’ve laughed with my friends more since we’ve been allowed to see each other again than ever before. The memories we make with loved ones is so precious that there really is no time to judge age or wallow in the ageing process. We are here. So let’s make it spectacular.