Turning 30 is a milestone birthday, right?
We gathered eight women of varying ages to discuss their thoughts on getting older, the pressures they all feel, and the lessons they've learned so far.
So what does 30 mean to you all?
Robyn (30): I didn't mind turning 30 this year because I actually like getting older. I always think that every year I get older I feel more like a substantial person and like my voice matters more – which is stupid because my voice matters just as much as anyone else's – but with every year I feel more sure of who I am as a person. I care less about the silly small things that I spent so much time worrying about when I was younger and I just feel more comfortable in my skin.
"For me, the build up to 30 was a big pressure."
Sabrina (34): For me, the build up to 30 was a big pressure. When I got to 29, it was like, "Holy crap, I haven't done half of the things that I'm supposed to have done by now." No one had told me to do these things, but I just suddenly put all this pressure on myself. So my 29th year was quite pressurised, but then when I finally turned 30 it was like exhaling. I felt like, "Oh okay, it's done now."
Robyn (30): I think the perception of what you will be like when you are 30 and then what you are like when you are 30 is a lot different now.
Steph (28): Yeah, I think that is part of the problem – you end up looking back and thinking about where you thought you would be at this point in your life.
Robyn (30): When I was like 12, I thought people who were 30 were proper adults, but I still feel like a child sometimes.
Steph (28): I still feel like a child all of the time, and I'm going to be 30 next year!
Robyn (30): I think the difficult thing about turning 30 and getting older in general is that every decision starts to matter a little bit more. There is more of an impact than when you are younger and can make changes a bit more fluidly.
What kind of decisions?
"I have to ask myself: 'Where do you want to build a home?'"
Robyn (30): I moved to the UK from Canada when I was 25, and it was so easy. Now the thought of potentially moving home – even though it's my home – seems a lot harder because my whole adult life is here. I'm having to think about my future will be like in the next place that I live. I'm having to ask myself: "Where do you want to build a home?"
Sabrina (34): And relationships! In your 20s, you are more flippant and you just date people without it turning into a "thing" whereas later on, you sometimes start to think a little different. There is nothing to say you can't just act like you did in your 20s forever, though.
Robyn (30): Dating when you are older is different – you sometimes automatically start to think about whether this person could be your partner for life which is weird!
Ayesha (25): I’m finding this really interesting because, for me, I agree with the fact that when you are in your 20s you can be way more flippant about things. I’m thinking about things that I want to do in the next few years, like move abroad, and my thought process is just to go for it because why not? I guess the pressure to settle down hasn’t hit me yet, which is great, but it's weird to think about. In my ideal situation, say if I met someone when I was 34, I wouldn’t then be like "Well, I need to get married to them within the year because I need to have kids by the time I’m 35/36." I think instead I’ll want to make sure that I have enough time with them to make sure they really are the right person.
Steph (28): I do feel like there are certain checkpoints that people expect you to have done at different stages in your life.
What would you say some of those are?
Steph (28): Not in this order, but things like having a partner, kids, a house, having a good job.
Marisa (28): The "biological clock" works into this too.
Robyn (30): A big part of the pressure you feel as a female turning 30 is to do with the "biological clock." If you aren't in a position where you are ready to have kids with someone, then you do think about it. I hadn't really thought of it much before because I don't really care about being a young mum, but my boyfriend and I broke up right before my 30th birthday. When that happened, I couldn't help but think, "Oh okay, I should probably have a baby by the time I'm 35, which means I need to meet someone soon." I don't want to think about that because I don't want to put a timestamp on it, and there are so many more options now like freezing your eggs.
Steph (28): I think that everyone thinks there is this one perfect way of doing everything and that we should all follow the same formula, but it is all nonsense. I think everyone has their own way of doing their life. Sometimes women can be their own worst enemy by putting a deadline on things. We just need to remind ourselves that everyone does it in their own time.
"Everyone thinks there is this one perfect way of doing everything and that we should all follow the same formula"
Robyn (30): Definitely! I think one of the worst things you can do in your life is to compare yourself to others. I think people are really at risk of looking at their friends who are in relationships, for example, and trying to follow the speed at which they are moving. Like, "They've moved in together so maybe we should too." We just have to try to remember that everybody is different.
Josie (26): Yeah, I agree. I sometimes stupidly look back at my parents and think about where they were at my age. They were married with a flat and thinking about having kids by this point in their lives, and I'm not nearing any of those, and occasionally that thought really panics me. I have to remind myself that it was a completely different time for them.
Robyn (30): I really think it'll be interesting to see what will happen with divorce rates in the next few years. Our parents got married so much younger than we are as a generation. I wonder if the divorce rate will go down as a result of people getting married at a later age and being in marriage longer before having kids or whether it will go higher because divorce is more accepted now.
Sabrina (34): I definitely think there is a lot of worth in getting married a bit later now. I'm going to put it out there: I'm not actually planning marriage or kids. I haven't ruled it out, but I took it off the table a while ago and suddenly the pressure I was feeling just went.
Robyn (30): But would you do the whole marriage and kids thing if the chance presented itself?
Sabrina (34): If someone was to come along and it was right, then I would go for it, but it is not something that I'm actively seeking at the moment. I'm just not putting that pressure on myself anymore.
"I'm not actually planning marriage or kids."
Josie (26): That's good; that's a healthy approach to it.
Sabrina (34): I think honestly I will be okay not having kids. I've never seen them in my future. I know that might be an odd thing to say.
Marisa (28): It's not!
Steph (28): It's odd that people think it's an odd thing. It's a stereotype that every woman wants to have children.
Robyn (30): Society definitely puts pressure on you to have kids.
Ada (23): A lot of people have them without really wanting them.
Sarah (27): I think what is really difficult when we get older is trying to work out how to block out the external pressures that we might be privy to. We all have different social groups and we all have different people around us. It could be family; it could be culture; it could be friends or whatever influencing you. As I'm getting older, I'm starting to realise how strong I have to be when it comes to trying to not get caught up in what I see in other people's lives.
Robyn (30): That ties into the idea that the older you get the more comfortable you are in your own skin. It becomes easier to recognise what you want and what you don't.
Sarah (27): That is what I'm struggling with most at the moment. I'm trying to not let outside forces influence my decisions.
Josie (26): This is definitely something I'm learning at the moment as well. My boyfriend bought a house quite early on in our relationship and even then a lot of people kept asking me when I was going to move in with him. We were six months into a new relationship, and I was starting to feel so much pressure that it was making me unhappy. Eventually they stopped, and now I know that if it does ever happen, it'll happen because we want it to not because we were told to basically.
Robyn (30): When we were younger everyone was at the same stage of life and when you grow older, this changes as well.
Steph (28): Exactly!
Sarah (27): Yeah, other people may move a bit faster with one thing.
When you were younger, where did you think you would be at 30?
Robyn (30): I thought I would be a real-life adult with kids and a family. My priorities have changed though.
Sabrina (34): 100%. I definitely thought I would be married with kids. I didn't see career woman, but I think we are all kind of career women here.
Steph (28): I'm engaged and have been for a few years, but now I'm just concentrated on my job. I know eventually we will get married, so there is no rush. I thought I would have kids by now, but now I know I just don't want them at this moment in my life.
Ada (23): I have literally zero life plan, so I don't get disappointed, really. My mum has a life plan for me, but that is her business. My aunt has always told me to be chill and just go with what comes, because otherwise you end up messing things up because you were too stressed out. My boyfriend is a bit older than me, and I know a lot of people think we're going to be engaged with the next year.
Sabrina (34): How old is he again?
Ada (23): 36.
Josie (26): Does he feel any pressure?
Ada (23): I know his parents have told him they think he'll be an old dad. He doesn't care though. I think he is the same as me and doesn't really have much of a plan. He's thinking about moving to Tokyo at the moment.
Marisa (28): Does that not stress you out? That would for me!
Ada (23): We're already long distance so whatever. If he wants to go, then he might as well.
"I literally have zero life plan."
Steph (28): That is interesting because if you were maybe say 30 and he was younger and he wanted to go away, you might worry about it a bit more.
Ada (23): I don't think someone wanting to venture in a different way in their life means that you're not committed to each other though.
Steph (28): Yeah, definitely.
Marisa (28): Yeah, a lot of people don't think of relationships in the traditional sense anymore. I have a friend who has been with her partner for eight years, and they've never lived together. He lives in Sweden at the moment and she is in London.
What would you say is the biggest lesson that you've all learned in the last few years?
Sarah (27): Appreciate yourself. I'm trying to take a moment to recognise what I have achieved so far in my life. My education, my career, and things like that. I think women in general are so focused on ticking things off before a certain age that they forget about all the other successes they've achieved. Even if it is just stopping and thinking, "I did this today for the first time" or "I look damn good in this dress."
Sabrina (34): For me, the biggest lesson in the past couple of years was realising the worst possible thing I could do was force a situation because I felt like the time was now. I came out of a relationship last year. I knew it wasn't right, but at that point we were living together and my parents really liked him. I just thought I needed to persevere with this even though I knew I shouldn't. It was a big moment for me when I decided that enough was truly enough, and I didn't care about my age or how timings would work out anymore. I'm starting to let things flow a bit more – just like Ada does.
Robyn (30): I've learned to listen to myself a bit more. I used to do things because I felt like I should be doing them or my family told me to. Now at 30, I'm asking myself what I really want.
Marisa (28): To not give up. Realise that with every hurdle you take you get stronger.
Ada (23): Set your own pace.
What are you most looking forward to in your life?
Marisa (28): That moment you go through the film of your life in your head and all of your favourite moments flash before your eyes and then you die.
Marisa (28): I'm joking! But sometimes when I'm having one of those really good moments in life, I do think that it will feature in my end showreel...
Steph (28): I know it sounds really girly, but I can't wait to have loads of babies. I'm Greek and I'm from a really big family myself, so even though I'm not in a rush and I don't want them now because it'll be crazy and hellish, I know I want 10...okay, maybe 5 kids. I can't wait to be as close to them as I am to my own parents.
Sabrina (34): For me, it is the unexpected. My life never goes to plan. Sometimes I'll end up doing a complete U-turn and I'll find myself somewhere I never would have expected I would be in a million years, and I've started to thrive on that now!
Robyn (30): I think the feeling of contentment. Contentment from within. Not settling but just knowing that you don't have to look externally for more.
Sabrina (34): Yeah, that is the perfect definition.
Free yourself of your expiry date and instead embrace every day and every milestone birthday. Feel confident at any age. Watch this video by SK-II and #ChangeDestiny.
Additional imagery from Getty Images.