Today is the last day of my 20s – I turn 30 tomorrow and it's a big milestone for me. In my 20s, I looked forward to turning 30 because I figured that by then, I’d totally have it made – you know – the career, the kids, the husband, and the house (because isn’t that what we’re all supposed to want?!).
When I got married recently, at the ripe old age of 29, my Dad told me, “you must be relieved you managed to get married whilst you’re still in your 20s!” Thanks, Dad (insert eye-rolling here). But his comment, beside raising my hackles, did get me reflecting on the things that I didn’t do in my 20s that I thought I would have done by the time I was 30. These are my 4 biggies:
1. Buy a house
The common wisdom seems to be that buying your own home is a “safe” financial investment and this was certainly something imparted to me by my parents – my mother bought her first home in her early 20s and my father ran a real estate business for 10 years. But buying my own home never excited me. To me, it signified a big financial commitment and one that would tie me to one place for a very long time. I discovered my love of travel early on and I knew that I wanted to live and travel all over the world. Over time, I’ve learned that buying a home doesn’t guarantee a positive return on investment or necessarily provide the “security” that maybe it once did. I’ve let go of my “need” to own my own home and instead look for other ways to invest and save for my future.
In my early 20s, I moved into this great little apartment with my BFF in East Perth that we could barely afford. We spent all of our money on rent and booze (we threw epic parties at our place). I used credit cards to buy clothes and shoes so I’d look hot when we went clubbing. And sometimes I even bought food. It was obviously AWESOME. But I always thought that once I was making “real” money I’d be able to save.
10 years on and I feel embarrassed to admit that I have hardly any savings and I pretty much still live paycheck to paycheck even though I’m earning significantly more money. I don’t have any debt, but I’m still working on getting those savings together…
3. Have children
My mum was married at 23 and had me when she was 24 and my twin sisters when she was 27. I thought I’d get married in my mid-20s and have my first child in my late 20s. I thought that to be a “real” woman and a “real” adult that’s what I needed to do.
But I don’t have children and I relish the flexibility and freedom that comes because of it. And I feel plenty grown up and womanly thank you very much!
For some time now, people have asked me “when” I’m having children and when I reply I’m not even sure IF I want children, I get told “you will want them when you’re older” and “children bring meaning to your life” and “you’re too focused on your career” etc etc (I’m sure you’ve heard them all before!). But I’m still not sure if I want children and there are plenty of things that currently bring meaning and a sense of purpose to my life.
4. Know “what I want to do with my life”
When I started my accounting career at the age of 20, I was eager and ambitious and I couldn’t wait to start “climbing the corporate ladder”. I figured if I worked hard, by the time I was 30, I’d be a Partner in a big accounting firm and I’d be set.
About 6 months into my first accounting job, I decided that climbing the corporate ladder sucked. So I focused on partying and planning my next holiday (this took a lot of focus - 2 day hangovers are TOUGH). As soon as I'd gained my Chartered Accountant certification (I wasn't a complete slacker!) I travelled through South, Central and North America for 6 months (yes, my boss let me take 6 months off work. Australian bosses are the BEST). I was miserable when I came back to work so my boss sent me on a 12 month secondment to a Caribbean island (see, I told you Australia bosses are the best) and I’m now in a senior management position in a Big 4 accounting firm in San Francisco. Which is pretty awesome. But I’m still figuring out “what to do with my life”.
And that's ok. I'm kinder to myself now. I spent my 20s in such a hurry trying to get “somewhere” and I know now that I need to SLOW DOWN. That it's ok that I haven’t got it all figured out and that I don’t know what “making it” even means anymore. I’m going to let my curiosity and love of learning keep moving me forward without being so concerned about the end result. I think that, like my 20s, my 30s are going to be pretty wild and fun ride.