Eva Bradley: Forget the number - live life

By Eva Bradley

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Turning 30 can be a sobering moment for some. Photo / Thinkstock
Turning 30 can be a sobering moment for some. Photo / Thinkstock

Turning another year older is an interesting study in human psychology. When we wake up on our birthday, we are only one day older than when we went to sleep the night before.

And yet such is the way we are set up to log the passing of time, it's easy to feel that, with the tick of the clock at midnight, the whole fairytale has come crashing down and you're sitting in a pumpkin instead of a horse-drawn carriage.

At some key point that is different for everyone but hovers around the age of 25, we are no longer stoked to be a year older. And when overnight you can suddenly be a decade older, it's even worse.

Today is my husband's 30th birthday. Being a few years older than him I have had time to adjust to the shock of saying goodbye to what is largely seen as the "fun" decade of adulthood. But it wasn't so long ago that I have forgotten how bittersweet the day felt.

Yes, people make a bit more effort with the composition of the birthday message on your Facebook wall.

The cards are more numerous and of a slightly better quality and the pedestal we get put on for one day of the year is definitely raised a bit higher.

But the reality is that we are not just a day older or even a year older. We are in a new decade. The desire to audit one's life and look back at the past, stock-take on the present and map out the future is irresistible. And, more often than not, depressingly so.

When you turn 30, my theory is that you fall into one of two camps: depressed because you had so much fun in the previous decade and now you're officially "old" and have to settle down and work hard, or depressed because you didn't have enough fun because you were working hard.

Both scenarios have their pros and cons, but I knew my husband would feel he slotted into the latter category, given that, instead of recklessly clocking up student loan debt and travelling to Ibiza in his 20s, he put his head down, took over the family business and made 60-hour working weeks the norm.

He met the future Mrs Right half-way through and was a dad by the end.

Responsibility stuck to him in his 20s like chewing gum to the bottom of a new pair of shoes.

But life (and the passing of it) is like a fine-cut diamond.

The stone never changes, but its beauty and brilliance is defined by which facet you choose to look through at any one time.

The upshot of settling down and working hard when you're young is (hopefully) you get spat out the other end earlier and can still see the world but with a few more stars above the door of your hotel.

You are likely to still be (relatively) "cool" to your kids when they are teenagers (or am I kidding myself here?) and then live long enough to carve up the dance floor at your grandson's wedding reception.

Life is life no matter when you choose to live it, and rather than feeling it has passed us by just because we have reached a preconceived "milestone", the most important thing is to be fully engaged in the year we are living right now, to resist looking back with regret at the ones that have passed, or forward to the ones that may never arrive.

- Eva Bradley is a columnist and photographer

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