On Thursday my speedometer clocked over from 29 to 30. I feel as though part of my generation and of that just before it is bound always to push milestone decades back one year, so that 40 is the new 30, 50 is the new 40, and so on, because although we all live longer, we're still part of a culture that places certain expectations on these arbitrary numbers.
I don't know how I feel about that though. I've been through a week of a sort of frustrated depression, which oddly enough was lifted around the time the clock struct midnight on the 8th, the day after my birthday. Thursday wasn't fun; I just wanted to draw the curtains and flip the outside world the bird, but I'd been looking forward to the weekend so I could spend time with the people I love.
Yesterday was good news for a man with crippling self-doubt, as it showed me that there were people who quite simply wanted to spend time with or around me, and would make special effort to do that. There were maybe fewer than a handful of people who I think would have been there out of duty if this weren't the case, but I felt like everyone was there because they either like me or have absolutely no problem spending time with me. That's nice if it's a few people, but there were around 25 of us moving from pub to pub throughout the evening; workmates, family members, friends, friends of friends and partners of friends.
My only regret is that I didn't think to take any photos, as it would've been nice to have had a memento, but that doesn't diminish what it meant to have so many people there because they wanted to come.
I try to ignore the self-imposed pressure that is expected of a "thirty-something". I've managed to avoid the trappings of a meaningful relationship and a burgeoning family, and my plan to own a house by this age was knackered earlier in the week. But since over the past couple of years I've come to understand that I'll probably always be single, and I'm very lucky to have a place of my own, the only pressures really come from other people and that's a sign of their own expectations, not mine.
Some of the expectations we have are arbitrary or based on tradition. There's no need to marry and have kids at any age if you don't want to; we all have our own ideas of "settling down" and not everyone wants to do that anyway. The right-job, right-house, right-family thing is a construct which the generation that went before mine began, I think, to reject. But it can be difficult sometimes not to look at people of your own generation who have those things and not feel a tinge of envy. I'm very jealous of my brother foe example, as he's been able to tread a path that's always eluded me. I can't say whether that path would've been right for me, but it's never shown itself.
Although I sneer at it as yet more homespun wholesome folksy nonsense, as I get older I can't help but begin to appreciate the American "thanksgiving" tradition. Its wide-eyed, earnestness aside, the idea of having a day to recognise things for which we should be thankful makes sense, and as I grow as a person I try and remember how lucky I am. I'm lucky to be a white man form the West, basically for better or worse (ie: worse), the top of the pile in society. I'm lucky to be able to hold down a job, to have nice things and to buy nice things for others. I'm lucky to have people to buy nice things for, and I'm especially lucky to have friends who probably treat me better than I treat them. I'm lucky to have my natural tendency towards selfishness tolerated by good-hearted people. I'm lucky to be part of a society that lets me get fat but stay relatively healthy, and I'm lucky to be able to be self-aware and to know how cushy I've got it.
That doesn't mean that you don't wake up on some days and think the world's against you. It doesn't help you fight off the spiders that wriggle into your brain and fuck up the wiring. Those things are at once natural and unexplainable. And yes there are missing pieces in my life (not because someone else says they're missing but because I've felt those gaps since I was a teenager), but my life is already pretty full, so would I even have room for that "final piece"?
In the last ten years I've had four jobs, flown to Ireland, Venice, the US and Australis, jumped out of a plane, helped run a radio station performed at Beatle Week in Liverpool. I've started podcasts, built apps, run businesses and fallen flat on my arse aplenty. I've had my heart lifted and broken, I've made friends and learned how to deal with people who don't like me. I've helped people make things and do things. And I have loved.
And I have been loved.