Why Is Nobody Talking About How Great Your Late Twenties Are?
I’ve dreaded my late twenties for as long as I can remember. In fact, on my 21st birthday, when my dad reminded me that my next big birthday would be 30, I recoiled with horror. In my mind, every birthday after 25 marked another year closer to a boring and dreary life, one where I’d have to pack in the fun and grow up once and for all. I worried that with every extra line and wrinkle I would become less relevant, less attractive. I worried that each new year would turn me into someone different - someone who cared more about mortgages and investments than fashion and books. And I worried that by the time I reached my late twenties, time would be running out.
It’s not surprising really - we live in a society that fetishizes youth, particularly in women. You only have to look at this year’s series of Love Island for proof - the average age of the islanders was 23, and the eldest contestant Laura, who is 29, was constantly labelled desperate and old by the media. We’re conditioned to believe that women reach their prime in their early twenties and that it’s all downhill from there.
And so, I grew older with reluctance. Each new year brought with it a fresh state of panic - had I achieved enough? Was I having enough fun? Was I wasting the best years of my life in a job I didn’t love? I was stuck in a state of permanent indecision while the clock marched on unforgivingly in the background.
I mourned my last ever 16-25 railcard, felt miffed when I realised I was rarely asked for ID anymore, and rebelled against my increasing age with too much wine and trips I couldn’t really afford, because #YOLO.
And then something crazy happened - I stopped caring. About my age, about my list of achievements, about how my life compared to my friends and peers. I stopped feeling envious of the younger girls in my office, with their wild girls holidays and spontaneous schedules. I stopped worrying that time was running out and started embracing all of the great stuff I already had going on in my life.
I don’t know when exactly it happened, but I started to realise that actually, being in your late twenties is pretty damn awesome. With every month that passed I found myself feeling more confident, more secure in my sense of self, and generally just much, much happier. And, as our good friend Carrie Bradshaw would say, it got me to thinking - why is nobody talking about how great your late twenties are?
Seriously. The reason I dreaded this phase of my life so much was because all I was ever told was how crap it would be. How I would find a new wrinkle every month, how the grey hairs would start popping up, how my metabolism would slow down. Everybody told me that life would become more boring - that there would be less spontaneous Thursday nights out and more 10pm bedtimes. You won’t be spending all your money on ASOS when you’ve got a mortgage and council tax to pay, they all said.
And do you know what? They were right. Everything I’ve written in the paragraph above is 100% true. My body isn’t as taut or lean as it was when I was 21. Nights out with the girls are few and far between these days, and just last week I blew my entire year’s worth of clothing allowance on an oven.
But do you know what else my late twenties has brought me? An acceptance of my own body that has allowed me to truly love myself for the first time in my entire life. A sense of self so strong that I no longer feel paranoid or insecure when I see other people doing well. A feeling of stability that has calmed the anxious thoughts in my brain and the constant worry that I’m not moving fast enough.
And there’s the more exciting stuff too. I have proper disposable income for the first time in my life. I can afford to stay at fancy hotels and treat myself to the nice bottle of wine, rather than whichever one is on offer.
I’m not the least experienced person in the office anymore, and that means I get to work on the really good stuff. I get to lead projects that make me excited to get up in the morning, and I no longer have someone more senior breathing down my neck and checking that I’m doing everything properly.
I have a home that I love, and a wonderful husband who genuinely makes me laugh every single day. And I feel like I really, truly know my friends and they know me - after all, we’ve all been in each other’s lives for over a decade now.
Do I miss those endless possibilities and the spontaneity of my early twenties? Sometimes. But I would never dream of swapping what I have now to get that back. Because my late twenties has been the happiest phase of my life, and if what my older friends tell me is true, it just keeps on getting better.