30 is not THE deadline
Here I am, rushing to finish this essay before my deadline.
I’ll be 30 soon. Although no law will punish me for not being married yet, not buying property yet, not raising a family yet, or not getting published in Young Blood yet, there is a societal deadline that makes people panic unconsciously, including me.
Age is just a number, as they say, and I know age won’t define me or cage my self-definition. Still, no matter how I say that phrase with conviction, I find myself feeling limited by opportunities because of this societal-brought constraint.
I always tell people how lucky I am because supportive people surround me. I have a family who does not question why I am not married yet or why I’m not moving out of our house yet. But even though I’m fortunate in this aspect and fully aware of it, there is still that thought that bugs me every time.
It started when I was 28, at the onset of the pandemic. Maybe it’s because my mother was 28 when she had me, the second of her four children. Compared to her, I still did not know what I was doing with my life then. I also felt like I needed to do something grand by that age and in the years to come.
Maybe she also did not know what she was doing when she was 28 and just going along with life. Unlike today, there was that societally imposed direction of what people should be doing at a certain age during their time. Get married in your early 20s and start a family by 24 or 25. It might be an unwritten rule that was so constricting back then, but I thought, at least, they were moving forward and making significant life achievements.
While she was starting a family at her age, on my 28th, the pandemic happened. Some people’s lives were put to a halt, including mine. I did not know what my next steps should be, especially since I was almost in my 30s. And then there was that mandatory pause that also restricted people’s options. I was at home, like many others. I was confused about my career’s next steps and angry against irresponsible politicians while other people my age were already establishing their lives or settling down.
Many people lost their loved ones at that time, teaching us how short life is and how important it is to live in the present. While that was a dark time in history, it helped me realize many things about myself and the pressures and deadlines I put on myself. Life is short. Instead of worrying about the far future we are never sure of, why not just make the best of our time now?
Fast forward to now, I’m 29, turning 30 in a few days—the time I’m no longer considered a youth in many categories. Instead of dreading the day, I actually can’t wait to turn 30.
Once the clock strikes 12 and I become 30, I feel like all these societal pressures carried by me will finally get off my shoulders. I can’t wait to feel that relief.
When I was in my teenage years, I used to think that people in their 20s had it all figured out. Who was I kidding? Maybe some did know what they wanted or what they were doing, but some, if not all, fake it till they make it. I even read and heard many stories that people in their 60s, 70s, or even on their deathbeds have not yet figured it out or perfected the formula of living life the way it should be lived. It is not meant to be perfected anyway. That may not be the purpose of life. If it is, then life would be boring.
Remember that we only live this life once for the first time. Not all will get the perfect recipe on their first try. I have learned that life is all about making sense of what’s happening or, at least, understanding yourself and life better as you progress—appreciating its wonders and helping others see its beauty or make the most of it.
I’ll be 30 soon. I anticipate another burden to carry when I approach my 40s, but that’s another essay to write.
For those entering their early 30s, they’ll say 30 is the new 20.
For those in their mid-30s, they’ll say that life begins at 40.
The definition changes, but the struggle people feel is the same. Who gave us a deadline anyway? The only deadlines we should panic about are our work and bill deadlines. So go ahead, take care of your responsibilities. Live life the way you want it. Stay healthy, happy, and enjoy your borrowed life.
* * *
Riena Marie Solacito, 29, from Calamba City is a writer, video editor, and major raketera.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.