So here I am sitting at my laptop, supposed to be writing a piece for you about what I’ve learned by the age of 30. Although I’m 33, so it’s cheating a bit, but those extra three years mean I should be more full of wisdom, right? I should have even more instructive thoughts on love, dating, friendship and how to handle life.
Except I don’t have any wisdom and I can’t sit here like a high priestess doling out tidbits of advice because the truth is I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Honestly I don’t, it’s not false modesty. Yesterday, not long after leaving my flat, I realised I was wearing my knickers inside out which I suspect was a mistake made while getting dressed that morning because I was so hungover.
I’d gone out to the pub for a drink with a friend the night before and broken the no-alcohol rule I’d set for myself to try and cure a bout of thrush. Industrial amounts of Canesten hadn’t changed the, ahem, situation, so I’d spent my Saturday night on the sofa Googling the issue (I would go to war to prevent my internet search history ever becoming public). And after scrolling through 47628 pages on this fairly personal topic, I’d decided there was too much sugar in my diet. Ergo, the alcohol ban. Which lasted all of three days.
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So I really, really haven’t reached this age and got my shit together, like some people seem to expect. Here I am, in my 30s, still making mistakes on a daily basis, not feeling any wiser than I did as a teenager. Actually, sometimes I feel even less wise than I did when younger and I had a clear life plan: leave school, go to uni, get a job, meet someone, settle down, have some babies, get a dog.
I’ve developed strong opinions about a few subjects along the way. I think coriander is the best herb. I think if it burns, you should go to a doctor and probably not just Google it. I think social media is turning us all mad. I think whoever invented the ‘mute’ option for WhatsApp should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, while people who close the windows on the upper deck of a bus should be in prison.
But if you’re looking for more philosophical assistance well, sorry, I can’t help. Because the idea that we should be as enlightened as Gandhi by a certain age is a myth. I didn’t wake up on the morning of my 30th birthday and think ‘Brilliant, now I know everything.’ At the time, I was trying to extricate myself from a hideous relationship while everyone around me was getting engaged. I’d never felt less together. I vividly remember one of my closest girlfriends telling me she was pregnant with her second baby back then and panicking. Later that evening, I counted on my fingers: this friend had gone out with someone long enough to get married. One finger. Then she’d got engaged. Two fingers. Then they’d got married, bought a house together. Four fingers. Then she’d had one baby and now another. That was… six fingers ahead of me. What was I doing wrong? Why did everyone else have life cracked?
The truth is nobody has life totally sussed at any stage. That’s the only crumb of advice I can offer here. What I’ve learned by the age of 30 is that you don’t necessarily know much by the time you’re 30. And you might get to 90 feeling the same way. But that realisation has helped me enormously. So what if I’m having a bad day, worrying about work, my relationship or the number of calories I mysteriously seem to have eaten. Doesn’t matter. I don’t feel like I should be sorted anymore because I know that everyone else is figuring their stuff out too, even if it feels they’re leap years ahead. Plus, it would be pretty boring if you got to a certain age and did know everything, right? As well as quite alarming, because that would probably make you Michael Gove.
Although having said all that, I do have one final little nugget I've learned recently and want to pass on: buy the Canesten pill and don’t rely on the cream. Works much faster.
The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts is published on August 9th (HQ, £12.99)