Three Decades On

I recently turned 30 – that truly “awkward” age, when you’re too old to be a “young adult”, and too young to have “the benefit of experience.”

If you haven’t got your life sorted out by the time you’re 30 – tough. Expect to be dismissed, negated, unemployed and hopelessly unemployable, because there’s no mileage, tax breaks, or kudos in anyone helping you. Grow up, and start taking responsibility, dammit!

A friend of mine also turned 30 this year, another friend turned 30 last September (I’m typically friends with older people, so it’s nice to have a peer group I’m aware of!) All three of us found ourselves doing the navel-gazing “Thirty years, and I haven’t achieved anything.” (The friend who turned 30 last year does actually have 4 children that she’s raised to be very personable “small humans”, and a marriage that is stable and loving – but, of course, society doesn’t value such things, so they don’t “count.”)

Instead of racing forward to “Oh, but here’s all the things I have done, and here’s what I’ve got to look forward to!” I’ll do my usual “creatively negative” thing.

.I am not being paid for the “work” that I do, and am therefore considered a “drain on society”, as – since my wife is unable to work at the moment owing to health issues, we rely on State support to pay bills, eat, and – ironically – pursue employment opportunities.

.I do not, and will never have, children.

.I haven’t “made a name” for myself in any particular sphere.

These things are all true. They are all unalterable facts of a pretty miserable life. Also, going by my family history, I’m most likely almost halfway through my natural span – my father’s side of the family tend to take that final journey between the ages of 59-63 (my father passed away three years ago next month, at the age of 62, his cousin passed away 11years ago at the age of 59, both of their fathers died in their early 60s) – and a couple of members of my mother’s family, including my maternal grandmother, have passed away in their early-mid 60s (and one member of my mother’s family died in her thirties, but that was by suicide.)

It’s a pretty bleak picture.

But so is a snowscape, and yet there’s a strange, haunting, transient beauty in such a scene; the knowledge that you can create something beautiful – snow angels, for instance, or a snowman, or an igloo – that will be there only for a very short time, and will leave no trace of it, or its creator, behind.

It’s strangely freeing when you realise that your life is a snowscape, not a sculpture park. When you realise that you don’t have to create something immortal and eternal – you just have to create something.

Looking at it in that light, I’ve created a marriage – it’s in its first year, still, but we seem to be getting along alright.  I’ve created a business. I’ve created articles, books, and anecdotes. I’ve created experience of working in a variety of sectors, from admin to finance to youth work. I’ve created a self-initiated, self-run project. I’ve created competition wins, friendships, and photographs. I’ve created ideas, jokes, and conversations.

I’ve created all of these, at a time when, for my first 18 years, I was beholden to others – so technically, I’ve created all of this in 12 years.

Even if I don’t make it much beyond my early 60s, I’ve got the chance to do almost three times as much as I’ve already done – to create almost three times as many things that don’t have to last, that don’t have to stand as a monument to myself and my abilities, because they are created in a snowscape, which renders them transient, and existing in expectation of non-existence.

Other people live in sculpture parks, where their creations stand as permanent monuments. Some live in forests, where, periodically, wild fire destroys everything it took them years to grow. And some of us live in snowscapes, where nothing we do will last.

Nowhere is “better”, and they all have their challenges.

What about you? Where do you live?


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