“My Name is Simon and I’m 29…” Yeah, that needs editing because on Saturday I’m going to turn 30.
I always kind of assumed I was going to be a twenty-something forever. I remember being 20, sitting in my living room with my friends imagining how much amazing stuff was going to happen in the next ten years. We were going to ride the train across Europe and fall in love with strangers. We were going to live in New York and be cultural savants. At the very least, we were going to have a cool apartment and have crazy adventures.
My 20s have whizzed by in a blur. Each year seems to have fewer and fewer days. Christmas feels like two months ago. My 29th birthday feels like six months ago.
My life hasn't turned out as I expected it to. I never imagined myself being "settled down" by now but I did hope for the the exact opposite. Aged 20, I dreamed of making a day-to-day living while writing and being at the cutting edge of culture. In one of my very first blog posts, I wrote about how I moved to London for the first time with that exact goal – to become a film critic and do something amazing.
That didn't really happen. The 20-year-old I was would be disappointed if he saw me now. I used to unconditionally believe that I was destined to do something amazing with my life. I couldn't imagine being 30 and boring. Growing up in a small town I wanted to travel and do something incredible with my life. Part of that was for myself, but part of it was to show other people that I could do it.
I don’t consider myself boring, but I no longer have that thirst for being truly spectacular at anything. My dreams of being someone incredible have matured into satisfaction with what I have. And as I've grown up, I've realised that I'm not motivated by money or fame or status. I used to pride myself on being in tune with all that was hip in the world. I was familiar with every song in the top 20. I knew exactly which films were lighting up Cannes or Toronto. I wrote for a pop culture webzine and saw it as a stepping stone to making a living as someone who other people looked to for inspiration.
These days I can’t keep up with what's in fashion. I stumble across cool albums six months after they’re released. I gave up seriously writing about cinema a long time ago.
At the same time, I find myself buying loofahs or scented candles. I've caught myself tutting at youth loitering about bus stops. The other day I considered buying flowers for decorative reasons! Am I subconsciously growing up?!?
Reading the last few paragraphs might seem pretty depressing. But they shouldn't. My 20s have been amazing in a way that's snuck up on me. I've experienced so much in the last ten years that has defined me as a person and made me the adult I am right now, on the edge of an arbitrary milestone.
I turned 20 at Christchurch University surrounded by amazing friends who I still keep in touch with today. Six weeks ago, I had an awesome Chinese meal and beers with my friend Phil who was in London on his way to Vancouver. We chatted for hours about life past, present and future.
I turned 21 in Wellington where I worked in my first ever hotel and split my spare time between watching films, eating junk food and learning about life with my little brother Derek and flatmate Adam. We conspired to be amazing.
I turned 22 in London, away from New Zealand for the first time ever. I flatted with South Africans. I met a Kiwi guy I’m still pen-pals with to this day. Later that year I did take the train across Europe, getting into debt, thumbing a Lonely Planet and sleeping in train stations. I flew to North America and spent three broke weeks hanging around New York bookshops.
I turned 23 in Wellington again, this time at journalism school surrounded by people who shared my dreams. We stayed up late drinking beer and discussing politics and our future careers. We found a common bond in our love of writing. I met another one of my best friends Luke who I've been tight with ever since. I celebrated my birthday at my flat with my housemate Will, who is now my running mate in London.
I turned 24 in Wanganui at my first real job. I worked at a regional newspaper covering crime, police and the local council. I worked super hard at the paper and was proud of what I accomplished. My bosses believed in me and I felt like an adult wearing my own suit to work!
I turned 25 in Palmerston North - my hometown. It wasn't the best year of my life but I still smile thinking back about my weekends, hanging with my flatmate Dan and my friend John – guys who I know always had my back and made me smile. I also got to reconnect with a bunch of great people I went to High School with and am still close with.
I turned 26 in Christchurch, which I've already written about lots before. I reconnected with one of my best friends David who introduced me to a bunch of more amazing people. I started working in a hotel again and went to gigs every weekend. I found a flat with a group of diverse and cool people. And I started this blog!
I turned 27 in Vietnam, en route from Christchurch to London. I walked around Hanoi trying to find a vegetarian restaurant. I shared a table with a Buddhist monk who only spoke a bit of English. When he found out it was my birthday, he paid for my meal and left. I'm still in love with Vietnam based almost exclusively on that moment.
I turned 28 in London again. I’d been in the city a while but didn't want to make a fuss about my birthday. I think I even took it off Facebook. I was going through a kind of funk and was kind of content to let this year slip by. But then my awesome flatmate Rachael somehow found out, brought me a card, gave me a hug and made me smile for weeks.
I turned 29 last year in London and had a proper birthday party for the first time in a few years. A bunch of my friends and workmates made a huge effort to come and we had a great night drinking and dancing. I don’t remember the end of that night, but I remember waking up the next morning feeling really happy.
This is only a small snapshot of my life over the last ten years but the one thing that I realised while writing it is how many great people I've had the opportunity to know in the last ten years. One of the things I ponder sometimes is how many “good friends” I have and every time I count it out I understand that I’m a very lucky guy.
Now I’m a very lucky 30-something. I’m going to be the worst 30-year-old ever. So many of my friends -- at home or in London -- are "settling down". I’m so far away from that that it doesn't even strike me as something remotely conceivable.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that each week on Facebook brings one of the following: An engagement; a marriage; a pregnancy; a birth; or a house
Sometimes, I feel like I should be keeping up with this. That, as a soon-to-be-adult, I should have a wife or a kid or a house.
I’m 20,000 kilometres away from New Zealand but I feel bonded to my friends back home and seeing their wedding pictures and babies makes me smile. The worst thing about being so far away from home is missing out on the milestones in the lives of people who are important to me.
Part of me wants to pause time until I catch up with all of that. Am I an outlier?
But you know what? That isn't me yet. I don't feel like I’m missing out.
I’m still not entirely convinced by the idea of marriage and I’m still not sure if I want kids. I think I’d probably be happy renting for the rest of my life.
That's where I am. I still haven’t figured out even a fraction of life and in a lot of ways London is the perfect place for me to be now. I don’t feel any pressure to rush things or to conform to others' expectations of me. Thirty induces a pretty huge amount of personal contemplation, but I've barely experienced any angst as I contemplate my birthday. I've been making jokes about it for months, and genuinely laughing at them.
Maybe I will do something amazing in my life soon. I still have dreams, but they are more modest ones. I want to keep writing. I want to travel more. I’d like to speak another language and I’d love to become a better citizen by volunteering and having a positive impact on other peoples’ lives.
One thing I've learnt over the last ten years is that selfishness is the thing I dislike most in myself and others. I guess my biggest dream now is just to live a rewarding and happy life, to be thoughtful and considerate, to appreciate everything that’s around me, and to be at peace with my personality. I still have a long way to go, but I’m a little bit closer than I was ten years ago. Being 30 is going to be different than being 20, but it's going to be great (and no different than being 29).
(By the way, I don't expect anyone to buy me anything at all but if you do want to and are stumped, you may like to consider making a donation to my London Greens campaign team here. OK, plug over)