How It Feels To: Fail At Your Twenties

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I turn 30 next month and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. 

Some friends say that they’re not fussed about this milestone birthday and attach little significance to the change in decade.

Others, however, go quiet and refuse to talk about it. I have my own internal battle when it comes to acknowledging that I am no longer a twenty-something. But then again, I never really was one… 

When my school chums were moving into houses with their University buddies, I was changing nappies. When they were researching post-grad jobs, I was researching nurseries. When most people I knew had moved to London, I stayed put at my parents’ house.

I am a 29 year old mother of two. My daughter is nine and my son is two and a half – they are the absolute lights of my life. I have always wanted to be a mum, so you could say that I have achieved one of my biggest dreams early on in adult life, but you could also say that in some respects, I have failed abysmally at my twenties. 

Seventy years ago, my circumstances might have been the ‘norm’, but nowadays it feels like I’m in the minority. More women are postponing motherhood until their thirties, freezing their eggs, building careers and choosing freedom and independence over responsibility. Quite frankly, I don’t blame them.

Being a young mother is brilliant in so many ways, but isn’t without its downsides. My career has taken a hit, for one, but I never really had one to begin with.

Over the last ten years, I have investigated various career paths, including nursing, business, acting school, local journalism, and freelance copywriting. I took part in short courses and internships and had a memorable 15 months in a law firm behind a photocopier which led to me meeting the father of my son and buying my first property.

As I reflect on the last ten years, one thing is clear: I have only ever given it my best. Could I have finished a degree? Maybe. Could I have a stronger pension pot by now? Most likely. But have I prioritised my children and the pursuit of creativity? Most definitely.

I have begun to accept and make peace with the life I didn’t live. The one where I was child-free during what should be my “selfish years” by society’s standards. On one hand, I feel the loss of the life that I didn’t have and buckets of gratitude for the life that I actually have. After all, the only life worth focusing on, is the one that is happening right here and right now.

Becoming Maia’s mother at a young age woke me up. Her existence gave me purpose and I had never felt more alive. I think of that period as my awakening. I was compelled to do the inner-work, live with intention and consider what I wanted to be and do in this world.

Some will say that I have failed miserably, but I have done what is important to me. In other words, I have redefined what my version of success looks like.

We’re expected to have it all figured out before turning 30, but for who?

The media exacerbates this unrealistic pressure with lists like Forbes 30 Under 30, which only propagates the notion that money and financial success are of utmost importance. What about our health, relationships and passions? Do they not count for anything?

For me, turning 30 is about reflecting on how far I have come, what I have survived and everything I have achieved in the process.

A takeaway from this decade for me, as an almost-30-year-old, for people in their 20s is to place less importance on your 20s and to disregard it as a race.

30 is not a deadline or a point of assessment by the Gods of life choices.

I implore you to think of it as a messy decade rich in exploration where you should follow your curiosity, try new things, make mistakes and learn as you go. Because isn’t that what life’s about anyway?

Words by Angela Garwood


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