It’s always hard to write about getting older without resorting to clichés. Thirty is the new twenty, that sort of thing. I’ll put it simply: Twenty stunk. Thirty is awesome.
Some things haven’t changed. I’m still a student, for one. But this time around, it’s with money.
At twenty I was living in Sydney, a big city I still wasn’t used to and didn’t have the cash to enjoy. I went to university in a thirty-storey tower with thirty thousand other students. I also stacked shelves in a shop and worked as a receptionist. Lunch every day was a side of rice with a twenty-cent sachet of soy sauce. Or the thirty-cent sweet and sour one, if I was feeling upmarket. Junkies dozed against my bedroom window by day and drunks puked on it by night. It was all a bit of a downer, to say the least.
Then I went to Germany to study (on scholarship, obviously). Later I found myself in the Netherlands, the workers’ paradise, where wages are high and you can’t get fired if you try. In a habit I’ve never quite managed to break, I worked two jobs – in the Maastricht language centre and as a freelancer – but this time, by choice. Nothing made me happier than banking a salary and a half each month.
Then the stars aligned and I was offered a place in Cambridge. Three years later, my PhD is winding up and my daydreams are of the sort ‘Is it Miss or Mrs Edwards?’ ‘It’s doctor, actually.’ I still can’t say no to work – like all freelancers, I’m pathological about taking money when it’s offered. But as a result, if I spot a pair of shoes I like – get this – I buy them. Wonder of all wonders, I even have a cleaner.
If you had an easy run through your teens and early twenties, thirty will probably be a downer. You spot a wrinkle and it’s all downhill from there. But if life is tough now, take heart: it will get better. I would know. I buy sweet-and-sour sauce by the bottle now.