Not old, just older

Turning 30 isn’t pretty, but for Rob Garratt it’s a full-on train wreck in waiting

The Knowledge

I’m going to go right out and say it: I’m having a – cringe – turning 30 crisis. Now, I know there are far more worthy things to worry about – switch on the news, you self indulgent twit – but I can’t escape the mounting waves of anxiety that seem to come as a part-package of the imminent outset of my fourth decade.

What, you might ask, does a number have to do with anything? For that I have no reasonable answer, but I’m far from the only one to suffer this irrational affliction. Otherwise known as ‘a quarter-life crisis’, this evermore prevalent condition, the worldwide web tells me, ‘bears all the hallmarks’ of its better-known sibling, the midlife crisis, such as ‘insecurities, disappointments, loneliness and depression’. Quite a lot to swallow right there. Better still, it apparently lasts ‘an average’ of two years. Yikes.

US tennis player Andy Roddick – a former world number one, no less – used his 30th birthday to announce professional retirement. With money in the bank and a Sports Illustrated swimwear model for a wife, Roddick clearly had less to be anxious about than most. But even he couldn’t face the pressure of starting a new decade knowing it will inevitably lead to decline. Having won the US Open in 2003, he was smart enough by 2012 to see that it would be all downhill from there.

And so it is for me, too. A large part of my dread is the knowledge that my physical and mental peaks are clearly behind me. Today, I lack both the cerebral talents I employed to traverse the academic trapeze act of a philosophy degree and the tireless tenacity that was essential to get ahead in journalism. Meanwhile, I suffer the embarrassment of an ever-expanding waistline.

But forget vanity – for me it’s really all about experience. I’ve calculated that, for the first time in my existence on earth, the sum total of new experiences still to come in life are now outweighed by the sum of experiences I’ve already had. Put simply, having already sampled sushi, visited 44 countries, fallen in love and seen all my favourite bands live, the search for novel and new experiences is perpetually harder. The first time I went to Rome I landed at midnight, refused shelter and stayed awake all night wandering The Eternal City, transfixed as the sun rose to bathe the Colosseum in golden light. Today, I fear I’d simply check into a hotel and save the sightseeing until morning.

It’s time to come clean: I’ve been through this sense of the hourglass running through before. On my 26th birthday I woke up in a rotten funk, and it simply never went away. I spent months mourning the loss of my ‘crazy young’ ’20s and bemoaning the onset of everything grown up and responsible. I had a house, a car, a career, a relationship… but I wanted something more. After ten months of carrying around this adolescent angst like a lead albatross, I turned in the sum total of possessions and commitments that was my life and hopped on a plane to Dubai – to come and work for Time Out. Three years later and it looks to have been one of the smartest decisions of my life. But hold on – what next?

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