At 30, society says a woman’s life is over. I say it’s just beginning! 30 is not a pinnacle where everything starts sliding down, it is the starting point.

Are you a woman who just got up this cliff? That was a long climb! With the many faulty and clueless steps, you made in your 20s. Some of us feel excited about the milestone while others feel lost and disappointed. You see, there is a stringent marking scheme with boxes waiting to be ticked by the time this age knocks on your door. At 30, they say, you need to have:  been taken, your own home; your dream car; a stable income; a child or children, and the list goes on.  You and I know that it is deceptive to view life with such regularity. Life thrives in randomness.

Worried about what your 30s will bring?

I know it is not a glorious milestone for all of us. The pressure it comes with makes the bliss ephemeral. There is lurking anxiety, apprehension and sadness that we have been conditioned to feel when we hit this mythical age. And this dims the light for many women. I turned 30 last month and the bursting anticipation to get here can only be explained by the sense of maturity, control, and security I feel. I would like to share five fundamental lessons I have picked along the way.

The race is long but, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Our lives have become race-horse situations, where we compete on who arrives where first. This endless “comparathon” is draining. We must accept that there will always be people ahead of us and behind us. There will always be someone driving a bigger car; someone having a bigger job, a better home or a smoother face and a more toned body. That’s life.

Stop the competition and know that the journey begins and ends with you. Comparison kills your joy.

Learn to say no without guilt.

I hated being a disappointment and, for a long time, I struggled to answer in the negative. Saying YES to so many things in my 20s caused me unnecessary stress. In fact, I ended up disappointing many people as there were things I nodded to and could not do. I am at a place where I can say NO without feeling guilty. And it’s emancipating. It’s okay to say no to that WhatsApp group you have been dragged into, to that meet-up, to that Friday night dance, to that marriage proposal, to whatever, it’s your call. 

Failure is a lesson.

It is not a perfect world. So, how can you even think about perfection with yourself? Those tears, those scars, those losses should be seen as beautifully packaged life lessons. Be sure to listen to Alanis Morisette’s song “You Learn.” In her words, “you live you learn; you love you learn; you cry you learn; you lose you learn; you bleed you learn; you scream you learn.”

Idealised world is a façade. The world is an imperfect place.

If you aren’t sharing a delectable cake you have had for your breakfast, you are posting filtered photos of your vacation. If you aren’t splashing photos of your day at the spa, you are scrolling your phone to get a picture-perfect shot of your girls’ trip. At no point do we share our broth gone bad, our pimpled faces, or our dirty kitchen sinks. Why? Social media is ideal and has no space for authenticity. It is therefore imprudent to stress over someone’s life on social media as we represent fake personas that are mostly not a true reflection of our status, feeling, and thoughts. You are human. Human beings are real, not perfect.

No one owes you anything.

If it is to be, it is up to me. This is a lesson I picked from a speaker while in high school. I remember chanting this line then and this line has lived with me. If you want anything done, you need to do it yourself. You must never have a feeling of entitlement. Not even from your spouse. If help comes your way, perfect. If it doesn’t, no problem. No one is responsible for your success or failure. You are.

Don’t buy into the falsehood that life ends at 30, it does not.