I love a list. But not these ones.

I’m turning 30 this year. I don’t have much to show for it, besides a startling number of hats I don’t wear, and several pairs of jeans that don’t fit me. Any milestone birthday means you are confronted with lists of ’30 Things You Definitely Have To Do By 30 Or You’ve Basically Wasted Your Youth’ (hot tip – we already know we wasted our youth). You know what I’m talking about. Those lists that tell you to ‘Make sure you’ve watched a sunrise in the Maldives while hand-feeding rescue turtles’, and ‘Pay off your debt’ (HAHAHAHAHA). A lot of those kinds of lists are – I’m just going to say it – unachievable to most regular people. If you’re like me, and you hate ’30 Before 30′ lists, join me as I rip one apart. This is for those of us who sometimes find it overwhelming just getting through the goals for the day, let alone half a lifetime.

1. Travel somewhere you don’t know the language. 

Ok, this is not a great start, because I have actually done this one, but it is not necessarily the starry-eyed, exciting adventure that it always seems to be painted as. It’s scary, it can be really lonely, and it’s usually fucking expensive, despite the related list of ’25 Ways to Travel the World With Only $25 in Your Pocket’.

2. Stop holding grudges.

How dare they. I will hold a grudge ’til I die. Probably of a stomach ulcer from holding said grudge, but honestly, a grudge is probably the only thing in life I can really commit to.

3. Feel the rain on your skin.

Spare me. We’ve all been caught out without an umbrella, we’ve all been rained on. It’s not romantic and whimsical. It’s damp and inconvenient.

4. Treat yourself to something really expensive.

This just seems 100% trivial to me. Sometimes, spending $40 on a shirt seems absolutely frivolous to me, other times I will spend that much on novelty greeting cards and not even blink. Once I bought a quite expensive handbag without a second thought, and then the next week agonised over whether or not I needed a three pack of socks for $7. If you have the means, once in a while, buy yourself something you really want, but don’t necessarily need. Whether that is a chocolate bar at the checkout, or a full velour tracksuit à la J.Lo circa 2001, you do you. If you don’t have the means, call me. I can always spring for a Snickers.

5. Attend the Olympic Games.

This is just taking the absolute piss.

6. Pay off your credit card debt.

How is one to do this if one has just travelled somewhere they don’t know the language, bought themselves something really expensive, and been to the Olympics? Seriously.

7. Learn the lyrics to ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ by R. Kelly.

This was honest to god on a list I read. If you were born pre 1990, you probably know all the words anyway. If you weren’t, and you don’t, don’t fucking bother. Space Jam is awesome, but R. Kelly is revolting, and I’m still trying to scrub ‘Ignition (Remix)’ from my brain.

8. Make music

The only music I can make is playing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ on the jumbo xylophone at the playground, and that’s only because my kid can’t tell when I fuck it up. Does that count?

9. Wear more colour.

I shan’t. There is a breed of people who wear grey, black, and white, and we will not change. However, I did just buy a green jersey, so maybe I’m full of shit. (Spoiler alert: I am)

10. Find something you’re really good at.

I have dreams that one day I’ll try something for the first time and I’ll just be an absolute natural. Like, maybe one day I’ll be a champion ski jumper, or a world-famous whittler. I’m guessing there’s probably a bit of hard work involved in becoming really really great at something, which is probably why I haven’t yet.

11. Jump more often.

Pardon?

12. Write a book.

Look, I have seen all the typos in your bloody facebook posts. Don’t write a bloody book ok?

13. Watch 100 of the IMDb top 250 movies of all time.

Ok. This one sounds fun. BUT. There are veeeery few comedies on that list, so really prepare yourself for some harrowing viewing. Also, the list was compiled based on user-submitted ratings. Just keep that in mind, and ask yourself if you want to watch 100 movies recommended by strangers who rate stuff on the internet…Maybe instead ask five friends to recommend five films each. At least then you have someone to blame when you hate them all.

14. Keep a list of books you want to read and work your way through it.

I have a list like this. It won’t be completed by the time I die, let alone by the time I’m 30.

15. Find a way to wake up in the morning that you don’t hate.

This morning I woke up with wet pyjamas because my 3 year old peed in my bed, so to be honest, this is probably a great goal for me personally.

16. Go on a blind date.

Sure, Meghan and Harry met on a blind date, but let’s be real: your friends don’t know any princes ok? Blind dates are not usually fun. They’re usually set up by people in relationships who don’t understand that Bridget Jones’s Diary is not a documentary about single people.

17. Get married.

Come on. I know my limits.

18. Spend time with children.

You can do this if you want to, but children are tiny psychopaths. I say this as a mother and a preschool teacher, so just trust me.

19. Learn to gamble.

I have ZERO interest in gambling. I can’t even hold onto money that I’ve earned, there’s no way it would end well if I felt like it was all a game. That’s why I’m so shit at Monopoly.

20. Do something that scares you.

I am scared of stilt-walkers, and those street performers who stay really really still until you walk past, and then they try to shake your hand or something? I’m not doing either of them.

Ok ok, so that’s only a list of 20. But that was gruelling work. I’m very aware now of my failings as a 29 year old woman. I’m fine with it though, because even though I might not have run a marathon, or seen a Broadway play, today I got the washing off the line juuuust before it started raining, and that’s the sort of victory I can get behind on a wet Thursday afternoon.

 

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You are not what you eat

There is a weird thing that we do as people who eat stuff, and that is assign moral value to food. I have no doubt that everyone reading this has used language like ‘bad’, ‘naughty’, ‘guilty pleasure’, or ‘cheat meal’ when referring to something they’ve eaten. We’ve probably also all said something like ‘Oh man, I was really bad yesterday and had fish and chips for dinner’, or ‘You are so good, having a salad for lunch’. That’s because it’s a short leap between labelling food in a negative way, and labelling ourselves in the same way because we eat that food. I’m aware that they’re only words, but words have power, and the way we talk about what goes into our bodies affects the way we think about them. The more we imbue food with shameful and negative connotations, the easier it is to feel the same way about ourselves when we eat it.

Most adults understand what healthy and unhealthy mean – and somewhere, we transmuted those into meaning ‘good/bad’, and ‘clean/dirty’. And the more we’ve done that, the more we’ve accepted that we are good or bad, clean or dirty, depending on the food we eat. Somewhere along the line, we have also convinced ourselves that the ‘bad’ foods make us bigger, and the ‘good’ foods make us smaller. If the bad foods make us big then being big must be bad, and if the good foods make us small, then being small must be good. It’s a false equivalency, and it’s an insidious and persistent lie that diet culture sells us: that our bodies are a reflection of our morality. And it’s fucking bullshit. Just to be clear here, I have no interest in what anyone eats, or what size anyone is – eat salad every day of your life, or consider donuts a food group, whatever works for you – but remember that what you eat doesn’t determine your worth. Your moral value depends on many things, but the ratio of Snickers bars to kale smoothies you’ve ingested in your lifetime is not one of them. Eat the fucking cake. Drink the fucking coconut water. Enjoy the chips or the chickpeas, but know that your food choices don’t make you better or worse than anyone else.

There is a similar narrative which tells us that ‘food is fuel’ – existing to help us get those gains, lose that tummy, grow that ass, and that’s fine. But food is more than just fuel. And we have to let ourselves be OK with that. Food is fuel, but it’s also celebration, comfort, enjoyment, togetherness, nostalgia, and sometimes, the only thing that’ll get you through a fucking rough hangover.

(I know that most people who read this know me personally. And those who know me personally know that I am not a slim woman. I am not now, and I never have been. Chances are I never will be. I know that some of those people who know me personally will read this and have thoughts like “LOL she’s just talking shit because she’s fat, maybe she should try eating less bad food every week trololololol”. I won’t label food, but I will label those people ‘bags of shit’)

Could you go back in time and not be such a dick?

Recently I visited some family who I don’t see very often, usually only a few times a year. On the day we were leaving, I put my child in her carseat, which prompted a midlevel meltdown from her. I then said goodbye to my relatives over the roof of the car, and made a face indicating how excited I was to deal with World War 3 that was happening in the vehicle. It was then I distinctly heard one of them say “Well, you shouldn’t have had a kid then”.

Excuse me? Fucking excuse me? How helpful is it to tell someone that the way to deal with a problem they are having right now is to go back in time. It’s an open secret among parents (and even some people who don’t have kids know) that once a baby comes out, you can’t put it back. No matter how loud it screams, or how many times it tells you it wishes you weren’t its mum. So don’t tell me that I shouldn’t have had a kid just because I’m not frothing at the bit to deal with the screeching of a tiny lunatic with a diminished capacity for rational behaviour.

Retrospective advice never helped anyone. No one ever overcame food poisoning because someone said “Oh you shouldn’t have eaten at that place”. No one’s arm has ever un-broken because someone said “Oh you shouldn’t have ridden that horse”. AND NO KID HAS EVER SHUT THE FUCK UP BECAUSE SOME DICKHEAD SUGGESTED THEY’D BE QUIETER IF THEY’D NEVER BEEN BORN.

Another stellar piece of wisdom I received recently is that “your kids pay you back for the kind of kid you were for your parents”. Huh? I heard this at a time when I felt really, really low. I wasn’t coping with being a mum, I wasn’t coping with being an adult person, I wasn’t coping with not coping, and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. The most well meaning people could say about as much as ‘Oh that sucks’, but what I needed was someone to say ‘Give me your precious baby who you love but cannot deal with right now and I will take her for the night and she will be fine and you can sit at home and drink three bottles of wine or go to bed at six o’clock or both if you like and she will be fine and I will bring her back to you happy and relaxed and she will be fine and you will be fine and you can do it because you are doing it but I can help you too. Let me help you’. But no one said that to me. Instead someone I did tell (who was a professional) said what basically amounted to ‘you deserve what you are getting and how you are feeling right now’. To anyone who has never been at such a low ebb, that probably sounds like an overreaction to a lighthearted comment. But to me, at that time, it felt like confirmation that the way I felt was my fault. I know that it wasn’t meant that way, that it wasn’t meant to make me feel even more helpless, but I think, when someone is feeling out of control or on the edge, the last thing you should tell them (no matter how vaguely), is that they put themselves there.

I have yet to meet a parent (or person in general) who likes receiving unsolicited advice. I got it in the supermarket when I was lumbering around at 15 months pregnant, I get it now, and I have a feeling it will happen for as long as people suspect (quite rightly) that I don’t actually know what I’m doing (so, by my calculations, the rest of my life). And I can accept that. I can. But only if the advice is “Yes. You buy that second wheel of camembert. And don’t give any to the demon snorting away in your trolley. She’s being a dickhead, and maybe that’s your fault, maybe it’s not, I don’t know – I’m only here to advise on cheese”.