I turned 30 this month. 10th of November if you all want to send belated presents and flowers.
This is not what I thought 30 would look like. In fact, this is exactly what 10, 15 and 25 year old Esther had been dreading me being:
an extremely independent solo woman with a cat climbing the corporate ladder.
Not that my dream was to be an extremely co-dependent girl with a dog and unemployed… but now that I think about it, I think it was, and a part of me still feels like it is.
I was listening to a panel discussion of women last year and they talked about how horrifying that one of them was skimming through the yearbook of a private high school, to see that the goals of a lot of the girls was to ‘marry rich’. These girls were privileged, received the best and most expensive kind of education in the country and yet all they wanted was to be a trophy wife.
And all I could think was… same, girl.
What I wanted at 10
I actually was not bought up on Disney movies, but instead my weakness was, and still is SpongeBob, Simpsons, South Park and any potty mouthed adult cartoon that I was watching in primary school that my parents let my brothers and I devour since they couldn’t understand English.
Instead of playing princesses, I was actually running around singing Unclefucker at the dear age of 10.
But somehow, that did not make me immune to the Princess dream. I wanted to be pretty and rich and marry someone hot and rich. Because that’s what the road to happiness is, right? You can’t be happy without having lots of money, being in love and being cute. Working hard is NOT the dream.
In real life, I was a total teacher’s pet who got attention for good grades and my writing (this will be a problem later).
What I wanted at 15
What may surprise many of you was that 15 year old me was boy crazy and ANGSTY. What fuelled me was that one day I would finish high school, get money for clothes, makeup and contact lenses and make a Princess Diaries transformation and marry the hottest boy I knew by 24 years old and pop out babies at 28.
I was obsessed with the typical sign of the times:
- Emo Prince Pete Wentz, who I thought was the hottest man alive
- Zac Efron (although it wouldn’t be until High School Musical 3 and 17 Again where he would BEAUTIFUL which is around 2012 and I was 15 in 2009)
- The ethnically ambiguous Taylor Lautner
- Jesse McCartney swimming in a dirty pool in the Beautiful Soul music video
In real life, I had laid out my practical path:
- Become the Arts and Culture Captain for Lynfield College in 2 years time
- Get a scholarship to university
- Not live with my parents forever
- Buy a house
I think this is where the cognitive dissonance, a.k.a contradiction, kicks in. While I was daydreaming that my meaning of life would be to share eyeliner with Pete, I was not actually practically doing stuff that would transform me into a groupie or trophy wife. If it was, I should’ve put all my efforts into looking good and trying to get a boyfriend.
All my real life achievements were just things that I wanted in the ‘real life’ – I think in the same way that you could be buying vegetables at the grocery store but day dreaming about eating creamy seafood pasta in seaside restaurant in Puglia, Italy.
Like yes, I want and will buy these vegetables/be the Arts and Culture Captain, but what REALLY keeps running through my brain and fuels me is that one day I will have a hot boy that is in love with and committed to me, and we shall honeymoon in Europe (this will also be a problem later).
What I wanted at 25
By 25, I’d done a lot of what I had ‘wanted’, and like everyone else, was not happy.
- Gotten a scholarship to university because of my work in high school
- Gone to the US on exchange for 6 months
- Had a (short) relationship and random hookups
- Gotten out of my toxic job which I hated
- Moved out of home
- Got on The Spinoff and came runner up in an American writing competition
- Gone on a European Contiki myself, after I realised that I couldn’t wait on a man to travel
I think my short relationship gave me a taste of what I was had dreaming about.
It honestly, at the time, felt like a movie to me. A boy that all the other girls fawned over. He reminded me of Zac Efron, also had an emo background listening to Fall Out Boy and watched Bob’s Burgers with me. He sent me beautiful messages, was thoughtful, and tried hard – and succeeded!- in making me feel special and beautiful. It was like I had just sat down and was eating the free bread at the seaside restaurant in Italy – my ultimate dream was coming true and I was high on anticipation for the pasta.
As sad as this is to admit, it was also the happiest I had ever been. It makes me cringe because none of my other achievements, which have required a lot more work from me, have ever made me as happy.
My brain loves feeling special and beautiful and all the other achievements don’t hit that hard, and this starts being a problem from now on.
What I want at 30
Then of course COVID hit, I opened my own business and am doing really well in my current full time job. I’ve bought my own house, given birth to a cat and I’ve done this all by myself and although I’m… pleased about the achievements. I wouldn’t say it gives me joy, because it all circles back to what I daydreamed about at 10, 15, 25, so basically my entire life – to be partnered up with the hottest guy I know.
I know I sound super ungrateful for all the things I have, so here, see if this makes me sound more proud: I did this all on my own with no parental support so no one gave this to me. There was very little luck involved but years in the making which is why I have a such a ‘take it for granted’ attitude.
I bought all the bricks and built it the way I wanted, so I am not surprised that this is how it turned out. This was not a bread to bake or a tree to grow but building blocks. I am not surprised I can stack them into a tower.
The fact that I did it all on my own depresses me tbh. It’s something that other people might be proud of, but growth for me, when I’ve been doing things independently my entire life, would be to do things in a partnership.
It bugs me, it bugs me. I can spend 10 – 15 years planning and saving to buy a house but I can’t do it to get into a relationship that I’ve been thinking of since I was 10? Like I’ve said before, I’ve seen people jump into relationships like its as easy as breathing and basically no millennial, including me up until the age of 29 even though I had planned for it, thinks buying a house in Auckland is realistic. And yet I’ve achieved the pipe dream? Even criminals in prison manage to get into relationships.
This blog really isn’t about me moaning about how single I am (although it always is), but also where this contradiction comes from.
I wasn’t bought up on Disney princess movies. My parents pushed me to succeed academically/always want me to get a job rather than a man. I have studied feminism in university and travelled the world. Where did I get this thought, and still have this thought, that my life’s dream would be for a hunky man to sweep me off my feet?
The only thing I can think of is society and my constant media consumption of these messages: Having kids after 30 is old. The wedding is basically the bride’s event. When you think of a woman who’s successful in their career but single with a cat, it’s a modern-day spinster. I might be brainwashed, but am I that brainwashed to value having a person commit to me for the rest of my life in that moment over a fruitful career? But at the same time, isn’t it obvious that I would? I don’t day dream of sitting in an office and writing endless emails.
I mean, what is the only way to have money, live a good life, feel special and beautiful and not spend your days doing the same thing over and over in front of a computer or customers?
Although as you get older, you do realise that those who marry for money work the hardest. Imagine having to entertain a gross old dude whose only redeeming quality is their money.