Just wait and see, and then I did not

A funny little thing as I grow older, is that my concept of time feels somewhat warped. Either things are going really slow or really fast, there seems to be no inbetween anymore. I either feel like I am 11 or 88. Becoming 30 is weird.

Of course when you are not 30, right up until you are 29 or so, it feels very far away. And most people around me liked to sum up all the things I for sure would do, change or become before or once I hit that milestone. It is now becoming 50, but that is way too far ahead for now. So I thought it would be a good moment to take up stock and see if these predictions were actually true or not.

  1. Having a lot of stuff: not true

    Up ’till I moved to China 5 years ago, I loved having stuff. Almost half of it was with my parents, because I did not feel like moving it around all the time, and the other half I mostly used. I also tended to buy quite some physical things still, mainly books. Which are great to read, but also pretty heavy to carry. Then I moved 4 times in the last 5 years, and my view changed. I started to question this whole idea of wanting or needing to have stuff, and managed to cut down on a lot of it. Being back in the Netherlands, having almost everything in 1 spot now and knowing what I have is very satisfying. I thought things would just pile up as I got older, but it turned out to be a choice, not a natural course of life.

  2. Not fitting in my clothes anymore: (mostly) not true

    I used to consume a lot of food, and I still do especially compared to most Dutch people. When I was younger, I combined this with a fast metabolism, half-hearted attempts at sports and generally convincing myself I was okay with not being very thin. Fast forward to 2019 and I started doing aerial silks fanatically. Not only is it the first sport in years that I actually enjoy, but it is also a pretty good way to ensure I am not going to grow out of my clothes anytime soon. Only perhaps in shoulder width, but my belly is flatter than it was 5 years ago. Also, now owning multiple pairs of yoga pants will also help me fitting in my clothes for the next 10 years.

  3. Getting children: not true

    I have never really liked children and it is larely mutual. I try to look menacing to any kid that comes within 1.5 meters reach. When I was still young, around 12 or something, my mom once joked that there could be babies falling from the skies. I told her mortified that I would never go out again if that happened. Many people tell me I would change my mind once I would become older. I have not yet and I do not think it will happen. Especially now have the age where more people around me get babies and I see more of them. Babies are not cute, they cannot do anything themselves and they cannot communicate anything clearly. I would much rather have a cat in that case.

  4. Stop crying: not true

    How I wish this one would be true. I do not bruise easily, but I cry really easily. I think for the longest time I held out hopes that I would grow out of it and when I was younger I had the perception that adults never or only rarely cried. Perhaps it would only happen around the times that my hormones were whack and I could blame my period. Alas, it did not work and it is probably the reason I drink 6 liters of tea every day. I need to keep myself hydrated so I am ready whenever I need to be.

  5. Reading the paper daily: true

    With one of my best friends I have the running jokes that everything I know or hear about I get from the newspaper. It is true about 90% of the time. I used to be very ignorant about the news and everything happening in the world, probably like more teenagers, but it all changed in my second year of university. I took some journalism courses and learned to understand the importance of knowing what is happening around you. Further than your parents’ backyard. I now think time spent reading the news is time well-spent. I will become one of those elderly people who will complain about all the bad things happening and how it was better in my days. I am earnestly practicing for it.

It is all about them young’uns

Among all the changes and developments that happened recently, I could not imagine my 30th birthday would be really quiet and memorable at the same time. As it goes when you ‘hit a new milestone’ in life, a lot of people asked about my feelings. I like to think I must have at least defied expectations a little bit when I replied that I actually somewhat looked forward to it.

Especially in China, everyone looks a lot younger then they often are. I feel a lot of parents look way too young to be walking around with kids of their own. And it gets tricky when seeing older women to determine if they are a mother or grandmother already. Besides whitening, I think most people are very focused on staying youthful. Perhaps because of the polluted air, the fact that all photos (including official passport photos) get retouched or the ubiquity of plastic surgery commercials, there are many ways to be reminded of the fleetingness of your youth.

To be honest, when I see images of very old people (85 and over in my opinion) they do not seem really attractive or anything. At the same time, I imagine it must be nice to sort of leave all of the pressures of looks and appearances behind (provided you are not a celebrity).

Furthermore, looking at some of the other older people around me, especially now that I do not see that many people around my age due to quarantine anymore, I fully admire their peace with most things in life (except for the cleanliness of the place they live). For Chinese elderly, there is an added feat of general fitness that I also hope to keep up in my old age.

Having become 30, I already feel more comfortable in some ways with life and myself than the past 5 years. At the same time, though life passes really quickly (now especially), I feel I still have so many years to go (without too many real problems hopefully) before I will enter my ‘full retirement’. Well, for now I can already enjoy having that status for any future kids and teens I will meet. A good way to already get used to the idea at least.

I feel pretty

It is actually quite funny how I am basically called out either as ‘hey beauty’ or ‘hey auntie’ on the Chinese streets here.

In the Netherlands, we normally know that we are real adults once strangers start ‘Miss’ing’ you. “Dear Miss, you forgot this.” “Excuse me Miss, do you know the way?” “Miss, can I help you with something?”

Here in China, I had sort of the same feeling when I somewhat transcended seamlessly from ‘sister’ to ‘auntie’. A change that I am still not too happy about. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the ‘hey beauty’ (or ‘hey hunk’ for all those handsome boys out there) that I get called multiple times a day whenever I step a foot outside of my office. This might also tell you something about the office I work at and about my looks, but let us not go there for now.

Of course nobody on the streets means the description literally. It has gone so far that I do not think these terms are used to actually describe a beautiful girl or handsome boy anymore. Having kids and parents call me auntie, actually irritates me in 2 ways.

First, it of course makes me feel older. I already experienced this when my nieces and nephews got kids, most of them being around 5-7 years older than I, and realizing I was suddenly an aunt.

Second, I associate it with a certain familiarity or warmth that I do not possess. I think most aunties in stories are warm and forgiving. They are the surrogate mothers where kids can get candy and have fun and play. I do not have such feelings for random kids. At all.

At the same time, I am wondering where exactly the limit is when I will only get called auntie. Or perhaps there is a specific name they use for gorgeous 50+ year olds that I only know once I enter that club? One more thing to look forward to as  I get older.stock-rose-1525145_1920.jpg

How to get old really quickly

No, not your Facebook timeline. Nothing happens on there anyway, especially when you are in China.

So, a while ago I had a talk with a friend of mine on relationships, age, marrying children and such a future that many people envision for themselves. We already both agreed it would not happen in our foreseeable future, you can read a previous Dutch post for more on that, but there are of course different views on the course of life. Specifically, in China where many people seem to be 5-10 years younger than they are. So this results in seeing women walking around your age with babies or children of age 4 or even older. And parents who would seem quite old with a little kid, but quite young again when they turn out to be the kid’s grandparents. It was not for nothing that I had the idea you could only become a grandmother or father once you were over 70 years old.

But not only do people tend to get kids a bit earlier here, there is more pressure earlier to get kids too. My friend and I based it off a timeline, in which people’s views change quite quickly and radically within a few years. It basically goes like this:

1.  18-21 years old

You are still young and innocent, studied long and hard to get into your university and need to focus whole-heartedly on your studies. Do not waste your time on such frivolous activities like dating or partying. You are still young. You will find love once you are ripe for it.

2.  22-24 years old

Okay, you are done with university, found a good or otherwise stable job. It is now time to actively think about the next steps. You cannot stay alone for the rest of your life of course. And your parents and family is also not getting younger as years pass by. Find that partner you want to stay with the rest of your life and make your life complete.

3.  25-27 years old

You have worked for a while now and probably saved up quite some money. What are you going to spend it on without spouse and a house? You are missing out and very quickly, your family will be too. Youth is fleeting and your parents’ worries will only increase. Is that what you want them to feel?

4. 28-30 years old

It is too late. You are old and need to settle down as soon as humanly possible. You might have a good job, a fun life and be an interesting person in general, but it just does not cut it. Do you not want your parents to know their grandchildren? Who is going to want you at this age? Who will take care of you once you are old? In short, you are a failure.