Ogonna was the first person who ‘really’ spoke to me during my service year. We met after I was posted to a small Finance house in Festac. Something about the way she craned her head over her cubicle to say hello made me know we would become friends. She was that kind of person, cheery, soft-spoken and all-embracing.
Also, she was 29 ½ years old. The fact of her age played like constant background song in our friendship. Almost thirty. An almost thirty-year-old woman who worked in a small Finance house and had no husband, or children or boyfriend. Back then, the thought of Ogonna being single and thirty was as troubling to my 22-year-old mind as the idea that such a thing could happen to just about anyone.
And then the years went by
In all the futures I imagined for myself, there was never one where I turned thirty and was sitting behind a small wooden bench with work that seemed to hold no meaning and a singleness I could not outgrow. So, the day I turned thirty, I convinced myself this was the greatest failure of my life. This awkward, word-eating, can’t-believe-it fact of singleness. My thirty-year-old plan was a thriving career along with marriage and kids, and I no longer knew how to adjust the script as I went along.
Life can be funny
The thing about arriving at your ‘worst nightmare’ is that you go back to sleep, only to wake up to the same aching hunger. Forget external pressures – aunties who want to know when it will be your turn, uncles who harass you about finding the one, a mother who drags you through conversations about losing time. And so, you are there, juggling all the mortifications with an endurance you have mastered over the years, wearing the perfect smile as the questions and pressures fall heavily on your back.
My point is…
I get it. I get that there are pressures, social and otherwise. And I also get that sometimes the hunger could be simple as wanting something and watching it hang so high that you can’t seem to reach it even with your farthest stretch. I get that it gets so hard sometimes that you get tempted to say yes to the person you know you shouldn’t be with. And I get that there are seasons when engagements will spring from every corner of the world and love will sit so visibly in the air, offering itself to the circle you keep follow on Instagram. And I get how you feel about people who say that marriage is not easy but how they don’t sound convincing when they are snuggled in their partner’s arm in a public event. I get it. And I get you!
So, what happens after thirty?
You live, anyway! With joy and self-ownership. You get out of bed and take pride in the promise of each day. You eat Sharwarma and travel and acquire new skills and meet people and have crushes and show kindness and tweet and have your doubts but recover quickly. Also, you shed the ideas of timelines the world imposes.
You fall in love with yourself in a way that is fresh and present, you forgive the ex, you ignore the ex, you celebrate a win, you show up as the best aunty in the world, the best friend, the best employee, the nearly best driver in Lagos. And you become – every day – a better version of who you used to be.
You dream and keep your hungers and anticipate a happy future, and then, you do it all over again. Because you are here, thirty-something or not, you are alive and you are happening and as someone wrote, “everything good will come”.