Dirty, 30 and thriving: Gen Z’s unconventional guide to adulting

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Jul 8, 2023 at 08:45 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Alright, we need to have a serious chat about the impending doom that, as scary as it is, is awaiting all of us gen Zers. Yes, I’m talking about the long-dreaded milestone of turning 30—something that is lurking closer than ever for me. Cue the anxiety, the existential crisis, the full-body sweats, and the overwhelming feeling that life as we know it is about to implode. Get ready for the big 3-0 to snatch away your carefree days and replace them with mortgages, responsibilities, a sudden interest in inflation, and a seemingly endless supply of adulting challenges.

I mean, seriously, can we just take a moment to contemplate the sheer horror of it all? We’re expected to morph into fully-functioning adults, with responsibilities and hemorrhaging bank accounts, while still battling for the best social media presence, and severe amounts of FOMO no matter how hard we try to find the time to socialise like we used to. It’s like being trapped in a real-life episode of Black Mirror, where the expiration date of our youth is fast-approaching.

As if that isn’t enough to send us spiraling further into a quarter-life crisis, our friends start throwing these ‘dirty 30’ parties, or ‘welcome to the funeral of my 20s’, as if turning 30 is some kind of scandalous achievement that an increasingly climate anxious gen Z wondered if they’d even live to see.


How I feel about turning 30 🥴🎈 #dirtythirty #aries #fyp

♬ original sound - Alisunea Aenusila

Suddenly, conversations revolve around investments, and the best vacuum cleaner to get rid of pet hair successfully. Hold on a second, were we supposed to have our lives perfectly sorted out at 30? I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to remember where I put my house keys this morning.

I remember how much I used to love Freaky Friday, and how I used to sit in front of the TV, daydreaming about swapping bodies with a business mum in her 30s. I so desperately wanted to fast-forward through the messiness of adolescence and dive headfirst into the glamorous world of adulthood, but now that we’re on the cusp of it, why does it feel more like a funeral for our carefree days rather than a joyous celebration?

A lot of gen Zers in the same position as myself will soon be grappling with the anxiety of leaving our roaring 20s behind and stepping into the uncharted territory of our 30s. It’s a time when society expects us to have our lives together, complete with successful careers, stable relationships, and, of course, a picture-perfect Instagram feed.

But let’s not panic just yet. After all, weren’t we the generation that grew up with an uncanny ability to navigate the treacherous world of social media? We’ve seen it all. From enduring what felt like a never-ending pandemic (I’m still patiently awaiting a refund for the three years of my life spent on never-ending Zoom calls by the way), to witnessing the dramatic rise and fall of Vine and the glorious reign of TikTok, and surviving the constant barrage of Keeping Up With the Kardashians without morphing into one of their clones… Gen Z has fearlessly weathered it all.

We’ve conquered countless trends, challenges, and viral sensations. So, why on earth should the mere thought of turning 30 send us spiraling into a full-blown existential meltdown? We bought into the idea that life truly began at 30 when everything would fall into place. But now, as we approach that milestone, it’s impossible to not wonder if we were bamboozled.

Suddenly, conversations shift from discussing Netflix’s latest must-binge to comparing retirement plans and investment portfolios. And don’t even get me started on the abundance of articles preaching about “30 things you should have accomplished by thirty.” It’s enough to make us want to crawl back into the comfort of our childhood bedrooms and rot in bed for the next decade.

But here’s the thing, my fellow gen Z troopers: life doesn’t come with a set timeline. We’re all on our own unique journeys, figuring things out at our own pace. Some of us may have thriving careers, while others are still exploring different paths. Some may have found their soulmates, while others are happily single or in the midst of complex romantic entanglements. And let’s not forget about the countless adventures we’ve had along the way, the memories we’ve made, and the lessons we’ve learned.

Sure, the world may feel like a real-life Black Mirror episode at times. Climate change, political turmoil, and a never-ending stream of problematic creators being cancelled. But guess what? We’re not solely to blame for all the world’s problems, no matter what those opinion pieces may say. We’re a generation that’s unafraid to speak up, fight for what we believe in, and challenge the status quo. We’ve got the power to make a difference, even if it feels like we’re swimming against the current.

So, as we navigate the murky waters of impending adulthood, let’s remember to embrace our inner child. It’s okay to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the simpler days when our biggest worry was whether we’d finish our homework in time to catch the latest episode of our favourite TV show. It’s okay to feel a tinge of sadness as we bid farewell to our messy yet beloved 20s. But let’s not let that overshadow the excitement of what lies ahead.

Turning 30 doesn’t mean we have to abandon our youthful spirit or conform to society’s rigid expectations. Embrace the uncertainty, and keep rocking those mismatched socks and quirky pop culture references.

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