The "Right Side of Twenty-Five" (And Why I'm Looking Forward To Thirty).

Daley Grace Sweeting
PHOTO: Daley Grace Sweeting

PHOTO: Daley Grace Sweeting

I remember being in my early twenties and hearing people talk about their life goals and their urgency to achieve them before they reached 25. Anyone who had passed the twenties mid-point and was seemingly unaccomplished had, well, failed. Harsh, right?

When I was 19, it was my dream to become a songwriter. I networked, I collaborated, had meetings, tried to be in the right place at the right time. I continued in this manner for a few years and, at points here and there, I felt like I was gaining traction. I wasn't. 

When I was 21, I got my first full-time job. Something I had been avoiding for a long time because I wanted to "focus on my art." The job was in retail, paid a fraction above minimum wage and took up at least 40 hours of my week. For the first six months, I would work my shifts and then trek across London for studio time in the evenings. It was exhausting, but worth it, I told myself. People around me were starting to get recognition; people I had written for. Surely it wouldn't be long before I got my lucky break. But the reality was that it is incredibly challenging to serve two masters. I found that either I was too exhausted to write anything good, or I was so tired from late night studio sessions that I would be rendered non-functional at work. Something had to give: at the end of the day, I knew that my rent needed paying and my belly needed feeding. So I put music on the backburner for a little while. But I was still in my early 20s; I had plenty of time.

Then 22 came, and then 23, etc. and before I knew it I was in a zombie-like state of deep depression. I felt like a failure, I hated my day job, and my music dream was getting further away. By the time I had hit 25 I had given up on chasing the dream altogether and focussed entirely on finding a day job that gave me some sort of satisfaction. I had passed my prime, so now the only thing left to do was earn a respectable salary for my age bracket.

Now and then I would sit at my piano and get bursts of reignited passion for my craft. I would daydream about giving it another try; sometimes I'd even get as far as stepping into a studio. But then shame would set in. I was getting too old for this. How pathetic it was that I was still at the starting line after all these years. Who would take me seriously now? So I gave up. Again. I went through this cycle multiple times, each time adding a layer of depression that made life near impossible to wade through.

Then, when I was nearing my 28th birthday, something happened. I can't quite put my finger on what, but I began to question the outlook I had burdened myself with all these years. I remember listening to a bunch of Rupaul podcasts where he talked about Saturn Returns and about how 28 was the start of a big turning point for him. He also talked about how Oprah didn't get her big break until her late 20s/early 30s, which got me thinking about the number of successful people that didn't give up on their dreams just because they had reached an arbitrary age:

  • J.K. Rowling was in her 30s when Harry Potter became a success.
  • Kerry Washington was 35 when she became the star of the hit show, Scandal (although I have loved her since Save The Last Dance!)
  • Viola Davis was 43 when the world (finally) took notice of her brilliance.
  • Dame Judi Dench got her first on-stage lead role at the age of 34. 
  • Sia was in her late 30s when the hit-single Chandelier was released off her sixth album (sixth!) It became her first song to chart on the US Billboard Hot 100.

I thought of my friends in their 30s and 40s: they were happy, content, successful, weren't they? They can't all have had their shit together at 25. My dad didn't like the job he had so he went back to university in his 40s to study to become a teacher and loves what he does.

With this new perspective, I was able to begin looking at my circumstances more clearly. It was unmistakable that my life had come leaps and bounds since my quarter-century. I've learned a bunch of lessons. I'm more confident in who I am, more financially stable, my skin clearer, hair longer and creative talents still very much intact.  And the older I get, the less I give a damn about what anyone thinks. That's huge for me - I've been waiting to shed this teenage-angst for years!

So the way I see it, things can only get better from here. I know Carrie Bradshaw once said "Your 20s are for [enjoying] yourself; your 30s are to learn the lessons," but I actually think it's the other way around.