Despite what you might expect from the title of this piece, I was not psyched about turning 30. I really thought I’d be one of those people who glide into their fourth decade without as much as a shrug of care, but as the birthday approached I was filled a sense of impending doom. If you think I’m overreacting then you are absolutely right, but you’re probably also in your twenties so you can pipe down.
I’m not sure what I thought was going to happen. As an active woman (notice I no longer refer to myself as girl, which is a moot point really as that should have stopped at about 16 but extended well into my adult life – imagine if we called men in their twenties and thirties “boys”?!) I think there was some fear that my athletic “best” was behind me, that my body would slowly begin to shrivel up and deny me the sporting functions of my youth.
I thought it was likely all my sponsors would drop me, I would cease logistically and physically to be able to climb as much and gradually my life would morph into something unrecognizable and probably much less fun. Clearly I have an overactive imagination. Don’t judge me; pity me, a ruminating mind is rarely a stress free one.
Before you get too depressed (if you’re in your late twenties) or angry with me (if you are perhaps older than me) then I should quickly say that I was wrong to be filled with dread, that I was in fact unknowingly approaching one of the best periods of my life—climbing and otherwise .
Gone are the more self-conscious days of youth, the ups and downs of insecurity that could accompany any endeavor. Nowadays I know more about what I want and am far less likely to do the things I don’t want to do. Social or professional pressure feels like a nudge when it used to feel like a shove; my interpretation of interaction with others is no longer laced with doubt or worry. I am able somehow to take a lot more at face value; “water off a duck’s back” is a phrase I can newly identify with. Of course this didn’t happen overnight between 29 and 30: It has been a gradual shift that, until I saw the numbers change, I wasn’t so clearly aware of.
On the physical front, not only has my biology refrained from taking a nosedive, but I am much wiser as to its inner workings than I was. It’s comparable to driving a car: in my teens and twenties I had a brand new Ferrari but I didn’t know how to drive, now the Volvo estate I operate is running at its maximum efficiency due to my epic driving skills. That and I don’t mind driving slowly to get places, taking in the view has become more important. In a climbing context, I am wiser about climbing than I was; tactics, training, diet, mental performance and also just have a ton more confidence, experience and base skills to bring to the table. These things are gifts of time spent, of hours learning and immersing.
Jokes aside, at 31, I actually feel in the best shape of my life. I’m stronger, fitter, leaner and more agile than I was at 21 and I’m enjoying my physicailty immensely. Our modern world makes it hard for women to love and appreciate their bodies at any age, but this is a love I have embraced more easily in recent years. It’s hard to pinpoint how and why but there has been a shift into deep gratitude for what my body allows me to do and experience. We only get one and mine continues to serve me very well, thank you.
Of course I’m not alone in this glorious voyage to being an adult proper and there are many inspiring people to lead the way. Characters like Ben Moon, Steve McClure, Angela Eiter and, of course, Lynn Hill demonstrate only too clearly that being post-30 means nothing when it comes to climbing performance.
We see these feats across other sports, too. Chris Horner was 41 when he won the Vuelta a Espana (Spanish version of the Tour de France) in 2013 and, in Beijing, we saw Constantina Dita Tomescu win the Olympic marathon at 38 years young. Not to mention athletes like Roger Federer who, at the current age of 37, has dominated the tennis world with 20 grand slam titles.
Back to climbing and one of the benefits of getting older is that you seem to get more accolade for the a same accomplishment as a younger person (much like a woman versus a man):
“Did you hear so and so climbed X route?”
“Yeah I know, and they’re 30 something, that’s a good effort.”
Cue loud applause and many pats on the old back.
My impetus for writing this piece came from hearing a handful of comments here and there in climbing chat, probably entirely benign in intention, which mentioned the well known “bucket list” but used in reference to turning 30. For the record, the phrase “bucket list” is (according to good old Google):
“… derived from the English idiom ‘to kick the bucket’ which means ‘to die’. It is used in an informal way or as a slang and it is believed that the idiom comes from the hanging method of execution.”
So, for those of you not there yet, according to this ever so helpful narrative, when you turn 30 you are likely to die, specifically by hanging. So it’s not just that you might derail physically in a natural way, oh no, someone will make the decision to put you down. I’m going to start watching my back.
As a closing statement, I would like to put out a plea to stop this ridiculousness. Please refrain from talking about your bucket list unless you are in your 90s and actually might die soon. If you are in your twenties (and not faced with inevitable death anytime soon) and I hear you refer to your “bucket list”, I reserve the right (as your elder) to hit you with said bucket.
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, one of Rock and Ice’s online contributing writers, is a U.K.-based professional rock climber who loves to climb, learn and write. Her studies have taken her through many fields including Physiotherapy, Psychotherapy, Yoga, Meditation and Nutrition.
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