• Clare O'Sullivan

The (in)Significance of Thirty-One

Updated: Sep 23, 2018

Thirty-one. What a non-age.

Thirty should have been the big one. On the outside it was. Lots of parties. Drinking gin out of teapots, champagne for breakfast, eating my own weight in cake, big birthday trip. It just kept giving and giving. But I didn’t feel anything. It was just like any other birthday. It didn’t feel significant, despite my friends and family watching from the side-lines waiting for my 30s panic of “right, now it’s time to get serious and start getting my shit together” (As an actor I get this looming feeling on average twenty six times a week, but other than that there was nothing out of the ordinary.)

Thirty-one was different.

The haha novelty of turning thirty- I’m thirty, that’s hilarious turned into “no, that was not a false alarm, you are, in fact, in your thirties. Seriously.”

Thirty-one started with a swim in London Fields Lido, then rehearsals for a show, from there on to teach my Friday yoga class after which I just strolled around feeling 31 (which sounds ridiculous but I never felt 30. It’s like it didn’t register. I just went 29 to 31). In the evening I met the birthday boy (We were both born on August 17th a year apart) for ice-cream, strolls, cocktail (yes, singular for me) dinner and an early night. It felt like the best day ever. I didn’t feel the need to gather friends, make a big deal or do anything “significant”. Yet everything was so significant. I spent the day doing exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel the “shoulds”, I have so often felt in the past, that I “should” have a party, I “should” go out, I “should” do… whatever. This had completely disappeared and I was so comfortable just being. And at one point in the afternoon I’m sitting there on the street alone thinking I am so happy right now. Alone. Feeling excited to be okay with the possibility that if I want to celebrate my birthday by sitting on the kerb alone in Covent Garden post-teaching looking at the people traffic pass, well then PARTY ON GIRL!

Spending time with myself, enjoying my own company isn’t something I have always been comfortable with. I would never have been comfortable to bring myself for a coffee if I wasn’t working on my laptop, or go to a show alone. That changed this year. A friend recommended the book The Artist’s Way after I hit a bit of a wall. Among all sorts of tasks you have to do each week is the “artist’s date”. Basically you have to take yourself off on play date. Alone. Something fun, curious, whatever, as long as it’s just you. I was out of my comfort zone (kind of the point). Shock horror to realise I could actually go to see a show ALL ALONE. Get a drink for ONE. Sit in the theatre ON MY TOD. And actually have a good time. Mind blown. How did I not consider this a possibility before?! And to think of all the films, shows, gigs I have missed out on because no one was free to come. I was free to go! ME! Take me! But I didn’t. I didn’t consider myself on option. Seriously- is that just me, or has anyone else felt that way? Well holy shit, when I did realise I could just go where I wanted, when I wanted sans date, I was like party for one coming through, step aside! Loving life.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a people person. I love the company of others and I can chat until I give myself lock jaw when in the mood. Others make our lives. Connection is everything. Togetherness. But we can’t really be together until we bring our full selves to the party. And how do we even know our full selves if we don’t hang out with ourselves? When the party is over you're left with yourself.

I bought myself a ring for my 31st birthday. The first birthday present I’ve ever bought myself. It has a green stone. I’m always drawn to the colour green. The colour of the heart chakra. It’s a reminder ring. A reminder to consider myself. A reminder to ask myself how I’m feeling, as well as asking everyone else. A reminder to talk less shit to myself, and spent a little more time sweet talking. We spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, so we might as well start enjoying it.

Nicer to ourselves, nicer to others. Everyone’s a winner.

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