Why are you doing this?

Hi, I’m Jon and I turned 30 in January 2017. This fact is causing me to have an existential crisis.

Why? Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin for one. Adrien Brody and Jennifer Lawrence for another. Hell, if we’re going the whole hog, let’s throw in Joan of Arc, Alexander the Great, Malala Youzafsai, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and Michelangelo. The scale and breadth of achievement by human beings under the age of 30 is staggering.

Let me preface this entire project by saying that I’m particularly aware of how lucky I am to be in a position where I can even question my life and goals. Without wanting to come across as an over-privileged whiner, it’s that very degree of choice that has brought me to this point.

I want to achieve something big in my life. ‘Something’ is the key word here. I don’t know what it is, but I want to do, be or create something special, and I’m feeling the window of opportunity fractionally closing with each passing day.

I know I’m not going to be able to run around and do crazy things for much longer, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this pressure.

Like plenty of people my age, I’ve followed the on-the-rails life plan that we unboxed at about 8 years old. From what I can tell, it goes a little like this:

  1. Get your GCSEs
  2. Get your A levels
  3. Go to University
  4. Pick a career
  5. Start that career
  6. Get into your second or third job
  7. Panic

Somewhere between steps 6 and 7, plenty of my friends and colleagues have had a cold sweat moment, where they’ve thought, “is this path I’ve laid out the one I want to be on, or should I make a bolt for the door now and try something totally different before it’s too late?”

Up to this point, I’ve been in a state of fear-induced decision paralysis. It feels a little like being that henchman in Austin Powers who screams for about 3 minutes before he gets crushed by a steamroller going at 2 miles an hour.

It’s often said that people fear what they don’t understand, and it’s often said a lack of understanding is caused by a lack of information.

That’s why I’ve started this project.

My aim is to gather as much information as possible, from as many sources as possible, in order to come to a better understanding of what it is to be a 30 year-old person.

I want to close this little explanation with a quote from Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. It hit me like a cartoon anvil – in the spirit of honesty, not from the novel itself, but from Aziz Ansari’s exceptional Netflix series Master Of None:

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked.

One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn’t quite make out.

I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

I feel like it’s time to start picking figs. This project is designed to help me decide which one before they all blacken.