Since turning thirty, I have definitely felt a huge change – clarity and calm at long last. That old saying ‘’Don’t sweat the small stuff (because it’s all small stuff)’’ is certainly hard to realise when you’re in the thick of your twenties, but nothing is more true. I am sure that I am not the first to say that it was like a light came on and everything finally became clear.
I have since wondered if this feeling is accessible before this age, whether we can feel this free earlier in our lives in order to live better and love ourselves.
Aged 29, fearing the birthday, I experienced a recurring dream – a gaudily decorated cake saying “FUCK!’’ I’d never really been bothered by birthdays before so I told friends about it and asked for their input. They simply put it down to my love of cakes and baking crossing over into the subconscious.
So why was 30 trying to conquer me before I’d even reached the milestone?
I’d never really even worried about ticking all of the life boxes – find a husband, buy a house, get a dog, have kids – as trying to attain all of these things is like shopping in a hurry – stressful and hopeless. Nothing in this life is guaranteed, so worrying about it is nothing more than a surefire way to get more wrinkles (even though we embrace those too). This life happens only once, so to spend such a huge portion of it freaking out about what other people think of us just seems ridiculous.
After a hefty amount of time as a fabulous single lady, I chose to run away to Paris when I was a fortnight shy of my 25th birthday. I overcame hurdles of every description – finding a flat, job and friends. I ended up spending a good three years living in nine palacial metres squared in what they call a ‘chambre de bonne’ – a maid’s room- high up above the proper residences. Friends called it Parisian steerage and The Shoebox. Here, free of the woes of such luxuries as one’s own toilet or kitchen, I learnt a lot about myself and spent as much time as possible exploring the city, taking photos and learning about French banter at brasserie bars. I eventually graduated to a proper apartment, moving in prematurely with Julien, the très Parisien boyfriend with whom I would spend the remaining 3.5 years.
Safe to say I returned to Australia single, but not the same lady. Now fluent in French and allergic to bullshit, I am strong, liberated and full of beans for the next chapter of this amazing life. I have created my own business, meaning that every day I love my job, I’ve amassed a brilliant worldwide network and I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I owe a lot to the support I received from both my friends and family at home in Melbourne and my Paris crew who could tell I was in need of a change. I’m even grateful to the taxi driver who helped dry my tears as he took me to the airport to leave the city I loved so dearly.
I owe a lot of my liberation of self to spending years in Europe, where body issues surely exist but don’t overhwhelm people like in Australia. Women freely remove their bikini tops and apply their tanning oil while chatting to friends like it ain’t no thang. Because it ain’t no thang.
Nowadays I have no issue with my body or anyone seeing it. I have posed nude for Parisian sculptors and spent many delicious hours lazing in the hamam in just bikini bottoms. When you reach this kind of freedom, you wonder why on earth you spent so much time worrying about it all.
I once had a French boyfriend who had asked me “Why don’t you look like her?” to which I didn’t the take much offence to because it was preposterous, but has helped to identify yet another behaviour that I will not tolerate. As a kid whose favourite book was ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ wondering when the hell I’d turn into that damn swan, this was a dangerous thing for him to have said to me. All of the time I was the swan, I just didn’t allow myself to see it.
I feel fabulous at 33 and would love to share it with someone special, but I am happy to have reached a point in my life where the only thing that brings me down a little bit is the slight worry that I may have missed the boat to meet someone wonderful.
Written by Katie Thompson
Katie Thompson is a photographer and general creative type from Melbourne, Australia