Yes, friends. It is my turn to be turning 30.
Enter midlife crisis?
Except, of course, things aren’t nearly as glum as they sound. Prejudice aside, I somehow look forward to entering my fourth decade. These 29-and-a-bit years were good fun – sometimes up, sometimes down but undisputedly moving in the right direction.
I will not lie to declare myself shamelessly happy in most aspects of life and am convinced life has been smiling at me pretty much non-stop. Initially painful, work in London became a joy as soon as I left an unnamed investment bank and joined EBRD. Exploring the world out of London turned out convenient and thus became a frequent – some of you will probably say excessively frequent – treat. Both on those trips and here in London, I have been meeting scores of refreshingly random people, keeping life interesting and sprouting several friendships I will always cherish. My persistently amateur photography has been a great time filler and occasionally generates pennies enough for a dinner out. Not to mention the most precious thing in the life of anjči as we know it – my wonderful boyfriend who, after over a decade of a beautiful friendship, suddenly fancied himself a new role.
In short, the simple fact of being alive has been great. And reaching 30 will not bring an end to it – rather, it will consolidate what has already happened and open a new leaf, as milestones tend to do. A leaf which will differ from my 20s – and, thank God, my teenage years – but will still be fun.
I will not make the usual speeches about how these years have flown by so quickly. Put simply, the years have not been flying by quickly. Each of them lasted exactly 12 months and brought so many memories, events and people that writing them out in detail would be impossible. I do not feel like I have ever wasted time – rather, I am amazed by how much has happened in my quasi-adult existence to date. Most importantly, I can finally talk to older people without having to pretend I understand absolutely everything and even make a stab at expressing an opinion or two every now and then. And yet I am only going to turn 30 this time. It has got to be a great age.
Peer pressure et al
Many of my peers recently turned 30, too. It seems like an absolute majority consider it their duty to mark the occasion in one way or another. There is certainly no limit to human imagination; a female friend of mine and her twin sister (obviously sharing in the jubilee) headed to one of London’s prime night clubs where the pair were last seen emptying a glass of champagne through a split straw. Another female friend went further and flew her dearest lady pals to New York, if only to dress up as Sex And The City characters and look jolly on photos hugging loyal servants of the NYPD.
However, both faded to a certain male banker friend of mine. His 30th was to be remembered – staged in one of London’s private gentlemen’s clubs in the company of 30 (but of course) handpicked guests, it featured a formal seating ceremony, personalised menus and a price tag in excess of 60 pounds for not-exactly-too-much-food. I was invited but couldn’t make it – which, given that all but one representative of the fair gender showed up wearing heels (which I last ventured in 2001), was possibly better for everyone involved.
With so much celebratory activity around, it is no wonder that I, too, considered making a certain date this July a little bit more special than the others. The problem was twofold. First, no matter how hard I tried, I would be challenged to beat my 29th birthday, which, incidentally, happened last year. Back then I found myself in Ilulissat, Greenland, soaring up into the brilliantly blue skies on a helicopter and hovering over one of the world’s largest glaciers. Naturally, the lucky birthday girl got to sit in the front seat, too – beat that, folks.
Second, I am not exactly famous for lavish birthday celebrations. My nearest resemblance of a birthday gathering was in 2007, and even that was a low-key drinks session in the City. Most of my other birthdays can best be remembered for being painfully forgettable – indeed I had to note down my 27th and 28th birthdays in writing to remember what I actually did (the highlight of one, as far as I can recall, was ordering a white chocolate mocha at Starbucks). No, I do not get depressed progressing up the age scale. The problem is that I celebrate life year round, with notable peaks around my holiday breaks. Highlighting one particular day in a year thus seems somewhat unnatural.
Unless it is the day of the Eurovision finals, of course. But those always happen in May, not July.
Clearly in need of some guidance, I looked for 30th birthday ideas online. Sadly, most of those were decidedly uninspiring. I have a feeling that “writing down 30 things that make you a rock star” is best done when you are 12, not 30. Same goes for “sampling all 31 flavours of Baskin Robbins ice cream”. Taking a “30-day retreat to my favourite destination” is not exactly anything new given I seem to be flying places non-stop. And hosting a “birthday bash with 30 friends” is frankly old – my cool banker friend above did exactly that, for a start.
Overall, these online tips seem to assume two things. First, that number 30 has to feature there in some form (sadly there aren’t 30 flavours of Baskin Robbins ice cream though) and, secondly, that we all have to descend back into the joys of childhood to celebrate being 30 properly.
All I was after though was a tested, old-fashioned way of doing something I had barely even thought of before. Something that did not feature 30 anywhere (the whole candle business should frankly stay in one’s teenagehood) yet exuded the maturity of the age. Something traditional yet fun to engage even the most uninteresting of us humans.
And what more boring individuals to think of than the British royalty? As much as I love them (being a converted Brit myself), let’s face it, the folks are leading tearfully boring lives. Getting up in the morning is a ceremony. Designated appointees do most of the talking for you. And any attempt of individuality – be it a night out drinking or playing wild games in the group of friends (with cameras) – gets nothing but public rattling in the end. It must be really boring to turn 30 like a royalty. In fact, it must be really boring to be a royalty, full stop.
Bingo – it was exactly what I needed.
I first checked how Kate Middleton chose to celebrate her 30th. As expected, the Duchess of Cambridge reportedly opted for a “low-key private” event – whatever that means. I immediately imagined a long table of people in hats, headed by Her Majesty the Queen looking at least as bored as she did at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I could not help feeling a little sorry for poor Kates. But then again, frivolities are not for royalties.
Predictably, the next person on my list was Kate’s (younger) royal husband, Prince William. While his last milestone birthday (the 21st) featured 300 guests and an African fancy dress theme, the prince had visibly aged since. See for yourselves – his 30th birthday was allegedly spent in Anglesey, Wales (where Princes of Wales tend to live), with Kate and a small gathering of “close friends and family” by his side. Further described as an “intimate affair” in my source, the occasion also featured a breakfast in bed lovingly prepared by the Duchess. Bless.
Blame the hapless breakfast in bed, but the idea of a quiet 30th birthday in a family circle suddenly seemed blissful. The last birthday I celebrated at home – in Riga – was my 16th back in 1999; the “family circle” turned out more of a myth as my father was at sea and the girl I liked least at school knew no better than gate-crash our intimate enclosure with mum. I fail to remember if I ended up offering her some cake – but, given it later turned out to be slightly off, I certainly hope so.
And so the plan has gained shape. For my upcoming 30th birthday I will not be flying to New York, entertaining 30 guests or, most emphatically, sampling Baskin Robbins ice-cream. Instead I will board a humble Air Baltic flight to Riga on a Friday night, wake up wrapped in my old blue sheets with teddy bears on them, pay about a 6-pounds equivalent for a revolutionary asymmetric haircut at a hairdresser’s in the depths of Sarkandaugava, head to the city centre to meet my beloved Englishman for lunch and end up back at mum’s place for dinner. Dad’s presence would be very welcome but I do not think he’ll be leaving his ship somewhere off-shore in Korea and flying to Riga for the day.
It will be a truly leisurely, intimate affair – a simple, stress-free 30th birthday I will spend with two people who really matter. As a low-key private event. Those royalties possibly have a good point there.
And you know what? They may not even be that boring, after all.