‘Things To Do Before You Die’...Or Become Thirty?

Like most women (and some men) of a certain age, I did what every other person did as soon as they could log on to Netflix: I tuned into the first instalment of the reunion series of Gilmore Girls, ready for the soothing balm of the intro music to bring me back to my ‘happy place’, Stars Hollow. Stars Hollow, let’s face it, has always been there for us. If all else in the world seems not to make sense, all that is needed is some rapid mother-daughter jousting and affirmation that it’s okay to eat a shit-tonne of baked and/or fried goods for breakfast, even though it’s totally disgusting and not actually advisable at all. Throw in a passionate town meeting, a bashful romance, some Hep Alien and all your troubles melt away. Basically, everything is okay…even if for one brief moment it appears not to be. That has always been the appeal of the show for me: safety and fantasy.

Mark my surprise then, when the long-awaited reunion was not what I expected it to be (I’ve only watched half of it - I know, sacrilege! – because I don’t want it to end just yet…). Now, the teaser had already let me know that Richard dies and Emily is left on her own, Lorelai is fatherless and Rory is bereft of the frankly only other sensible person in her family, to talk to. However, this was Gilmore Girls grown up. There was no safety, there was no quick-witted band aid for this wound. When the credits rolled and homage was paid to Edward Herrman, it was even more real: finally Gilmore Girls was not fantasy, but reality; it more closely resembled life for a girl approaching her thirties, a place that Rory is now navigating like a kite in a storm, directionless and pretending that not having a clue about what to do next is fun.

Unfortunately, the Gilmore Girls reunion has made me think about my own life, in a wholly unexpected turn of events. I’d tuned in for a warm and fuzzy celebration of coffee, small town charm and the famous Lorelai sixth sense: snow detection… The lives of both Lorelai and Rory have got me wondering where I should be in life and if it matters that where I am is not where I am expected to be. Seeing all that Emily and Richard’s lives have amounted to, it has made me hope to God that I have more to show than a house and memories of my Uni days.

The biggest shock for me, and I feel ashamed to admit it, is that Rory hasn’t seemed (yet, remember I’m only 50% through) to have done very much with her Yale degree. That sounds awful and I know that the climate for jobs is extremely hard, but the Rory in her thirties, flitting about almost recklessly, dabbling here and there in various writing gigs, is just not Rory to me. Rory, whilst making a few inadvisable choices (stealing a yacht, for example) plays it safe. She would not let her life meander in the manner in which she seems to be in the early stages of the reunion. Thinking about my disappointment in her character has led me to introspectively deal with my own choices. I’ve been such a Rory with my life; I did the degree thing and a Masters and eventually landed myself in a stable job, paying the bills, acquiring a house, playing by the rules. Sometimes I wonder if my life has been too safe. When someone dies (2016 has been an awful year for this, both personally and in the wider world) choices always shift in perspective: is stable ‘boring’, a missed opportunity? Approaching thirty, am I happy with my little lot, as fortunate as it is, or is there an adventure that I still need to take? Should I be more Rory 2.0 and be daring with my choices? If not now, when? When do we find the time to adventure when our day to day is all-consuming? Maybe thirty is the time to explore.

Questions often asked to us married-on-the-brink-of-thirty-somethings is when the kiddies are coming. This is often a go-to bit at a wedding, casually thrown in, in a cajoling, jokey manner, sly nudge in tow. It is dressed up as something innocent and wondering, when really it has the underlying message that it is about time you started trying to procreate because everyone else is, and it’s what comes after marriage. It is the ingrained idea that has been instilled in us from previous generations of subordinate women, passed on through hideous rhymes; sinister instructions to follow, just like your parents and theirs did, ‘First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby’s carriage.’ Not in Stars Hollow. Refreshingly, Gilmore Girls has always shown that it is okay not to do things according to some antiquated guide. Rory was born to a teenage mum and her best friend, Lane,  goes on to have twins at a young age. They seem to be just fine and that works. What was disappointing for me, at the start of the reunion episodes, is that Lorelai and Luke felt like they had missed out on not having had a child together, or rather that Lorelai had felt this a little more than Luke. I have always been in the ‘no, no kids for me camp’ and when Lorelai wavered, it made me waver. I hope that if I choose not to have kids; that I can stand by my decision and not feel like I need to explain it to anyone. I hope that I don’t look at others and feel inferior or that I have failed. Lorelai and Luke, upon reaching a certain age must have felt a pressure – a ‘now or never’ feeling. I don’t want that feeling. It’s okay to be ‘just two’ or ‘three’ or ‘five’ or whatever you want to be…no questions asked. When I’m thirty I hope that the questions stop, and that I stop throwing back replies like, ‘Oh, I’m too selfish for kids’ or ‘I can barely look after myself.’ Deciding not to have kids is not selfish, but in fact can be considered as selfless. I do not need to live vicariously through another being and I do not need to replicate a part of me on this Earth. However, never say never…

I have tried since those opening episodes to decide what things I need to have completed before my thirtieth birthday in January. When I was younger, I might have said: be married, have a job and a child. Now, as the time is quickly approaching the answer is: be happy and experience as much as I can on Earth. I hope that when the time comes, I go into the thirties with a sense of happiness at my achievements, a sense of adventure about the time that I have left on this Earth and a sense of compassion to not judge others on their life choices and not to measure myself against some archaic yard stick. I hope that I do all that I can to make myself and my family happy, that I find fulfillment in the ‘little things’, in my little life that really has no significance in the grand space of time. I hope that I’m okay with that.