What would you do if you had several thousand pounds and were about to turn 30? Would you start saving for a deposit? Put them in an ISA? Invest them? Put them towards your pension? Keep them aside until you have children?
In November I was getting ready to turn 30 and, thanks to good commissions and a few book advances, found myself with a surprising amount of money in my account. I had no idea what to do with it – until I did. A month before my birthday, I booked some flights.
On 1 March, I will be moving to Venice for two months. I have no intention of doing any work while there; instead, I will spend those eight weeks floating around, doing as I please. I have rented a small one-bedroom flat in Dorsoduro, in the south of the main island, and that is all the planning I have done.
It is, objectively, an absurd thing to do. I am not wealthy; I rent a small flat in London, do not have an ISA or a pension, or any money set aside for the future. I do not have a stable income and nor do I stand to inherit some fantastical amount of money at some point in the future.
In short, these are not the actions of a wayward aristocrat. Instead, they are the actions of – for lack of a better phrase – a whimsical nihilist.
Being 30 in London in 2022 involves acknowledging several things. Firstly, it means I have spent much of the past two years stuck in a living space that was never meant to be inhabited 24/7. It is too small, too cramped, and, in the specific case of my basement flat, too dark. Still, I stayed within those walls every day, slowly losing my grip on reality and wondering why I spent more than £1,000 a month to live near a city centre I could no longer go to.
Secondly, being my age and living where I live means that I know I will never have nice things, not really. I earn a decent wage but will almost certainly never be rich. As a result, I will probably never rent a large flat or small house with a spare room and a garden. I will never own a home in the city I love. I will, at most, if I’m lucky, be able to afford to have a single child, just about, maybe.
I will not retire early and I will not have a comfortable pension. There may be a stage at which I will feel genuinely financially secure, but I wouldn’t bet on it. There is a long tunnel, and at the end of it there isn’t much light.
[see also: I have just turned 30 and am rather surprised to find I am still so young]
It is dreary written down, but there isn’t much point complaining. Things are what they are, and we do as we must. After all, being 30 in London in 2022 also involves seeking the upsides and holding on to them.
The pandemic offered few joys, but it did give me one of the best summers of my life. From the moment everything reopened in 2020 until the moment everything closed down again, I lived in the city more ardently than I had before. I spent days at the Hampstead ponds and nights on the terraces of Soho. I went to a different museum every weekend and I saw every friend I could, as often as I could.
There was a joy and a sense of freedom I had not felt since I was a teenager during the summer holidays, knowing we had to have as much fun as we could until the very last second before school restarted. More than anything else, the memories of that summer helped me get through the subsequent months of winter lockdown isolation.
This is why I am going to Venice for two months now. There is no point in me setting those few thousand pounds aside for my future, because that money is nowhere near enough to make a difference to my material circumstances. I will not be able to buy a house with them; they will not grant me any tangible sense of financial stability.
Instead, what they can do is guarantee that I will have absurd, happy things to look back on for years to come. There will be tough times again – there always are – but they will be made lighter by the knowledge that life can, sometimes, be truly good.
What would you do if you had several thousand pounds and had recently turned 30? I’ve decided to invest in my future – just not in the traditional sense. Ciao!