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How to Eat Alone Podcast

Episode 11 - Committing To Yourself with Emma Wilson (The Turning 30 Life Coach / Host of The Turning 30 Podcast)


Episode 11 is all about finding yourself, choosing yourself and committing to yourself in your 30s, as I talk solo dates and spag bol with Life Coach and podcast host, Emma Wilson, also known as the Turning 30 Coach.

by Julia Georgallis

4 weeks ago


 

I have finally joined the mid-thirties club, turning 34 at the end of June! I am pretty pleased to be here, I didn't really enjoy my 20s, but was also, confusingly, pretty terrified of turning 30, as many of us were and might still be. Episode 11 is all about finding yourself, choosing yourself and committing to yourself in your 30s, as I talk solo dates and spag bol with Life Coach and podcast host, Emma Wilson, also known as the Turning 30 Coach. All parts of life can be lonely, but the point between your late 20s and early 30s can be bewildering, especially if we’re not doing the things that society really values -  if we haven’t found our ideal career yet, if we haven’t met our life partners, if we don’t have a stable home, or if we haven’t had children yet, for example.  Emma's life mission it is to help her clients and podcast listeners find the tools that they need to build the life they love in their thirties.

If you're interested in delving into your own Turning 30 journey further, Emma hosts the wonderful podcast, Turning 30 and runs immersive programs especially for single women which focus on finding happiness BY YOURSELF in your thirties. 

This episode also comes with a recipe for SPAG BOL (but make it veggie!) 

 

Transcript - interview with Emma Wilson by Julia Georgallis

Hello, welcome to the How to eat alone podcast, with me, Julia Georgallis. I’m a baker and I write about food. This is a podcast that looks at the widely uncelebrated art of eating alone and explores topics surrounding loneliness and aloneness which are not necessarily the same thing. I’ve been talking to different people about their own experiences of solitude and solo dining.  With each episode, I share a recipe designed to be cooked and eaten by one person and one person only, because most recipes are written for two or more people.  

I’ve finally joined the mid-thirties club, turning 34 at the end of June. Typically, I’ve always had a bit of a fear of waking up on my birthday alone. I’d make sure I was always at a boyfriend’s or with family or that my housemates were around, if I had some, so that I wouldn’t have to wake up to an empty house. This year, however, things have changed. I live alone, I’m single, I don’t have any housemates, I don’t live with family, it was just me and my dog. Because I’ve been working a lot recently and there were a lot of family events and social events on the week of my birthday, my actual birthday took a bit of a back seat really, which is totally fine, I didn’t plan much. My family really kindly took me out for dinner that evening but I decided to spend the day on my own and make a bit of time for myself by doing small, nice things. I didn’t go to work, I made myself a nice breakfast. I walked my dog in my favourite local park. I went for a haircut. I had a therapy session. And then, after my therapy session, I had a bit of time to kill before dinner and realised I was quite close to Parliament Hill, which if you don’t know is this amazing view point in Hampstead Heath in North London - you can see the whole of the city’s skyline from the top of the hill. I saw a new, fancy bottle shop had opened across the road from the Heath so I bought myself two tins of posh, cold pre-mixed white wine spritzers and I climbed to the top of the hill and I sat, overlooking the view by myself. I drank my tins and I thought about the past year really and all the stuff that had happened. And I also thoroughly failed to recognise myself as the person who used to be absolutely terrified of waking up on her birthday alone. Personally, I didn’t enjoy my 20s and I’ve relished every year of being in my thirties, difficult though they might have been. 

All parts of life can be lonely but I think the point between your late 20s and early 30s can be really isolating especially if we’re not doing the things that society really values - so, if we haven’t found our ideal career yet, if we haven’t met our life partners, if we don’t have a stable home, if we haven’t had children… There is such a sudden and stark contrast between being in your 20s and being in your 30s. When we’re in our twenties, generally, I mean it depends where you are in the world, but we are given free reign to explore and get things wrong and no one really expects much from us. But the minute the clock strikes midnight on your 30th birthday, that’s it! Society expects us to immediately have our shit together! Hurry up! You’ve run out of time! Get on with being a proper, whatever proper means, adult!  But it doesn’t work like this, or I mean it didn’t for me anyway. 

At 29 and a half, I wasn’t happy where I was in life and I was afraid of turning 30. I didn’t have the life that I thought I should be having - so I went back to the very beginning and started afresh. At almost 30, I systematically changed everything that didn’t make me happy.  This was a slow process and it went on far beyond my 30th birthday and I think this should be normalised - starting afresh at any age! A lot of people don’t have everything figured out by the time they turn 30, 40, 50, 60! And my early thirties really were kind of a mess and kind of  chaotic with change as I sought out the work of writers, podcasters, therapists and coaches who were all writing about self development, particularly in this transformative period of life between your twenties and your thirties. One of those was life coach and podcaster Emma Wilson, also known as the Turning 30 Coach. Emma is a year older than me and I’ve been following her Turning 30 journey for a few years now. She’s British but lives in Tel Aviv, and her life's mission is dedicated to helping to give her clients the tools that they need to build the life they love at thirty.  Her podcast, her courses and her work really speaks to me, especially as she’s put a lot of focus recently on finding happiness alone in your thirties, something that we’re not encouraged to do because, remember, we’re in our thirties we should be coupling up and procreating if we haven’t done already. Or so society says. I reached out to ask whether she’d like to talk to me about the theme of choosing yourself, of making a commitment to yourself and making yourself happy in your thirties. 

JG - Hi Emma!

Thanks for talking to me! 

 

EW - Hi Julia, thanks so much for inviting me!

 

JG - I am a big fan of the Turning 30 Podcast, I find it really validating. I started following you around the time that I also turned 30, I think we’re a very similar age and I find it really nice to know that not all 30 somethings are out doing the same thing which I think, it is the decade of comparison, isn’t it, it is the decade where you think ‘oh my god, everyone’s just doing that and I need to do that.’ And that can be really isolating can’t it?

 

EW - 100% and that’s just an amazing way to phrase it, it’s the decade of comparison because in our 20s, up until our kind of mid - late 20s, in general we’re all in a similar stage of life and then all of a sudden you turn 30 and you’re like, oh my god when did that happen, suddenly people are settling down and some people are pro-creating and some people are still travelling and there’s just this big disparity between where you are and where all your friends are, so definitely the decade of comparison is a great way to phrase it. 

 

JG - You have a podcast called the Turning 30 Podcast but you also are the Turning 30 Life Coach - can you just maybe tell me a little bit about your story and how, why you came to be a life coach and a podcast host…

 

EW - Of course I can, I studied psychology prior to doing a law degree, became a lawyer, was living in London, was livin the corporate dream, shall we say, and very quickly knew once I’d started my training that it wasn’t the life for me and I knew I didn’t seem myself settling down in London but then I think the thing that really kicked off becoming a life coach and going on the path that I’m on now was my own turning 30 journey. So when I was turning 29 I just looked ahead to the next year I thought ‘wow, I’m not happy where I am…’ nothing was really wrong, I always say this, it’s not like, I didn’t hit the rock bottom and my whole life fell apart which you hear alot about in the coaching industry - it wasnt so much a dramatic story, it’s just things felt a bit mediocre and I was just ready for some direction and some clarity, to find a career that I liked because I was working in a job that didn’t particularly feel special to me and I was single… but not very happily single and like, dating in a not very productive way and I just felt discontent and I think that a lot of people feel that way but they don’t necessarily know what to do with it and that’s when I discovered life coaching and started to really go on this path of, sorry to sound cheesy, but self discovery where it lead me to becoming a coach and the path was very windy because it wasn’t that I’d had this turning 30 crisis, then I became a life coach and that was it because becoming a coach took many years and I also did many other jobs at the same time and did many other things, but from around 3-4 years ago was when I started focusing predominantely on this specific target audience and really noticed how important it is and just how many people are struggling and are feeling alone and are feeling discontent and so that’s really what made me focus on a) becoming a coach and b) really focusing on this niche.

 

JG

A lot of the people who do reach out to you are women right? It’s mainly female focused. 

 

EW

Completely female focuses and it didn’t start that way, just to make a point. I didn’t ever set out and say ok I only want to work with women but what I uncovered along the way was that most men don’t have the same expectations of turning thirty. They do have the same social pressures but a little bit later - 35, 40. Sometimes at 30 maybe a few things about career and money but they don’t have biological clocks so they’re not thinking of these things and I think society as well puts more pressure on women at 30 than they do men. So over the years I’ve had a few consultation calls with men, I’ve had one male client out of over 100. 

 

JG

Really? Why? Apart from the biological clock do you think there’s anything else that puts women under so much pressure. 

 

EW

I think aging. Yeah, I think that society is set up to make you feel bad about aging and a lot of it we don’t even realise. When we really think about it, think about anti wrinkle creams and botox, we’re being messaged all the time by society that we should not grow old as women. Look at what men have - men age like a fine wine, men grow old gracefully. A man who is single in his 40s is applauded, a woman who is single in her 30s is pitied. 

 

JG

True. And what are the common themes that clients come to you with, is it a lot to do with dating and being single? 

 

EW

Yeah, I always say that my clients come to me because  something is not feeling right. Obviously on the inside that’s always the core of everything but on the outside there’s usually some external factors that makes the switch that makes them say ‘ok I’m ready for a change.’ And it's usually something to do either with career, so it could be not feeling happy in a career or wanting to go freelance or get a new job or go for that promotion or alternatively I see the most common is relationships, maybe just gone through a breakup or been single for a while, want to start dating, not happy with dating. So those are the external things but at the end of the day everyone comes because they’re feeling these pressures. There’s lots of self doubt, comparison, lack of confidence, imposter syndrome. 

 

JG

How do you help to unstick people? I mean that’s a massive question and you’d probably be revealing your secret but how do you start to even unpack all that. It’s big. 

 

EW

Yeah, it is big and I think the answer was even in what I was just explaining just then is that people come to me because things are right on the outside so they want a quick fix, they want to take action, like, ok I want to apply for the new job or I want to go on the dating apps or I want to breakup with my boyfriend or whatever it is… and really the answer is, it's really the relationship with yourself so we start there and start to understand what’s going on underneath because only then can you really make any sustainable change on the outside. The how is by learning how to coach yourself, I teach my clients how to access their thoughts and really understand what’s going on in their minds. We do what I call uncovering limited beliefs, so these stories, narratives that you’re telling yourself about yourself. So we really start there and it’s amazing. When clients come to me, especially ones who have never dove into personal development or a process like this this before, the change can be really big, because if you’ve never done something and all of a sudden you start becoming aware and you start journaling and sitting with your emotions and all these things - it can be life changing. 

 

JG

Well, yeah, we’re not taught to do any of that, we’re not taught how to be alone and how to be with ourselves, it’s a really big problem. And whether you’re trying to fix it through life coaching, psychotherapy, psychology all those things right now seems to be when everyone has just realised, like oh my god, you have to start from yourself, it’s the only place to start from. 

 

EW

Exactly. And that’s why the pandemic, for all it’s awfulness, did actually propel people to sit with themselves, they became alone because we all became in solitude or in some form of solitude and to ask these big questions that we so often avoid because in our everyday life we’re going from social plan to social plan, from work to all the other things that we’re doing in our lives and we don’t ever stop and then all of a sudden we were all forced to stop, so it was no coincidence that my business absolutely took off the year that the pandemic hit because people discovered the importance of this work. 

 

JG

I really hope that people don’t forget about it. Because I do feel, especially in the UK, that people are like ‘ok, pandemic’s done’ - ok we can forget about the awfulness that’s fine, everyone can move on no one has to re-traumatise themselves, but there was something really important about people having to sit with themselves and that understand loneliness can be good and can be useful, you know? So I really hope people don’t forget about that aspect of it.

 

EW

I share your worry as well but I think that it has caused some sort of collective waking up.

 

JG 

How has this work that you’ve been doing since you did turn thirty, how has it changed your attitude and your relationship with your thirties or how you thought your thirties might be when you were in your twenties.

 

EW

I always say this that I am able to show up and connect with my clients, my audience, my podcast listeners so well because I am them. 34 years old, almost 35, I’m single. I’m going through all the same things that my clients go through so I’m experiencing it all the time and I’m just so grateful that I have coaching as a tool that I can use on myself but also that can help others, but yeah, primarily, it helps me live the life that I enjoy and I want to live and my thirties have been a rollercoaster, in a really good way! But it’s not been like ‘oh, well I had a turning 30 crisis at 29, discovered life coaching and now everything’s like rainbows and daisies’ - absolutely not, the past few years I’ve gone through huge life changes, I went through a big breakup of 4 years at the age of 33, if I hadn’t been coached or known these tools I do not know how I would have coped with what I went through then. Yeah, it’s just changed my life in every way because I’m able to relate to myself more and coach myself. 

 

JG

It’s kind of like what you said at the beginning, it’s not a straight path, it’s a wiggly line and that’s so true because sometimes I’m like ‘Oh yeah, I’m there! I’ve made it!’ And then, this year everything’s just fallen apart and I’m like ‘ohhh…’ I’ve got to go back and I’ve got to start again but it’s fine because it’s just about the process, I mean yeah, it’s a wiggly, wiggly line. 

 

How do you relate to being by yourself, do you spend quite a lot of time on your own, do you live alone? Do you like it? 

 

EW

I used to have a real problem with being alone and eating alone. It was a big thing for me. And it was something that I think I would pretend that I was ok with being alone because it’s kind of not cool to say that you don’t like being alone. But even now when I look back, even to my early thirties, yeah I did have a problem with it, and I was always trying to make sure that - it wasn’t necessarily being alone - it was more that I wanted to make sure that if I didn’t I could make plans with other people, that they would be available to me. I came out of this long term relationship and this quite hard break up and went to live alone for the first time. So at the age of 33, I actually went through all this on the week of my 33rd birthday, I started looking for apartments alone, first time living by myself and I have to tell you it was the best thing that has ever happened to me… I just… now I cannot imagine living with anyone else, that’s it, the success to a future happy relationship for me is separate housing, or at least separate bedrooms.

 

JG

Amen 

 

EW

Really! I think it’s a thing!

 

JG

Yeah I agree

 

EW

Normalise it! 

 

So living alone for me was just a huge eye opener for me for just how wonderful it can be to just be in your own space after so long of having to share it with someone. Then I set off travelling in Winter 2020 - I’ve solo travelled quite a lot in the past, especially for business I’ve always kind of done city breaks here and there, I travelled solo once for a couple of weeks in Brazil and this was the first time that I actually said, no I’m going away for a few months, completely alone and it all happened very spontaneously when it happened and all of a sudden I’m on the plane on the way to Mexico and I’m like shiiiitttt… I’m going away alone and that means I have to eat alone because I was so weird about eating in restaurants by myself because that other people would be looking at me, had this huge big thing about it and it was amazing, I learnt so much, I really can’t explain how glad I am that I got out of my comfort zone and did that because now I just love it and now the pendulum’s swung the other way, I’m too alone! 

 

JG 

How do you get yourself back? It’s like what you were saying, that’s the success if you don’t want to be with anyone else it kind of is the mark of your success, but you know I don’t think it’s a bad thing, it just means that you get really fussy. 

 

EW

Yeah, actually, I don’t think it’s a bad thing because I think this happens a lot that people and I talk about being single as an example, people think that if you’re single and you admit you like it then it’s going to doom you forever. 

 

JG

AW, YEAH! 

 

EW

I think people in general are really threatened by a woman in her mid thirties who would say ‘oh I really really love being alone and I really really love being single, I choose it sometimes.’ And it’s almost like ‘don’t say that because then you’ll never meet someone!’ you know you hear that judgey voice. But the truth is they’re not mutually exclusive. You can enjoy being single and enjoy being alone and then choose not to be and I think that’s a really important message that people aren’t saying enough. It’s like magical thinking to think ‘if I say I enjoy being alone then I’m always going to be alone, I’m going to die alone, it’s not true, it’s really not true. But I see the superstition and I also, telling you this from experience, I also was coming out of this relationship thinking ‘oh my god, how long am I going to be single for, how long am I going to live alone?’ It’s fine! It’s really important that people start speaking louder about it being something good and beneficial and that’s really why our missions overlap so much, because we’re both doing that, we’re both speaking out loud about that. 

 

JG

I mean, after your breakup, how long did it take for you to feel sort of alright being by yourself?

 

EW

The first period of being alone was actually great, it was hard because obviously you’re going through this big life change but I was processing this break up and also having lived with someone with quite a long time, I didn’t realise until I was out of it how much I needed to have some of my own space and then there was a really difficult time, say about three months after the breakup, I had a few months where it felt really confronting, now let's remember this break up occurred smack bang in the middle of the pandemic so it was in the middle of lockdown. And I remember having a very specific conversation with my sister and being like ‘I’m so alone, I’m so lonely, I can’t do this, it’s so hard!’ You know, I hadn’t seen anyone for a really long time and did go through a troubled patch with it. And I remember speaking to her about it and being like ‘lean into it…’ Like the more that you feel this resistance to being alone and being lonely, I knew there was something to explore. I knew that if I was having such resistance to being alone, it meant that I should be and I should really understand why it was so hard to spend time in my own company. And actually, that was what propelled me to book the trip. It was that point where I said, ok there’s something to learn here and then I booked the ticket to Central America. And I think that that trip changed a lot for me. It really, really helped me to get comfortable with being alone, to accept it, not just to accept it but also feel good about it. And it also helped me to understand that making new friends in your thirties is not only possible, it’s amazing, and I met these amazing friends who are still my friends now.  When I got back from that trip, so coming up to the year since the break up, I was like, wow, being alone is THE thing. And I started to promote it in my business, it became a thing, I did a podcast episode called the solo date challenge, talking about how important it is to take yourself out on dates and do those things. I’ve also just released a course about how to make friends in your thirties because that’s become a real focus of mine as well and also, as well, went off on a second trip, this Winter, alone and I’m just like I’m addicted to this, I can’t see how I’m ever not going to do it. 

 

JG

I’ve also travelled a lot on my own and, travelled recently, more with friends. And I love travelling with my friends, it’s great, but then there’s something about travelling on your own, it’s like an endless possibility cos you can just do whatever you want and you don’t know where it’s going to take you whereas when you’re with people I suppose you have to know the trajectory and I suppose it’s the same if you’re single or in a relationship, if you’re in a relationship you kind of know the trajectory, you kind of know what might happen. But I love the idea of solo dating! Talk me through solo dating, what’s the key principles of it. 

 

EW

The solo date challenge was what I introduced to really make that mindset shift from being alone as something negative to being alone as something positive. And it came from my personal experience that I used to have this really big thing about being alone on a Friday night. It was my big thing. I really didn’t enjoy it. Here, where I live, Friday nights are family time and it’s the time where you all get together and I always felt left out, other people were doing that with their partners or their families. All of a sudden I was like ‘no! I want to start spending really intentional, conscious time by myself and I’m going to proactively plan it, so it came from that and the whole theme of the solo date challenge is that you don’t have to wait for somebody else to ask you on a date, you don’t have to wait for somebody else to be available at the weekend. I think a lot of us do this in our thirties, we say ‘ok, if I make a plan with my friends, that’s my plan for the weekend, I’ll see them on Saturday for brunch…’ and then one person can’t do it because the babysitter let them down, the other person can’t do it because something came up at work and then you end up being disappointed because you’ve been hinging all of your weekend on these plans so when you solo date, you just do the thing that you wanted to do and you don’t do it because you’ve been cancelled on, you do it from the start, just for yourself, it can be going to an exhibition or a museum that you’ve wanted to go to for a while, going for a long walk somewhere, going to a coffee shop, taking a book, going to a park, going out for dinner to a nice restaurant, it can be whatever you want it to be and then you don’t invite people.  And if they ask to come, which usually happens by the way because when you switch energies, when you switch your energy from victim from ‘oh who’s going to make a plan with me’ to ‘I’m making a plan and doing my own thing’ then people all of a sudden want some of that and they’re like ‘oh I’ll come with…’ and you’ve got to say no. That’s the rule of solo-date date challenge, say no, they’re not coming and then you do it and you’ve got to stick to it and commit to it in the same way that you would commit to someone else’s arrangements. I love it, I get all my clients to do it, they go out for Sunday roasts, they go to the cinema alone and they always feed back the same thing of how great it was and they can’t believe that they didn’t do it before. 

 

JG

I love that. It’s like committing to yourself. 

 

And then, in terms of eating alone and kind of, you know when you take yourself out for dinner and when you were eating alone when you were travelling, what do you like to eat alone? What does an ideal meal out on your own look like? 

 

EW

Well I was in Central America both times, I was in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama so there were a lot of tacos involved, A LOT of tacos involved, so I’m gonna say that’s my go to food for sure. When I’m eating alone I think the thing I like to do most is eat on a bar, so it’s really nice because, sitting at a table alone… I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with it but it can feel like there’s supposed to be someone else there and you like look around you, look at the restaurant, maybe have a chit chat with the bar staff there’s something about it that’s more acceptable, so to anyone who wants to give eating alone a go I recommend finding a place with a nice bar and I’ve met really nice people just by sitting on a bar because most other singletons who are also eating alone also sit on the bar, so yeah! Tacos and sitting on a bar. 

 

JG

Do you cook?

 

EW

Err. I wouldn’t classify myself as a cook, it comes in waves and it’s very dependant on how busy work is but yeah, I do like to cook - it’s actually something difficult because when in the past I’ve been in relationships or living with others, living with roommates, it feels like that urge to cook more because you can really share the dining experience and also it’s a lot of effort sometimes for yourself just to cook a whole big meal and I’m not the kind of person who enjoys cooking that much that I enjoy the process and I wish I could. 

 

JG 

Well not everyone is and that’s totally fine. 

 

EW

I would make probably a few meals a week, I would say, alone. I really cook comfort food… I think my go to is spaghetti bolognese, to be honest. 

 

JG

It’s the best thing to cook when you’re on your own

 

EW

Yeah! Why is that? I just find it really easy and I know the recipe off by heart and I love it - then it stores well in the fridge for the week, and it’s something I can eat for every meal. That’s my go to. 

 

JG

Spaghetti bolognese is the one 

 

A massive thankyou to Emma for taking the time to talk to me and share her thoughts about committing to yourself - and whether you are in your thirties, whether you’re about to reach your thirties, or whether your thirties are long gone, this is an important philosophy to have at any age. I think a nice little bit of homework for you guys to do (if you want to do some homework) is to think about your own Turning 30 Journey, again whether you’re looking forward to it, dreading it, whether you hated it or loved it. 

 

I recorded this conversation a couple of months ago and since then I’ve been putting the idea of the solo date challenge to good use. I’ve been really scheduling in time for myself. I’ve recently gone back on dating apps.. Blergghh I hate it, I really hate it.  And last weekend I was asked out by a guy who I’ve been talking to on Tinder, but I declined and said pretty openly that I didn’t actually have any alternative weekend plans, it was just that I felt like I really needed to spend the weekend catching up on some alone time as I hadn’t had a lot of that recently. I would never have done that in my late twenties, even up to a couple of years ago. He didn’t message me back, but I did have a lovely weekend alone.  I’ve put up a link to all of Emma’s work on the How to eat Alone podcast’s page - so that includes links to her podcast The Turning 30 podcast and her website which contains information about her courses, retreats and coaching services and it also a nice blog for some 30-something-year-old musings.  I really do recommend her podcast and her blog, they’re fab and the themes that she speaks about and the guests she invites on are so frank in talking about the things that we probably all struggle with a bit as we go through the decade of comparison. 

 

I know that a lot of us have probably already have perfected our own version of this dish, because it is one of the solo cook’s friends. I’ve given you a recipe for ragu alla bolognese - aka SPAG BOL FOR ONE. But make it veggie! Don’t tell any Italians this but I’ve recently decided that the veggie version of a spag bol is perhaps better than the meaty version of a spag bol. Like I said, don’t judge, but I think it’s quite easy to dry out the meat in a bolognese sauce, you end up with that really kind of chewy mince because maybe you stew the sauce for too long but when you use a meat alternative, it seems to really retain its moistness. 

 

You can find this recipe on the How to eat alone project’s blog, which you can access by visiting the edible archive.org,  just click on the How to eat alone section of the website. You also can follow this podcast on instagram - the instagram handle is @howtoeatalonepodcast. 

 

Thanks so much for listening to this episode, I hope you enjoyed being alone with me. If you like this podcast, please give it a good rating on whichever platform you get your podcasts from and share it with anyone you think who you might like it too. See you next time for the next episode of How to eat alone. 



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