Leslie Ann Horgan: 'Roll calls of sub-30 talent remind me that my own youth has passed me by'

So there they are, the brightest and best among us singled out for all to see. This week saw the publication of the annual Forbes magazine 30 Under 30, an inventory of the cream of youthful global talent across 20 industries.

From art to law and entertainment to science, these fresh-faced youngsters have achieved more in their tender years than most of us will in our lifetimes.

The youngest entrant this year is Marley Diaz, who was just 12 when she founded an initiative to collect books with black female protagonists. At an age where many of the rest of us couldn’t speak out loud – especially if there was a member of the opposite sex within 100 yards – she has addressed a women’s summit at the White House alongside Michelle Obama and Oprah. Oh and her own debut book is due out next year.

There was an impressive showing for Ireland on the 2019 list, with no less than eight of the listees hailing from these shores. These included familiar faces such as rugby star Peter O’Mahony, businesswoman (and daughter of Bono) Jordan Hewson and journalist Sally Hayden, as well as entrepreneurs Kevin Glynn, Edel Brown, Dr Ciara Clancy and Conal Laverty.

Joining them was 29-year-old actor Jessie Buckley, who was also nominated for a Bafta Rising Star Award at last week’s ceremony, alongside fellow Irish talent Barry Keoghan (26). Not a bad week’s work for the Killarney woman, you’ll agree.

In an introduction to its tribute to “the burning desire of youth to change the world,” Forbes hails these young visionaries as “the impressive, the inspiring and the (genuinely) enviable”. I wholeheartedly agree – and doesn’t it just make you sick?

As someone who was long ago ruled out of contention for inclusion on a roll call of sub-30 talent, these annual lists just serve as a depressing reminder that my own youth has passed me by (I’m 37 but with the creaking knees of a 90-year-old) and that I never took the time to change the world.

Sure, I’ve held down a job, bought my own house and travelled to some far-flung places, but I’ll never be classed as a ‘rising star’, or ‘hope for the future’. Hell, I’m even too old to be the Rose of Tralee.

If this sounds like the jealous moan of a bitter mediocre performer, it is – but stepping away from my own myopic wallowing, I still have to question why it is we feel the need to celebrate the successes of youth in this way.

Of course these overachievers are in their teens and 20s – when else are you able to follow your whims, not to mention your dreams, unencumbered by the responsibilities of mortgage payments and an ever-expanding waistline? And their energy, oh their energy… they are still possessed of that giddy, fizzing vigour that for the rest of us is – much like a night’s sleep uninterrupted by either young children or an ageing bladder – but a distant memory.

Surely it’s an advantage to starting your own gaming empire when your parents are paying the broadband bill? It’s got to be easier to become a leading global activist when you’re still convinced yours is the only infallible view that matters.

Of course you can dominate on the sports field when you know there’ll be dinner kept for you at home. And walking the Hollywood red carpet? That must be a doddle when you still have legs that can stand in heels all night, and a head that can take you straight from the party to your 9am lecture hangover-free.

While I offer my genuine congratulations to those talents featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 and other lists like it, for 2020 I’d like to propose a new class of honours.

My ’30 In Their 30s’ list will honour the type of people who manage to get to the gym twice in one week; the people who, in the midst of a big work project, remember to text their sister on her birthday; the people who actually meet their friends for coffee after months of saying “we should get together”; the people who are on top of their dry-cleaning and did a white wash; the people whose kitchen counter is not littered by unopened envelopes.

To this disgruntled aul wan, that’s what impressive, inspiring and enviable really looks like.

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