Happy Birthday to Me!
I turned 35 a few days ago.
It was a quiet day - the full lockdown experience. My family had all individually dropped round the day before, bearing gifts and wishing me Happy Birthday from two meters away on the driveway, so I spent it with Andy (and the cats and the chickens, of course!) doing.... well, not very much at all!
Being so early in January, when most people are 'partied out' by the season, my birthdays are often quiet - and honestly I prefer it that way most of the time. Gone are the days of big parties and hangovers - for many years now I've enjoyed spending my birthday quietly, with the people I love, doing the things I enjoy.
This year's celebration began with waking up to lots of Birthday wishes from my friends and family while Andy prepared breakfast; A birthday tradition - he likes to come up with something new each year. This year was a yummy combination of roasted cauliflower topped with avocado, roasted red pepper, and a fried egg, with grilled halloumi and a tomato and coriander salsa on the side!) followed by a brief interlude to open my gifts (I did well this year! Perfume, Jewellery, books, booze, crafty bits, and bits for the garden among the usual socks!) before a morning of doing exactly as I pleased. I read some magazines that had arrived in the post the day before, messed about on my computer for a bit, and finished binge-watching 'Bridgerton' on Netflix. Later on, we ordered takeaway from our favourite Japanese place (Ginsengs, if you are interested!) and settled in to watch a film (The Prom, starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman) After that, I had a bath, and went to bed.
It was a lovely day filled with simple pleasures and I enjoyed it thoroughly - but in the days that have passed, I've been feeling a little melancholy.
I wasn't afraid of turning 30 - I remember, at the time, wondering why I wasn't. It was supposed to be the year that everyone struggled with; that first step out of your twenties, when Birthdays moved away from positive and exciting milestones aquiring legal status and freedoms long dreamed of, to ... well I'm not sure what, really - nothing good, it seemed to me, back then. 30 was the year I was supposed to feel Old. To become the Adult that I'd been pretending to be in my 20's, as if all the years before were some sort of practice; a dress rehearsal for 'the real world' that so many of my elders proclaimed would be a shock to my system.
The thing is, by the time I turned 30, I'd been living outside of my parents home for 13 years. I'd already 'grown up' in the material sense, paying bills and going to work... It didn't feel like such a big deal and nothing changed for me at all. I still remained 'me', with my thoughts and opinions intact - if anything, it was actually a little liberating. I was no longer a girl in my twenties - I was a woman of 30. Wise. Worldly. (hah!)
I think it helped that I was in a good place at 30. I'd spent the last few years really discovering what it meant to be 'me', growing in confidence and assurance of my values and opinions, teaching myself to be less concerned with what others thought of me and much happier to 'blaze my own trail' rather than follow the herd. (It's not perfect, of course - I'm still learning to put my opinion of myself above others and to trust my instincts, but I've come a long way since my twenties!) I had Andy, my family, my friends.. Life was good.
Life is STILL good at 35, of course (World events excluded!) - Better, even. I married the man I love, we bought a home together, I enjoy my job most of the time, and I have a wonderful, elite mix of friends and family around me - so this feeling of melancholy was puzzling - until yesterday, when I was required to tick a box.
It was an innocuous little box. I was subscribing to a website's email updates and they wanted a little information about me before I could click 'go'. I filled in the usual name and email address, ticked the 'female' box with no trouble, and then stopped, my mouse pointer hovering over the next box I'd automatically made to tick.
It looked a bit like this:
Ridiculous really, to think that a tick box on a website could emote the horror that it did, but there it was, staring at me.
I imagine the emotions that rushed through me in that moment were what I should have felt at 30: Surprise. Shock. Realisation that I could no longer pass (however unlikely) for 25 - in fact, I could now be considered 10 years older! (by generic internet website surveys, at the very least!)
I feel quite silly, knowing that such a thing is a cause for consternation, but there we have it. I suppose we all must have a trigger to remind ourselves of our mortality. The fact that mine seems to have been such a trivial thing, I suppose, makes it no less valid.
But, on reflection, 35 - 44 is just another chapter of my life; The next 10 years of my story. I can only hope that they will bring love and adventure. New joys and old. And I hope that future birthdays still feel special and important. I hope that I can look on them with hope and excitement - and choose not to hear the ominous ticking of the clock, counting down to my impending non-existance...
So, on that cheerful note, Happy Birthday to me! Here's to the next 365 days. And the next 365 days after that, and after that, and after that...