The sixteenth of April has always been a bit of a weird day for me; the final day before another turn of the wheel, before one age ends and another begins. Go back a few years (actually more than a few), to before I turned 21 and years tended to last a lifetime. Now, it seems as though every year is history before I’ve even gotten used to it. I mean, the last time I looked it was January – how did it get to be April? And how the b’jesus did I get to be a couple of years shy of 40?
I was talking to my Mum on the phone the other day, and I reminded her that I remember her being the age I am on the cusp of entering. Besides the fact that this little addendum made her feel suddenly quite old, I do remember how she was, how she acted, how she carried herself, what was happening in her life. She’d had three children by the time she was the age I am now, two of which were in the throes of full-blown adolescence. I’ve asked her the question many times, but I still can’t quite believe how she managed to do it; to bring up three children, all educated, all independently able and all indebted to her (and our father) for the sound grounding she and he afforded us.
Every now and again my mind toys with the idea of what it would be like to be a father. But it’s only ever a passing fancy. We did discuss it a few years ago – my partner and I, and we discussed it seriously. But inevitably we both kinda realised we’re both far too selfish (in the best possible sense of the word) to ever be parents. I mean, 100% devotion? 100% dependence? 100% of your time, all the time? Zero time for us, zero time for me? Yep, like I said, kinda selfish. I have reconciled myself to the fact that there’s a whole life journey experienced by billions of people of which I am not and never will be privy to. I don’t feel as though I’m missing out though; family isn’t just about passing on your genes or the blood type in your veins. Besides, I can still remember what I was like during my own childhood; I was the first egg out of the carton, and if you saw the sky and called it “blue”, I’d be the one to argue it was “red”. Thinking about it, I’m not sure whether all that much has changed?
I still love drinking milk, by the pint load (in fact I’m doing it now). I still love Marmite. Savouries rather than sweets are still my downfall. I still hoover up everyone else’s leftovers, and I still have the capacity to be an arrogant, inconsiderate, self-absorbed sonofabitch. Mind you, one thing I know has changed is that I am no longer a prisoner to my fears. To be honest, I don’t really have any anymore. Fear of Death? Yep, faced that one. Fear of losing someone? Been there, done that. Fear of women? Nope, kinda feels as though I usually have more in common with them, than with men (apart from the obvious physiological differences). Fear of speaking up? Well, I’d be pretty crappy in my current role if I didn’t have the confidence to speak up. And I no longer have that bizarre phone-phobia. Hard to believe that up until the age of about 21/22 I had a fear of using the telephone, and would do anything I could to avoid it. Nope, that one was well and truly conquered (thank God). I’m a phone-happy chappie now. I’ve banished my stumbling, adolescent shyness – now I enjoy talking to people, although I must confess, I usually use the ole trick of asking them about themselves before the attention turns onto me. Funnily enough, I find people will talk for ever about their lives. It’s a nifty little trick, but when someone eventually wises up and asks me about me, I can still suddenly forget my footing and fall into incoherant babble, as if suddenly exposed from the waist down (friends and family please take note – that was not an invitation).
Anyway, I guess I feel just about right with the age I shall become from tomorrow. I’ve been a manager for over a year now, doing the job I love, within an organisation I still cherish. It was always gonna be my last attempt (aged 36) to try to see if I could make a success at climbing the ladder. After two abysmal failures, I was perfectly prepared to accept the fact that I could be happy at the level of employment I had found, for the rest of my working life. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with knowing where you’re best suited, and I would’ve felt no loss if it hadn’t worked out. Happily, this third and final try-out has proved to be the one to foster my talents, challenge my abilities and, most importantly, provide an environment in which I feel comfortable, confident and good at what I do.
A wonderful thing happened yesterday. Two of my colleagues called me out to the car park (they weren’t stopping). I wondered what it was they wanted? Only when I opened the door and was presented with a birthday cake did the penny drop. I was gobsmacked! I can honestly say, I’ve never been given a cake from people at work before. Wasn’t that the nicest thing? I choose to accept the message that whatever I’m doing at work, I’ve gotta be doing something right for people to think of me in that way. Oh and just so you know, I haven’t eaten any yet. We’re saving it for tomorrow.
Yep, everything’s kinda peachy. I don’t feel any rumblings of an impending mid-life crisis. I enjoyed my youth, experienced pretty much everything I wanted to, and I have no regrets; zilch, nada, none. I’ve been perfectly content to move from being young to being middle-aged. It’s been a very natural progression. So as my thirties begin to inevitably wind themselves up as I approach my fourth decade of life, I’m intrigued to find out where it will take me. There is no doubting that my thirties are/were a complete departure from my twenties – I have no reason to doubt my forties will also develop the story further. I have some ideas, a couple of half-plans and covert flights of fancy but hey, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Besides, I’m not quite there yet. Forty is still two years away. Someone once told me somewhere that it is when you’re in your thirties that your life is at its most potent. It is the decade when we’re supposedly at the peak of our powers; we’ve experienced enough of life to put it to good use, are still young enough to make things happen for ourselves, and have transcended the irksome, awkward, uncomfortable being in your own skin feeling from our twenties. But it is at forty that society begins to look on you a little differently – the paradigm shifts, and you are no longer listened to, or taken notice of as readily as before. Will it prove to be true? Who knows? Who cares? Right now, it’s the eve of the my thirty-eighth birthday, and thanks to my partner, my awesome family, my mother, my father, my sister, my brother, and thanks to all my wonderful, awe-inspiring friends, I’m happy to be sat, right here, right now; loving who I love, doing what I do, knowing what I know and (hopefully) practising what I preach.
To everyone who’s ever had a birthday.. Happy Birthday.