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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Getting older

This week I will turn thirty.  Thirty. I know.  To anyone under thirty, it sounds scary doesn't it?

A few months ago, someone started mentioning my birthday and asking me what I might like.  I hadn't given it any thought as at that point, in my head, my birthday was still months away. Suddenly, I became acutely aware of my impending birthday and it's fair to say that I began to freak out; the more I thought about my upcoming birthday, the more I wished that it wasn't happening. This is particularly unusual as I have always loved birthdays; a great day each year when you get to celebrate with loved ones and friends, doing your favourite things. What's not to like?!

I started to panic that I hadn't achieved a lot of the things that I had hoped to do by this age; relationships, marriage, children, houses, travel etc.  Milestones that, in all honesty, I had set for myself, in my own head. Okay, there may be certain societal expectations but who really dictates these? Who actually checks to see whether you've achieved these? It's scary to realise that the only person responsible for these feelings of insignificance or disappointment is actually oneself. Societal expectations and social norms are constantly evolving; how many articles have you seen recently talking about the impossibility of buying houses/people living at home/ people living together without being married etc?

We often read about the detrimental effects of social media and I think it's true that it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others. Frequently, we update photos, statuses and posts and inadvertently bombard ourselves with updates of other people's lives: where they have travelled, who has got engaged/married, who has children, who has bought a house.  It doesn't take much for a unconfident person to start wondering why those things aren't happening for them. I felt like I had wasted my twenties; wasted time in the wrong relationships, working in the wrong places, living with the wrong people.  This delightfully pessimistic attitude led me to foolishly overlook all the fantastic people I have met, wonderful places I have travelled to, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and numerous achievements I've had in my twenties. Furthermore, I'm ashamed to admit that this feeling consumed me for a number of weeks, until a number of things dawned on me.

Firstly, that it is extremely pointless to get hung up on age.  It sounds so simple, but age is something which is completely beyond our control. Everyone ages, no-one can avoid it or prevent it from happening, no matter how hard they try! Secondly, some people think I look younger than I am, so maybe (hopefully) I could ride out on at least appearing youthful for a few more years! 'Age is just a number' and all that. It struck me that when I wake up on Friday, I will feel the same way, look the same way and act the same way, so is a new number really all that bad??!

Lastly and most importantly, I started to really consider and value where I am in my life now; the incredible experiences and opportunities that I've had and the hard-hitting lessons that I've learnt along the way. I've been extremely fortunate in a lot of ways but I also remember the tougher times.  Unfortunately, a few of my friends didn't make it to their early twenties so I really should be thankful to still be here at all.

No-one has a perfect life and when you start to see the bigger picture and think about all the dreadful and unfortunate things that are happening to people all over the world every single day, you begin to realise that you actually shouldn't worry or complain about turning older.  It seems to me that most of us are pretty lucky. At the risk of sounding preachy, I think it's important to recognise how fortunate we really are to be alive.  So after a seemingly trivial mini-meltdown about the state of my life at this age, I came to realise that I have my health, family and friends, a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes on my back and a great job. To be quite truthful, I am privileged to be here, and every day (including the dreaded birthdays) that I spend on earth is more than some people get. When you take a step back and think about age that way, it's not worth complaining any more.  But we will, because we're only human after all...

I recently discovered this quote pinned on a noticeboard at work:

'If you woke up this morning healthy ... you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week. If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the fear and loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pain of starvation ... you are better off than 500 million people in the world. If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep ... you are more comfortable than 75% of the people in this world. If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace ... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy. If you can read this, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.'

Peebreeks xx

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