And just like that, I blinked, and it was September…
Which also happens to be my birthday month.
I’m never usually one to care about birthdays very much. Sure, it’s nice to have an excuse to eat cake, but I don’t tend to get too caught up in it all. But this year, something has changed.
In just 5 days I will be turning 27. And I’m kinda freaking out about it.
I guess it’s because I’m edging ever closer to 30. For some reason, it’s an age that has become a huge milestone in our culture. We’ve all seen those ’30 before 30′ lists, it seems to be the magical number – if you’ve achieved great things before then, you’re deemed extra special and if you haven’t… what does that mean? One quick Google spits out hundreds of results – “12 Financial Goals You Should Reach By Your 30s”, “31 Things You’re Not Allowed to Have in Your Apartment After You Turn 30”, “Things You Shouldn’t Wear Once You Turn 30!”. Even the bloody discounted railcard ends at 25. As a nation, that is not great for our self esteem. And yet, it’s what we’ve become conditioned to believe. Hell, if I look back at my teenage self, I had very different ideas about where I’d be in my life by 27. I thought I’d be in a steady career, with my own home that looked like it was straight out of grand designs. I figured I’d have found ‘the one’, be married, maybe with some kids or one on the way. Well, I’ve got one of those nailed… but the rest feels a long, long way off. And there’s something about a birthday that makes you confront those ideals and look inwards to think about where you actually are and what you have achieved.
According to the internet, it’s all downhill from here. My metabolism is going to slow down, I’m going to get wrinkles, my bones are going to thin and my joints are going to get stiffer, my fertility is going to decrease and so on and on…. and on. There’s a plethora of information out there about what happens in your 30’s – none of it good. It’s no wonder, therefore, that I’m less excited about this birthday than I was about the last one. I hadn’t expected it at all, but suddenly all of those antiquated clichés about women in their 30s have started whirring in my head and I’m struggling to shut it down.
27 is old enough to feel like you should have your life together and have control over your destiny, but young enough to still seek freedom and be having fun. It’s the time at which you move from the training pool of your “mid-twenties” to the murky waters of your “late-twenties”. Just writing that down made me shudder a bit. Just like in that episode of Friends where Rachel turns 30 and loses her shit, I’ve caught myself starting to count backwards… If I want kids by X, I need to marry by Y, which means I really need to meet someone by Z or… yesterday. And that, my friends, is a slippery slope.
According to a study conducted by LinkedIn, 72% of young professionals in the UK have experienced a life crisis at the age of 26.9 years, and I think mine is just about to hit. It can be very easy to feel like you’ve not achieved enough, that you’re not where you should be. In this age of social media, comparison is rife and it’s hard not to get sucked in.
So I’m trying to remind myself of a more positive cliché, that age is just a number. My life will be no different in 5 days to how it is now. The weight of expectation is not about to come crashing down on my shoulders. Time is not ‘running out’, whatever the think pieces might say about my ‘biological clock’.
So, in the interest of keeping calm and carrying on, I wanted to flip things on their head and, instead, share 26 memories/lessons from the past year, so I could see just how much I’ve achieved/how far I’ve come.
- My 26th year was the year I discovered that I could find a type of exercise that I actually enjoyed and that it could even become a hobby.
- Running my first official race (even if it was just a 5k) was terrifying and fun in equal measures, but it made me realise that you can achieve something, from nothing, if you work hard and don’t quit.
- Raising money for Cancer Research at the same time and finding a way to honour my Grandpa was also brilliant. I’m keen to do more fundraising over the coming months as I think it helps give you a sense of purpose and really spurs you on.
- I also ran my first park run this year which I did with my bestie, it was great fun and something I want to do more of.
- Speaking of besties; this was also the year that I learnt the value of true friendship.
- I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s OK to have a smaller circle around you, if the circle is full of wonderful people like my best friends. I’ve had lots of cool adventures and trips with them this year including the following:
- Norwich adventures – long distance friendships are hard, but make the time you spend together even sweeter. I’ve had a few really great trips to see my lovely friends in Norwich this year and every time I am met at the station by my besties with a load of TLC (& usually cheese…) I am reminded of just how much I love them.
- I’ve also loved spending time with my best friend’s partner this year and getting to know him so well that I’ve gained a new best friend. As the years tick by, you realise that all you want is for your friends and family to be happy and it becomes as important as your own happiness.
- London adventures – I’ve also spent a lot of time in London; a place that, before this year, I would have avoided like the plague. But when your mates move there you just have to suck it up and go for it. I’ve had some really fun weekends exploring new places and have even grown to kinda love the hecticness of the city (although I’m always glad to get back home to the suburbs).
- This year I also reconnected with some older friends who I hadn’t seen as much as I’d like in recent years. We holed ourselves up in an airbnb in Suffolk (complete with hot tub and sauna) for a weekend and just caught up and spent time together. It reminded me that friends can drift in and out of your life and it doesn’t have to be for negative reasons.
- It’s also never too late to swallow your pride, reach out to people and reconnect, your friendships will be stronger for it.
- But you also need to recognise when enough is enough – some friendships are perfect for a particular stage of your life and can teach you a lot but it’s not always a negative if they drift away from you.
- Manchester weekender – I also recently went for a spontaneous weekend away with my best friend Becca where we ate and drank a lot and laughed even more. Again it just reinforced to me how important it is to make time for the ones I love and to prioritise them above all of the other noise and busyness in my life.
- Continuing on the theme of friendship; this year, more than any other, I have realised just how bloody brilliant ‘work friendships’ can be. And actually, at what point they can move beyond a work relationship and become some of the most important people in your life. I’ve had so many great nights out, great nights in and countless adventures with the lovely lot I work with this year and just want to continue to make time for and nurture those friendships over the coming months!
- One stand out memory was a spontaneous cinema trip we had to see the Elton John film. It was nothing grand or exciting but just lovely to hang out and do something a bit different together. There was one particular scene that was meant to be very poignant and emotional, but had us in fits of laughter – if you’ve seen it, you might know what I mean when I say swimming pool…
- Another adventure we had was the Yorkshire Three Peaks. No, I’m not over it yet. It was a challenge of mammoth proportions that, had you asked me to undertake in any other year, I probably would have refused. Pushing myself to the limit and proving that I could walk 24 miles up and down 3 huge mountains felt amazing and finishing it was one of the best moments of the year.
- There’s got to be some positives to ageing and one of those is you definitely get more of an IDGAF attitude to life. I’ve been much more open to trying new things and pushing myself this year and the experiences I’ve had as a result have been truly epic.
- But I’ve also learnt that it’s actually alright to be a homebird too. You don’t get these years back, so time spent with family is precious and nobody should make you feel guilty for that.
- With this in mind, I gatecrashed my parents holiday with their best friends this Summer and had a lovely time spending quality time with them and having some much needed R&R together.
- Professionally, this has also been a really good year for me. I feel like I’ve found my stride as a manager and feel like I’ve made some good contributions to the business.
- I’ve also done loads of public speaking and feel like I’m starting to hone my craft. My confidence has definitely grown over the past year and I feel really strong and confident now when I’m up in front of a crowd.
- My team is thriving, with one of my team members being voted the best apprentice in Kent. Even if you feel like you’ve not made much progress or had that many wins in your own life, you shouldn’t discount the impact that you might be having on those around you. It can be subtle, but significant. One thing that getting older has taught me is that you definitely start to celebrate in the successes of your friends & your peers just as much as your own, if not more. That’s a standout moment from the past year for me and I’m still so proud I could cry every time I think about it!
- The summer has been great – with lots of long days spent at the cricket club supporting my Dad and brother and hanging out with old friends & making new ones. I love the slightly dysfunctional family that we’ve all become and cherish the time I spend there with my 100’s of Dads and surrogate brothers and sisters. It’s particularly cool seeing the kids grow up and sitting their GCSES etc, I’m super proud of them too.
- Would it be a blog post from me if it didn’t mention my beloved Stanley? (He’s a dog, for those of you who don’t know…). I’ve had too many lovely memories with him to count, but he’s been a constant source of delight for me this year and has made me realise just how incredible animals can be. I’m so sad I wasted so much of my life being scared of these beautiful creatures!
- This year I’ve also seen lots of my mates celebrating huge milestones; getting engaged, having babies, buying houses. Whilst it can sometimes feel hard to see that happening when you feel a bit stuck in a rut, it’s exactly those kinda things that spur you on to do better, push harder and achieve those things for yourself. I’m really proud of you all and love ya loads.
- Speaking of milestones, this year I celebrated five years of blogging! I may not get to write as often as I’d like, but I’m still really proud of the content I am producing (5 posts in the last year) and am chuffed that you lot still want to read my random musings. Long may it continue?
Phew – are you still with me? One thing I may actually have to stop when I get to 30 is these lists. We’re at 2000 words and counting…
On a serious note though, it’s been really cathartic to stop and write this post because it’s made me realise what a great year it’s been. I have had lots of fun adventures. I’ve tried loads of new things. I’ve developed on both a personal and professional level and taken good strides forwards to future proof for the coming years. To any of my mates who are approaching the big 3-0 and falling into the same sinking pit of self-doubt I was, give this list a go – I reckon you’ll surprise yourself, I definitely have!
I’m actually feeling quite excited for the big day now. I plan to celebrate with a much needed day off work, some drinks with my mates and then a banging curry on Saturday with my family – what more could you want?!