It was my birthday last week. I took the week off work, travelling cross country to spend it with my family who I haven’t really seen since the Covid Lockdown started back in March. And it was wonderful. My little guy had a blast hanging with his older cousins and having Grandad dote on him, and we parents enjoyed not having to run after him every waking moment. We actually got time to ourselves, sometimes hours at a stretch.
Most shockingly of all? I read a whole book. Cover to cover. In a week. I haven’t done that in a couple of years. It was lovely.
I come from a family who celebrate birthdays. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Usually we just gather in a house, whoever is around that day comes over, there’s cake, candles, singing and lots of tea. It’s a tradition I want to uphold as my son gets older, to make sure he knows that birthdays are a celebration. That no matter what else is going on your family are there for you, they love you and they want to celebrate you. This year, everyone who was free came with us to a local pub for food and a drink. We sat outside in the evening sunshine, enjoying the social aspect, having been unable to do so for months. We left, put the baby to bed and then the family reappeared, we had tea and cake – two types of cake – and we sat and talked and laughed.
But this birthday got me thinking about other birthdays. About milestones and opportunities. About dreams and plans, some fulfilled, most not.
I remember being about 16 or 17 and having a plan for my life. Vague as it was, it was a plan. By the ripe old age of 25 I was going to be working a job I loved (preferably music, theatre or writing related), be married and if not have a child, at the very least be planning on having one very soon. Had I stuck to this plan and tried to bring it to fruition how different my life would be.
I am now 36 and I can’t tick all the boxes that I laid out for myself twenty years ago. But life isn’t about ticking boxes. For me it has been about taking what comes your way, figuring it out as you go, trying to make the most of it all and having people around you who care about you.
It is about celebrating every birthday. About making a cake for someone just because you want to. It’s about the little moments.
Playing with bubbles in the rain with your son because he doesn’t know any different, the rain isn’t a problem to him.
Finding a story someone wrote for you when they were a child and gifting it back to them as an adult, bringing back memories long forgotten, sparking conversations.
For me, it isn’t about having the same thing that someone else has, the ring, the house.
It’s about remembering the little details and following up, making an effort to make others feel seen.
It’s about laughing uncontrollably as your child practices a new found skill – blowing raspberries on your belly.
It’s about the little conversations held over tea and cake, the moments that we take for granted.
I am now 36 and I can’t tick all the boxes that I laid out for myself twenty years ago.
- In a job I love? Definitely not. Gainfully employed? Yes. Do I enjoy it? No. Are the people alright? Yeah, seem to be.
- Married? Nope. In a long term serious relationship? Yep. We’ve grown up together, lived in two different countries and had our ups and downs. Officially, we’ve never signed that piece of paper. But he is my partner, for better or worse.
- Have a child? This box I can tick, although he has only recently turned one. Going by 16 year old me’s plan he should be 10 or 11 by now!
- Involved in music, theatre, writing? Nope. Nope. And does this count? This is the closest I’ve come to writing anything in years.
Real life gets in the way of our plans.