Ah, my Birth Day.
Even when I was little I would always feel totally, overwhelmingly emotional about my Birthday. I always carried this expectation that it would be one way, and if it dared differ in the slightest then my world would feel like it had come crashing down. That my one day for it to be all about me had been ruined.
The selfishness of that isn’t lost on me, please know that I’m not a total twat and I am well aware of how precocious and self-centred that all sounds and it’s not something I’m proud of being like as a child.
Time has moved on and I’m no longer wearing puffball 80’s party dresses (except on very special occasions) and I would like to think I have a flash of clarity and understanding that, shocker, the whole world doesn’t revolve around me.
I think that there comes a point, especially when you’ve had children that you can see the beauty in small things, the delight in the quiet and the unexpected and today, on my birthday, all I wanted to do was go to a coffee shop, write for a bit, buy myself some knickers that make me feel nice and eat some cake. (I also wanted to see Taron Egerton in the new Elton John film but that felt like too may brilliant things in one day so I think I’ll extend the celebrations to the weekend. Yes, I like listening to metal music and Elton John and that’s Ok.)
It’s got me thinking about why I would freak out so much around my Birthday. I think it’s in some part to do with that feeling of reflection and mentally ticking off what I’ve achieved in the last year and it has to do with that other mental checklist we carry around of ‘I still want to/ buy/ be/ travel to/ achieve…’ and that’s the one that has tripped me up the most over the years.
When I was little I was desperate to own a pony, not in the fad or hobby sense but the waking and sleeping, obsessive, training like a jockey and up at the stables every day before school type desperation. Each year that passed, I still didn’t own my own pony. I had put aside the fact that I had been lucky enough to get lots of free rides on excellent horses, trained to teach younger riders and taken away on holidays to ride horses on cold windy beaches. All amazing things, all not good enough because I wanted my own horse. Then I got injured, quite badly, I had spinal treatment that meant wearing a brace, I started college and I discovered boys (horsey girls make that last discovery much later!) and the dream faded away and I realised that owning a horse wouldn’t have given me the freedom to travel in my gap year. Or to do a placement at a National Newspaper. Or time to appreciate that they cost money, and time, and dedication and sacrifice of nearly everything else in your life.
The next big thing to tick off the lift list was to write. I had to get my big break in writing and I had to do it straight out of uni. A journalism degree in hand and an enthusiasm to write for pennies if it meant getting published, I scoured the ads, emailed desperate requests for work experience and tried getting contacts who could offer me a break. And when my temporary job started to feel more permanent, and the emails being sent lessened I realised that the writing dream was stalling and the day job that paid the bills was now my priority. As that Birthday came around I was no longer calling myself a writer, I was working in the Public Sector and working for the greater good for lesser money than I’d imagined.
By 23 I wanted to be living in Paris. I’d spent my life dreaming of the day I would up sticks and move to the land of bohemian arts, dirty Euro Pop and decent café crème and I had the opportunity to work there for a few months on a job trial. But that Birthday was shared with a boyfriend who didn’t think that fitted with his plans. That it wasn’t what was in out future and so I declined because I was silly enough to give up on a dream for a boy, and I’m still kicking myself a little at that decision. (The job and the boy, for clarity.)
More recently in the last few years the big ticket item was babies. I wanted a baby desperately, thought I’d done everything to prepare myself, had a partner, bought a house, got married, was patient, and patient and with every birthday that passed I felt like I was hanging on to the last nugget of patience I had. Everyone around me was pregnant or a new Mum and it felt incredibly unfair.
And this year it’s properly struck me that with every birthday I’d cry and I’d whine and as an adult I’d mourn turning another year older and I had totally missed all those bloody wonderful, unplanned and unexpected things that had happened throughout the year.
I didn’t get a pony but I did meet some amazing horsey friends, learned confidence, resilience and bravery whilst flinging myself over jumps so high that I had no business trying to jump!
I hadn’t got the writing job but I’d also just come out the other side of a messy parental divorce, a break up and a loss of someone in a very short space of time and writers block had been medicated with some of the best nights out I’ve ever had. We called it the summer of love and it was. I loved my amazing friends, loved travelling Europe with my best buddy and returning to the security of a job that had real career prospects.
Babies. I wont pretend it was easy, or that IVF and fertility treatments were all fun and games but we laughed through it, we came out the other side stronger than we’d ever been, we saw vulnerable sides of each other and we could be there for each other through some of the darkest times using every single one of those marriage vows to pull us through. And at the end of it, we had our baby, the one meant for us, with his perfect (month early) timing, he entered our world as he was meant to.
Messy, unexpected and imperfectly perfect.
And that’s just what birthdays are going to be for me from now on. And I am totally happy with that.
Happy Birthday fellow Taureans! May your day be as lazy as you like, the cake to be as glutenous as you prefer and for the other signs to recognise we may be stubborn as hell but the most loyal you will find.