I’m about to turn 32. Thank you in advance for your card/Facebook message/silent cursing of the day I was born.
For the last three years, I’ve taken to this blog to write a list to mark the end of another year. When I was 29 I wrote 29 things I’d learnt in 29 years. Then came 30 pieces of wisdom to mark the big three-oh. And then, last year, 31 things that continue to surprise me about being alive. (A list which, were I writing it this year would include: That anybody thinks it’s reasonable to have phone keypad tones switched on in 2017; and The incredible impact air conditioning can have on my temper).
So now here comes 32. And whilst all the other ages came as something of a shock, this one feels just right. So this time I’m sharing why getting older isn’t so bad after all. It’s gonna happen anyway so you may as well smile about it.
1. Nobody cares that your main aim in life is to go home at a reasonable hour and get into bed. Most people feel exactly the same way.
2. The older you get the clearer it becomes that – with just a few exceptions – you simply don’t have to do things you don’t want to do. (This TED Talk on how to stop giving a f*** offers very helpful advice on this subject).
3. It finally dawns on you that the idea that if you’re not wearing heels you’re not properly dressed up is BULLSHIT. You can, of course, wear whatever the hell you want.
4. People don’t just compliment your nail varnish, they applaud you for finding time to apply it.
5. You get to regale younger folks with crazy stories about all the things you got up to when you were young. About the time you failed an exam because you stayed up till 5am the night before. Or when you drank triple vodka and lemonades and begged your body to let you throw up. They don’t believe you were ever that fun, of course, but you get to tell the story nonetheless.
6. You realise that the fact that women go to the toilet too isn’t taboo after all. In fact, within minutes of meeting a fellow female thirty something, it’s not unusual to have compared notes regarding the weakness of your respective bladders.
7. The ever growing list of glorious new roles you get to take on. Auntie, sister-in-law, friend-always-happy-to-discuss-the-complexities-of-Coronation-Street-storylines. With great age comes great responsibility, and I am here for all of it.
8. Female friendships at this point in our lives are better than they’ve ever been. Much like wine, cheese and Colin Firth, they really do get better with age.
9. The sweet joy of regressing. Yes maturity is important, but hanging out with school friends and howling about the time Tina hid around a corner waiting to scare me and instead jumped onto a perfect stranger’s back, will never get old, even if we do.
10. Relationships with your siblings. My brothers are two of the best men I know. This is not a sentence I thought I’d write when we were living at home and SCREAMING at each other about who got to sit in the armchair closest to the telly. (I mean, it doesn’t matter but it was always them and it was so unfair). And I have it on good authority that they thought I was pretty ghastly too. Nice job growing up, everyone.
11. You realise that dropping a swear word into conversation with your parents won’t bring the world to an end. It’s been 32 years and we’re finally in agreement that ‘arse’ is an incredibly useful term.
12. We get to look around at a world growing up on social media secure in the knowledge that, unless time machines become a thing – and they SHOULDN’T – the minutiae of our teenage years will never be documented on the Internet.
13. The oddly grounding effect of spotting a grey hair in your fringe. Here I am, it says, the passing of time, happening right here above your eyebrows. Stop dicking about on Twitter and LIVE, for goodness sake.
14. You learn that a successful marriage depends on a strong commitment to little white lies. (My husband refuses to admit that he can see the aforementioned grey hairs and for that I will love him forever).
15. For the most part, the people in your life now are in your life because you want them in your life. Because who’s got time to have things any other way?
16. The freedom to write a birthday list requesting what you really want. You can keep your gadgets, give me comfortable pants and a high quality shower gel and I’ll be happy for the rest of the year.
17. Not being embarrassed to admit that when everybody started going on about Drake, it took you a week to figure out that people weren’t talking about Nick Drake.
18. …Or that “Sifting through a rack of reduced greetings cards” is your idea of a perfect weekend activity.
19. …Or to say that a stool is not a chair (with my back?!) so you will need to find somewhere else to sit.
20. Or that, as far as you’re concerned, anything happening outside of your house on a Monday night is going to need to happen without you.
21. Having the confidence, when a waiter or waitress asks if you have any questions about the menu, to ask them so many that they may as well take a seat whilst you work through your list.
22. The constant novelty of marriage. Yes arguments happen, and no, some people don’t seem to understand that “Unless you’re planning to build some kind of fort, please can you put used toilet rolls in the recycling bin” isn’t a joke. But waking up next to a person about whom you believe all love songs were written never stops being exciting.
23. Knowing that with every day that passes, fewer and fewer people in the world expect you to look or be cool.
24. Realising it really is OK when somebody pays you a compliment to just say “Thank you”. You don’t have to panic and list every single one of your faults in response.
25. The understanding that nobody in your life ever thought you were being ironic when you listened to Steps, Boyzone and Westlife anyway, so you might as well just enjoy them with your head held high.
26. You discover the world of books designed to help make your life easier. I wrote a few months ago about Derren Brown’s ‘Happy’ and learning to focus on the things in life we can control. For this book and the many others about how to keep your sh*t together, I am very grateful.
27. The pressure of time continuing to pass forces you to finally find the courage to SAY what you want to do with your life. Which is excellent because now you can put all the energy you’d usually reserve for feeling embarrassed by your ambitions into realising them.
28. Permission to participate in borderline fanaticism regarding high quality air freshening products. TALK TO ME ABOUT MY DIFFUSERS. I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY.
29. The knowledge that, at any point, should you need or want to, you can go home. Because you are an adult, and you get to decide what you do.
30. Finally feeling like you know yourself well enough. How much sun you can take. How much water you need to feel normal. How many giant chocolate buttons is too many giant chocolate buttons. Sometimes you have to get it wrong before you can know how to get it right.
31. Realising that most of the very best moments of your life don’t make it into the photo album. They’re too good to stop to look through a lens.
32. Sh*t suddenly gets real. I’m sitting here with a small human being kicking, punching and spinning his or her way around my womb, quietly waiting to turn our lives upside down. It’s as bizarre and beautiful as everybody says.
You see, age has its downsides – its aches and pains, its effect on your capacity to party – but without it I wouldn’t be here, somewhere close to ready for motherhood. So I really can’t fault it.
I can only imagine what I’ll have to say about the world by the time 33 comes around.