“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the years.” ~ Ausonius
I thought I would have been settled down by now…
I should be settled down by now.
If I was more committed I might have been financially free by now.
If I was more organised I could have been location independent by now.
I probably should have moved house by now.
These are just a handful of thoughts that have been swirling through my mind over the past few weeks.
I turn 35 in ten days and over the last year or so I have become increasingly aware that 35 is a milestone number for many women, particularly women who have not yet had children.
Initially I was excited about my birthday, as I am every year. I planned to be away somewhere nice or at least do something significant to mark the day.
35 did feel like a milestone to me, but at first it was a positive one. Gradually however I started to feel crap about my upcoming birthday.
I started thinking about all the things I say year after year that I want to achieve, yet there are so many things that I have not even started, let alone accomplished.
I began to measure my 35 years against society’s expectations and it made me feel like sh*t. I felt like a failure and I felt inadequate.
I also felt fear and a slight desperation. There was an urgency to have my life set up exactly as I’d envisioned it; I was running out of time.
My thoughts have become louder and more frequent as my birthday approaches.
Rather than looking forward to my birthday, I was dreading it.
Age is more than a number
This is a first for me as age has never really bothered me. When people say they’re dreading a milestone birthday or they lie about their age, I never got it. I was in team “Age ain’t nothing but a number”, so it made no sense to me.
When I turned 30, sure I had some concerns but fundamentally I was excited about it. Some of my friends who turned 30 the same year as me felt awful about it. I, on the other hand felt great about life and as a result, I was totally un-phased by the number of candles on my cake.
Over the past few months, rather than feeling great about the point I have reached in life, I have been focused on everything I am still yet to do, see and have and I’e totally overlooked where I am today.
My fears were beginning to consume me and I gave up thinking about a celebration.
Deep down, I knew I wanted to mark the occasion but I could not muster the positive energy to look forward to it.
It’s good to talk
Last week however I spoke to my friend and my cousin separately and thankfully those conversations managed to help me to see sense and regain my usual excitement about my birthday.
My friend was so up for celebrating my birthday and so open to doing whatever I wanted that she moved my focus from dread to thinking of ways I’d like to spend my day. She asked me what I’d really like to do and I knew instantly that I wanted to go away somewhere – ideally Paris or Barcelona. She was up for it and I began to get excited.
My cousin reminded me of how crazy and unbelievable her life has been over the past ten years (seriously you wouldn’t believe it – maybe one day she’ll let me give you an overview – hell maybe one day I’ll help her to write an autobiography!) and how unpredictable life can be. She told me there is no point worrying about what hasn’t happened yet because I have no idea what life has in store for me. She also reminded me of everything I have achieved in my life so far.
Here are 6 things that helped me to regain my enthusiasm about my upcoming milestone birthday:
1. Let go of your “shoulds”
Everyone has a long list of things they feel they should have accomplished. The truth is that list never gets any shorter. We add more to the list than we can actually ever get done in a lifetime, that’s just the nature of being human.
Ask yourself why you feel you should and whether it is something you really want or it’s something you feel pressured to be, do or have.
2. Ignore society’s and other people’s expectations
When you look at your list of “shoulds”, highlight everything that is an expectation of society or other people. Disregard anything you feel you have to do simply because it is expected of you.
Don’t measure your life against society’s and other people’s expectations, opinions and judgements. No-one has a rule book so follow your own instincts.
3. Speak to your “cheerleaders”
Turn to people you trust and who support you in an empathetic way. People who will be honest with you but at the same time help you feel more positive and optimistic about your circumstances.
When you’re in a funk, it can be difficult to find anything positive to focus on. Connect with people who will help you to feel good about yourself and your life again.
4. Acknowledge how far you have come
It can be easy to focus on how much you feel you still have to do in life and completely overlook how far you have come.
You may not be where you want to be in life, or where society says you should be, but that doesn’t mean you’ve made zero progress in life. Reflect on all the positive aspects of your life and trust that there will be much more good stuff to come.
5. Remember change is constant
If you feel like your life is not the way you’d like it to be, remember life can change in the blink of an eye — for better or for worse — so take comfort in knowing that eventually things will change.
As long as you are taking steps, no matter how small, towards your goals, you will get there eventually. However, remember to appreciate your life right now because you never know what’s around the corner.
6. Plan a celebration
It could be something as small as treating yourself to a slice of cake and a hot chocolate in your favourite coffee shop with a good book, to something more extravagant like a weekend away.
Whatever you plan, make sure it is something you will enjoy, that you can look forward to and that is stress-free to organise.
I’m not sure if I’ll actually end up going away for my birthday as it falls just before the May Day Bank Holiday Weekend here in London which means prices are extremely inflated. I’m fine with that now as whatever I choose to do, I will celebrate reaching another milestone in my life, rather than dread it.
Sharing is Caring
How do you regain your enthusiasm? What strategies have you found effective that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments section below.
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