25+5 (A Retrospective)

Five years ago, the decade was changing and I wrote a somewhat melancholic blog about the arrival of my 25th birthday. Now here we are and I’m turning 30 in a couple of weeks and I thought it might be good to critique this old blog and see how much I have (or haven’t) changed. I know that this might seem a little self-indulgent going over my own stuff like this, but it’s my birthday so just go with it, okay?

Let us begin.

The decade’s nearly over. That means that it’ll be 2010 before you know it. If I had to pick the one thing that matters the most to me in 2010 it would be my birthday. Not just because it’s my birthday, but because it’s the big number twenty-five. It’s the last big milestone birthday before you hit thirty. Sixteen, eighteen and twenty-one are all long gone and that means that it’s time to take stock of my life.

I like that it starts with this sense of impending doom (The decade is ending! What will we do?!) and a little element of narcissism (What matters most is my special day!). I still hold that those are the milestone birthdays and I believe that they are the ones that people really care about. Shame I won’t get another for a decade.

Ten years ago, I was still new at an English high school. I split my time between trying to fit in and trying to stand out. Six years ago, I was dropping out of Manchester Metropolitan University. Back then I was sure that this was the right idea. Well, the jury’s still out on that one. Two and a half years ago, I was moving out of my parents’ home. This time for good, I promised. One year ago, I was sporting a particularly nice ginger beard.

Okay, so not everything listed above is particularly important.

These things were and are all true. I used to think a lot about where I had come from and I would beat myself up over choices that I had made. Coming to an English school was a serious shift in gears for me and I’m genuinely surprised that I made it through without losing my mind. I always considered dropping out of University to be one of my biggest failings, but actually my life could have been totally different had I stayed in and gotten my degree. I probably wouldn’t be as happy as I am now, although 25-year-old-me wouldn’t necessarily believe that. Moving out and staying out of the parent’s home was important for everyone involved. I know that they would agree. And although I may make light of it in the paragraph above, it was a nice beard and was the origin story for the one I wear today, so that’s something.

So I’m rapidly approaching twenty-five and I don’t know if I have much to show for it. I haven’t done particularly well with the factors that usually define success: career, wealth and family. I work for a good company, earning a decent wage. Maybe there isn’t as much in the way of progression as I would hope for, but at least I’ve been comfortably employed throughout the recession. In terms of wealth I’m probably in about as much debt as the next guy, just with less to show for it. And my love life… Well that’s something that’s best left unspoken about (not because it’s terrible and seedy, but because it’s relatively non-existent).

Wow. There are a lot of deep-seated neuroses in the lines above (this is where the melancholia I mentioned at the start kicks in). I seemed to carry around a lot of crippling self-doubt a few years back. Luckily, just like Taylor Swift, I’ve learned to shake it off. Am I still aware of not having ticked certain boxes, of course I am, but I just don’t worry about them so much (I go into this a bit in one of my earlier blogs). At least the last part has improved. I’m engaged to the love of my life and she, for some inexplicable reason, has been putting up with me for three years now.

I think all in all it’s not the getting older bit that bugs me; it’s the worry that I may not be achieving what I wish I was. Funnily enough not only do I not worry about ageing, I actually want to live to be one hundred and sixteen years old. If I do, I’ll have officially lived in three centuries. How about that for an awesome achievement?

The progression of modern medical science means that 116 might actually be an achievable age. Maybe. Or at least I keep telling myself that. Anyway, I’ll go into my theory on mortality and the concept of the body as a self-repairing machine at another time.

So what are the goals to achieve before this (rather minor) milestone age? I should know them, but I’ve pretty much given up on birthday resolutions. I usually just rely on booze to be a comforting mistress at birthday time instead of planning my year ahead. Of course I do have life goals, but they’re mostly scheduled for around that next big milestone; the big three-oh. I’ll start worrying about them in four years time.

Oh brilliant. Thanks past-me. Leaving a big old heap of ‘things to do’ for me to worry about. It’s not bad enough that I’ll be missing my more recent deadlines (read more about that here), but now I’m going to miss past ones too. Ugh. I don’t even know why I said that thing about booze being a comfort. I’ve never really been much of a drinker. When I do drink, I get emotional… and usually messy (bit of a lightweight). Best avoided, really.

I think that what I’m trying to say (and at the same time, convince myself of) is that although birthdays cause you to pause and examine yourself (not physically), they shouldn’t be how you judge yourself or anyone else. I’ve met massively accomplished twenty-somethings (they make me jealous) and I’ve met middle-aged folks with nothing but their name (they make me worry). From now on, when you think about your age, don’t think about the number. Think about what you’ve done, who you’ve known, how you’ve changed. If the thoughts and memories that you conjure up make you smile then the number is no longer important. That’s how I’m going to work from now on. Happier birthdays.

Check that out! Finishing as a plucky optimist. Who’d have thought that it would end up that way after the first few lines? What reading this has taught me is that my opinions on things like age, success and so on have pretty much remained the same over the last few years (except for the odd moments of panic and cold sweat). Since I wrote that blog I’ve made a feature length movie with some of my best friends (check out the trailer or read about the premiere maybe?) and I’ve met and made plans to wife my dream girl. I think that’s pretty good for a neurotic thirty year old.

Now I just need to tick the rest of the boxes and buy a house and have a baby and make it as a writer and…

Forty is a good age for deadlines, right?

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