39: Part 1
Sure, age is just a number. It’s just that some numbers feel weightier than others. A few weeks ago, I turned 39. Staring in the face of 40 doesn’t scare me, not exactly – but it does get me thinking that if there are things that I want to be able to remember as a part of my 30s, well, the clock is ticking …
I spent my 20s finding my place in the world – graduation, career, marriage, buying a home, settling down. I spent a lot of my 30s losing it again: separation, divorce, moving from one country to another; living in caravans and rented flats. Trading security for angst, uncertainty, dislocation, chaos. And running: lots and lots of running.
With hindsight it’s easy to see that I took up running because I was running away. From all that mess inside me and around me.
Once you’ve uprooted your life, how easy is it to stop and settle down again? In my experience, not very. I count myself incredibly lucky today to have a wonderful fiancé; a home of my own, supportive parents who have stood by me, and two beautiful children. You could say I’ve settled down again, but it’s not the same. When I settled first time round, I was naïve enough to believe that I was settled for good. I could see the future stretching out in front of me: a comfortable, Home Counties existence; holidays and promotions; children, friends and family; middle-class, middle-of-the-road luxury and propriety.
The possibilities are endless …
When I closed the door on that future, suddenly the possibilities were endless. At first, that energised me: I saw for the first time that I could live anywhere, do anything, be anyone. Choose my own destiny. Now that frightens me. Because once you’ve seen that the possibilities are endless, no single version of the future has any more traction than any other. Life is suddenly filled with opportunities and risks, and the very act of determining which is which becomes a minefield. When is it foolish to follow your dreams – and when is it foolish not to?
Should you always strive to make your dreams your reality – or should you sometimes strive to make your reality, your dream?
I don’t have the answers. What I am sure of, though, is that you can’t press pause whilst you figure it out. When the possibilities are endless, even no action is an action of sorts. If you choose to take no action your life passes by just the same.
When I can’t see the way forwards, I try to switch my perspective and look at life backwards instead. Which person do I want to have been? Which life do I want to have lived? Which experiences do I want to be able to look back on? What regrets am I prepared to risk: the regret that ‘I did’, or the regret that ‘I didn’t’?
I don’t always have the answers to these either – but these are the big questions that I’m learning to ask.