It’s my 40th birthday tomorrow and I cannot believe it.
I feel nowhere near old enough to be 40. I still haven’t even got used to referring to myself as a woman. In my head, I’m still a 20 year old girl, bopping away in the local indie club with my corduroy jeans and pixie cut, totally convinced that one day I’ll marry Tim Burgess. (It was his loss, by the way….)
As the day of the big 4-0 looms, I’ve been reflecting on the past 40 years: the good bits, the not so good bits, and the vodka and Red Bull incident of 1998.
It’s been an emotional week so far, and I now completely understand what is meant by the phrase ‘youth is wasted on the young’. You can never know the extent of the freedom, opportunities and potential you have in your youth, until that beautiful time is long gone. With a good 60, 70 or even 80 years ahead of you, the world really is your oyster. You may choose one path, find it’s not for you (or cock it up), and it won’t really matter because you’ll still have plenty of time to start again. I’m not saying you don’t have to work hard and that everything is easy at that age because you do, and it’s not. But oh, the places you’ll go….
While I’m far from chuffed about turning 40 and entering middle age, I don’t want this post to descend into a depressive, rambling monologue about grey hair, future incontinence and coming to terms with my impending mortality. Instead, I’m going to cheer myself up by focusing on a few positives, with a list of 5 reasons why I’m grateful to be as old as I am. No, really I am.
- Being born in 1978 meant that I got to experience life before the ‘on demand’ era. Nothing was instant and we had to do a lot of waiting. We waited for letters to arrive, for videos to rewind, for computer games to load on cassette, for the house phone to be free, for dial up internet to connect and for photos to develop. There was a lot of hanging around but also less pressure for things to be done right away. And life was so much calmer (if a bit frustrating…..).
- As a child in the 80s I got to play outside with other children, making up our own games, playing hide and seek, chain tag and rounders, all without the distraction of an IPad. We’d even play out on cold dark winter evenings and no one panicked that we wouldn’t come home. We made our own Halloween costumes (always from bin bags) and went knocking on neighbours’ doors for sweets. We ate 10p mix ups and drank cherryade til the colourings turned our tongues red. The days were fun and our imaginations thrived (apart from where the Halloween bin bag costumes were concerned).
- Being in my teens and early twenties in the 1990s, I got to see some brilliant bands in some tiny venues: Radiohead and Pulp at Newcastle Students’ Union, the Manic Street Preachers at Middlesbrough Town Hall…. Buying a CD was so much more exciting than downloading an album (especially if there were hidden tracks at the end), and everyone knew who was number one in the charts each week. It was a brilliant decade for music (ignoring Mr Blobby, Crazy Frog and Bob the Builder of course).
- I was born just early enough to be able to benefit from a totally free education. As an added bonus, my university days were over before social media and email properly took off and before many people had digital cameras, which meant that the vodka and Red Bull incident was never immortalised on line. That’s a definite win.
- Another perk of those pre-social media days was that there seemed to be a lot less pressure to lead the perfect, Instagrammable life. You could try to pretend you were living on cloud nine and #feelingblessed but people would see through it fairly quickly because you’d have to do all your #feelingblessed-ness face to face. As for looking beautiful, there were no filters and you couldn’t Photoshop your developed pictures from the chemist, so what you saw was what you got (unfortunately…..).
I’m sure there are a thousand more reasons why I’m happy to be almost 40, but it’s going to take me a while to come up with them. Instead, I’ll just be grateful for the past 40 years (which have been fairly brilliant) and hope that the next however many are as wonderful (but with fewer wigs and less Red Bull).