Everywhere we turn lies the promise of something better. Smarter ways of earning money, revolutionary models for learning, heart-healing superfoods, treatments that return your skin to how it was when you were two. It’s an outward-looking world we live in, where we’re encouraged to continually improve everything, and wish for a new future, or pay mega bucks to return to our past.
On reflection, I’ve been doing this my whole life.
At the age of nine all I wanted was to be double figures. I thought as soon as I hit ten there would be fireworks, and life would change. My tenth birthday was considerably uncataclysmic. So, I pined for the imaginary sexiness of my teenage years – boys, kisses, being cool. That would be my time, I thought. Again, life somewhat underdelivered.
Not to worry, there was free-thinking adulthood and university to look forward to. Four years of being drunk and quasi intelligent, and meeting trendy people in thai dye that smoked pot. Yes, that was fun, but during those years I craved the end of exams and penny pinching. I wanted to explore my whole brain in a job with a salary and a real house to go home to, more than a prison-block hall of residence and cider for dinner.
And then my much-anticipated twenties came, with their perpetual unknowns and insecurities. Is this really the career for me? Should I settle down with him? This sport, this style? Perhaps there’s something more… I know, it’ll come when I turn 30.
The semi blissful turmoil of my thirties arrived – starting with the promise of a career that rapidly went arse-over-tit, followed by the relationship that was meant to end with kids, and ended on Valentine’s Day with a bunch of supermarket chrysanthemums and pasta bake. And, of course, the home ownership that haemorrhaged money and brought more loneliness than laughs.
I mean, really, when does the waiting stop and one’s ‘time’ really arrive? Is there a date cast in fate for each of us, or do we need to experience a quota of awkwardness before life grows kind?
Whatever it is, a blessed stability arrived for me as I enter my fifth decade. I’m not going to suggest I woke up on my 40th and all of a sudden life was remarkably different. But each big birthday brings with it reflection, appreciation and remorse. That, coupled with shocking health, tipped me into a different state of mind.
I’ve accepted that nothing is ever going to be perfect. I am where I am, and, hell, why don’t I just make the most of it?
I’ve spent four decades years shaping me. I’ve got values, interests and behaviours I no longer want to hide. I’m a free thinking liberal, but I don’t believe in Scottish independence. I love being social with food, but I’d rather not share. I adore being in bed at 9pm, and don’t like getting drunk. I love poetry, and have never watched Masterchef.
I’m revelling in the joy of having a career I believe in, and know I’m pretty good at what I do. I’ve chosen a city to live in that genuinely feels like home. I no longer have time for those shitty self-serving relationships. Now my friends are tight, my relationships precious. I’m not fighting my family any more, trying to make a point. We’ve hit a happy middle ground, respectful of our differences, most of the time.
My checkered past also gives me the lived experience I need to help others as they dream of a better future. And if there’s one thing that I can give folk, it’s the knowledge that we’re on a continuous journey and, today, this is where we’re at.
So, let’s stop continually dreaming of something better. It’s exhausting. Instead, let’s give today a chance, in all its ugliness and joy, and try accepting what we’ve got. It takes a fraction of the energy, and life can be pretty damn sweet when we let it all in.