Hurtling Towards Middle Age
I glance out the window into the frost bitten night and shiver in anticipation. I’m 230km north of the Arctic Circle in Harriniva, Finland where the thermometer outside my cabin registers -28C. The night sky is no longer littered with cloud; only the crescent moon providing company for the thousands of stars twinkling and shimmering against a jet-black backdrop.
With the gage of the thermometer lodged firmly in my mind, I place layer upon layer of clothing on my body, wrapping myself in wool and fleece before clambering into my thermal suit, specially designed to withstand Arctic conditions. I struggle into my heavy duty boots and with my cabin-mate, step into the dark where the threat of the cold lies heavy in the air.
The frozen night immediately grips and gnaws at our exposed skin; I readjust my balaclava and pull my neck warmer over my cheeks so only my eyes are at its mercy. We trudge on through the snow, the sound of a thousand tiny snowflakes shattering each time we lay a heavily clad, thermally insulated boot onto their delicate, crystal surface.
We walk on, heading further into the icy darkness where we can hear the silence resonate across the landscape as we stare at the sky, willing nature to perform her private show for us. Stamping our feet to keep warm, we wait, completely at the mercy of the ‘tricky lady’.
I think I see a soft, white haze on the horizon, like steam rising from a lukewarm coffee cup, so faint, I’m not sure if it’s there or not. I feel a rush of excitement, daring to believe that it’s not the pale glow of a distant village, but the first glimpse of nature’s very own light show.
I’m not disappointed.
Slowly, the hazy glow intensifies, shaking off its pale white colour and transforming into a mint green as it expands horizontally across the sky. I stand there in disbelief as the thin green line begins to move outwards and upwards until it dominates the skyline; a green river with a hundred tributaries breaking free from their main channel and choosing their own shade of emerald or jade.
The colours hover above, swirling and soaring as if a child has thrown green fairy dust into the starlit sky and blown it into a myriad of shapes. Flashes of cherry red, emerald green and diamond white appear before us, dancing a quickstep across the sky, unaware of the awestruck audience watching beneath.
The green glow plays across the darkness, teasing us with the possibility of additional darts of colour, until gradually, it begins to dissolve, mingling graciously into the night sky that has played host to its spectacular show. The colours fade and the shapes shrink until we have to squint to see the soft green haze that hangs delicately in the cold air. Finally, it succumbs to the dark night, leaving its audience to bask in the warmth of its mystery.
Last Friday night I found myself attending a friend’s 30th birthday party. An 80’s themed 30th birthday party. At a Roller-Disco. As I mentioned in a previous post, the last time I went to a roller-disco it actually was the 80’s and I was wearing my, ‘I LOVE Jason Donovan’ t-shirt, with no sense of irony. Being somewhat accident prone when using only my own two feet, the thought of being placed upon eight wheels filled me with a slight sense of dread. But I survived. He’s how:
DO: Embrace the theme by wearing an outfit such as a Wonder Woman t-shirt, leg warmers, heart sunglasses and gold face paint. Convince yourself that you can pull it off.
DON’T: Expect to be able to pull it off
DO: Remember that you are wearing said outfit with a newly matured sense of irony
DON’T: Expect those you meet on the tube to understand such irony.
DO: Meet up with at least one friend dressed in equally embarrassing attire before heading onto the party
DON’T: Go it alone. Two people dressed in an ever-so-slightly-ridiculous-fashion look like they’re going somewhere. One person dressed as such, looks like they have escaped from somewhere.
DO: Meet for dinner before hand
DON’T: Expect other diners to match your enthusiasm for the 80’s
DO: Embrace the music of Kylie and Jason
DON’T: Embrace it in the restaurant. Not everyone appreciates the musical complexity of ‘Too Many Broken Hearts’ or the lyrical genius of ‘I Could Be So Lucky’. Especially not the man sat to your right.
DO: Sit down when putting on your rollerskates
DON’T: Expect to be able to stand up alone
DO: Sing along to ‘The Locomotion’, accompanied by associated dance moves
DON’T: Expect any one else to join in with you
DO: Be prepared for some strange looks when executing said dance moves
DON’T: Let it put you off
DO: Take up residence by the rail at the side of the rink
DON’T: Underestimate the role of the rail (and therefore, you) as a brake for other skaters
DON’T: Offer to buy a round of drinks. You are placed upon EIGHT WHEELS
DO: Hold hands with your friends. It will make you feel far more secure
DON’T: Lunge for your friend’s wrist with both hands as she skates by. Doing so will result in you being dragged round the rink resembling something like a Great Dane refusing to go for a walk
DO: Show your Wonder Woman t-shirt to your girlfriends
DON’T: Show it to any men. They will concentrate their stares on the bright gold W that is stretched (perhaps a little too tightly) over your chest
DO: Smile sweetly at any skaters you fall into and show them your Wonder Woman t-shirt
DON’T: Believe that Wonder Woman can make the situation better. She can’t. Nor can your chest.
DO: Stay in the slow lane
DON’T: Believe that just because you can stay upright for longer than a minute you are suddenly a pro-skater. You are not. Moving to the fast lane will inevitably lead to whole heap of embarrassment as you get sucked into a whirlwind with those who can actually skate. It will not end well.
Disclaimer: Absolutely none of the incidents listed under ‘DON’T’ happened to me.
No. Not at all. No siree…
It recently occurred to me that one of the reasons why I’m so freaked out about turning 30 is that I have suddenly realised that all the things that I had filed in the ‘I-know-realistically-I-will-never-do-but-you-never-know-I-might’ category of my brain has suddenly been relabelled ‘I-will-never-be-able-to-do…’. I now know that I will never win an Olympic Gold medal, nor will I ever be a popstar: Wembley will never see this face. It never seemed to matter that I have always been fairly useless at sport, nor did it matter that my, ‘well, I can hold a tune’ voice, two left feet and tendency to put on weight could hinder my aspirations of becoming a star.
The thing was that I could carve these carefully thought out scenarios in my mind, always aware that they would never happen, but still safe in the knowledge that they could happen. Now that I’m turning 30, it’s suddenly not possible and that’s why I think getting older scares so many people. Suddenly the possibilities are less inviting and the realities more biting. Words and phrases such as ‘might’, ‘could be’ and ‘you can do whatever,’ have been taken away and replaced with sensible suggestions such as ‘pension’, ‘career progression’ and dare I say it, ‘Maternity Leave’.
Priorities change as you get older and you suddenly realise what you will never be able to do. That’s why my mantra for my ‘30th year’ is to make the last year of my twenties so full that I don’t want to escape into the little part of my brain where I’ve been harbouring these fantasies. ‘I could’ needs to be replaced with ‘I have’ and the fantasies replaced with realities. There is so much ‘life’ to grab hold of and so many memories to create I just need to start doing it. So here goes…just don’t ask me to give up my popstar fantasy yet, I may be more Bridget Jones than Britney Spears, but you never know when the market might be right for a hairbrush wielding 30 year old.
Since when did asking your 2 ½ year old if they want a ‘Baby Chino’, become an acceptable thing to do?
What’s wrong with a glass of milk and a rusk?
You know you’re approaching 30 when:
"And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years."
Fuck, fuck, fuckity, FUCK! How the hell did this happen?! I’m currently hibernating beneath my duvet as I begin to comprehend exactly what this means. I’m not a pretty sight. My face has been welded to the pillow for the past 7 hours so appears to have folded in on itself. Someone said you get more wrinkles as you get older but I was not prepared for this. I look like an Orc. But it’s not my Orc-like state that I’m profaning about. It is something far, far more shocking. Rewind ten minutes:
My alarm goes off.
Snooze goes on.
My alarm goes off, again
Snooze goes on, again.
My alarm goes off…
It’s a familiar pattern.
I have learnt in my years that setting my snooze button to go off at intervals of 10 minutes inevitably leads to an inordinate amount of stress when trying to leave the house. This is why sensible people set it to go off at five or even, if they’re being daring, seven minute intervals. I am not sensible. I like my sleep. So, before I know it, I’ve scrabbled around the bedroom floor, thrown some clothes on (only later realising that a strapless top, skirt and flip flops really don’t make for appropriate office attire) charged out the flat while running through a checklist of the essentials ‘keys, purse, oyster card, makeup’ (vital for any Orc) stumbled down the stairs (I make staying upright seem like an art form) and power-walked my way to the tube (with or without the umbrella that is languishing by the front door of my flat. Many a time have I turned up to work giving the proverbial drowned rat a bad name)
Although today is different. I sit bolt upright. In a state of sleep induced panic, that feeling you get when you suddenly realise that you have snoozed for 40 minutes, leaving you precisely five minutes before you absolutely have to leave the house, I realise what today means. And it’s not that I’m late for work, I just forgot to turn off my alarm last night. For today, is my birthday and I’m turning 29. This means two things: One, I have racked up 29 of your earthly light years and today I start the first day of my 30th year (Please refer to the opening line of this blog for exactly how that made me feel) and two, I have an exceptionally bad hangover (I spent last night getting hideously dunk on white wine, before trying to drag my friend to ‘some bar I went to once’. It was not the work of a responsible adult entering into their third decade on this earth).
The sudden movement has made my head feel as if it’s trying to wrench itself from my body. I actually wish it would. So I crawl back under the duvet to work out what I want to do. Not just today, but what I want to do with this year. I want to do something and everything. I want this to be the best year it can be. I want to turn 30 and feel happy and satisfied with my life. Because at the moment, I really don’t.
Problem is, I’m not sure what feeling ‘satisfied’ means for me. I just know that right now, turning 30 fills me with such stomach-punching dread (and that’s not down to the bottle of vino swimming round my body) that I need to do something to change that. I need to be able to wake up in a year’s time and feel, not only hungover, but satisfied. I want my hangover (because let’s face it, it’s going to happen) to be celebratory, not to have been induced by a need to drown my sorrows. I want this to be a year of firsts. A year where I get out of the mundane and make something happen.
So, in my hangover fuzz, I decide that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I’m going to spend time thinking, feeling, travelling and most importantly of all, experiencing all I possibly can in one year. By writing it all down here, I become accountable to myself, because when I do look back in 12 months time, I’ll be able to judge myself on the content of this blog.
So, to start… just let me find the ibuprofen first.