It’s my birthday and I feel as excited as every year. It’s “my” day, even though I really don’t want a lot of fuss. But I insist that me and the family do something nice together, have some delicious food and extra nice coffee in the morning and maybe a cocktail in the evening. It’s nice to have people think of you and wish you happy birthday. After all, it’s a celebration of life, an occasion to appreciate the amount of time we have been gracing this earth.
It’s only some time after that, at least for me, the realisation kicks in, that I am no longer a spring chicken in my late teens or early twenties. I may still feel like it and sometimes act like it, but a look in the mirror and my ID card states very clearly that I am well past that stage of my life. And then a slight panic sets in. I am already THAT old and I feel like I haven’t really done that much with my life. What have I achieved? How many adventures have I had? Was I wild enough in my twenties? Have I been outrageous enough when I was younger? How many embarrassing moments have I had? Was I too tame? Did I waste my youth? … The questions keep coming. I am sure this kind of pondering is responsible for one of my grey hairs.
The thing is, the sensible and realistic side of my brain is forever grateful that I am alive and kicking and have been on this planet longer than some people I have known, loved and lost. I am so thankful that my body is healthy and in pretty good shape, to the extent that I am actually fitter than in my twenties. And I clearly don’t have to worry that anyone will mistake me for a granny any time soon, since I got asked for ID the other day.
But, putting aside all those seemingly vain and superficial points, I also understand why I am clinging to staying young like Leonardo di Caprio in icy water in Titanic. My youth was battered with death and then a severe mental illness which nearly cost me my life. Whilst it could be argued that, because of this background, I should embrace life to the fullest, it’s not really that simple.
They say you shouldn’t have any regrets but if you truly ask me whether I regret being seriously ill, then I regret it a lot. Having an eating disorder doesn’t just nearly kill you, it also kills the joy in your life, social times and any fun events that may go on. I missed out on so many fun things with friends, I declined loads of invitations, because I was either too depressed to go or because I was too scared that I would have to eat. And so I feel I lost my youth to a vicious illness and was never really able to enjoy life back then.
Saying that, the recovered and joyous version of me is swiftly dealing with those negative thoughts. Life on this planet is a gift, maybe the greatest gift we’ll ever get. Living a long and prosperous life is equally amazing. Signs of ageing, wrinkles, grey hair and the inability to recover from a sniff of wine are also signs that we are changing and mostly change is a wonderful thing. I am a different person now than I was 20 years ago and I feel more confident and at home in my own skin as ever before. I care a lot less what people think of me and my main aim is not to be liked by everyone and to please everyone.
Yes, the society we live in demands we look good and young and perky and tiny and trim until we pop the clogs, but the society we live in needs to change. Many of us will live well beyond our 80s and ageism isn’t something I feel fond of. Similar to a fine wine or whiskey, the older we get, the more valuable and precious we are. We are the product of experiences, events and years of wisdom (some more than others…) behind us, and surely, that is time for celebration.
Therefore, this year, I shall be embracing my age and the fact that I know what a cassette-tape and a Walkman are. I am loved, I am accepted and, most of all, I am happy with my lot. And that is the best gift of all.