When you are a young child, you talk about what you would like to be when you grow up.
You dream big – astronaut, writer, doctor, fireman, landscape gardener, gymnast, politician, deep-sea diver, rock star, teacher, Queen of your own country; or perhaps even all of the above… *coughs*
As you enter your teenage years, maybe you start to think about who you will marry. In my case, it was Michael J Fox and briefly Ralph Macchio, circa The Karate Kid Part 1.
Or maybe you will decide that marriage is an outdated institution and not for you at all.
I swayed between the two for many years.
You explore yourself. You get a sense of who you will become and perhaps more importantly, who you will not.
I quickly realised I did not have the education or patience to be a teacher, a doctor, or an astronaut. I did not have the courage of a fireman or a deep-sea diver, the flexibility of a gymnast, or the bloodline to be Queen. I did not have the voice of a politician or a rock star, and Michael J Fox was already married.
Your dreams do not become smaller, but you start to hone them in a bit more.
Writer. One day…
Then, you start to think about where you might like to settle. Perhaps you save for a deposit on a house.
Or, you change your mind and decide a mortgage is a lot of responsibility to have in your twenties and you want to see a bit more of the world first. So you sell your first flat and invest in a one-way ticket to Australia instead where you spend a year partying off the profits.
Hopefully I am the only one here who was that daft.
But the experience was life changing and the friends I made will be for life. You can’t put a price on that.
In your twenties, you crave independence. You want a job so you can move out of your parents’ house. The job you get is probably not the job you really want, but it is a start.
Everyone has to start somewhere.
You choose an area to live based on how many pubs you can count on the high street. Well, that’s what we did anyway.
We wanted to live in a flat with purple walls, across the hall from a couple of cute guys we could hang out with in coffee shops all day, before realizing the funny one was our lobster.
We each paid our share of the rent, argued over unpaid bills, and lived on pesto pasta and Dominos Pizza.
We swapped clothes and drank cheap wine. Although, not always in that order.
In your twenties, you can go out dancing all night and still turn up for work the next day, maybe looking a bit bleary eyed but nothing a sausage & egg McMuffin won’t fix.
You have yet to experience a proper hangover. The type that starts the morning after your 30th birthday and feels like a herd of elephants have stamped on your head and a dog has thrown up in your throat.
You lived in the moment then, because one day you’d settle down and be sensible.
That was always the plan – the dream job, the dream partner, the dream house and the perfect children.
The moment when you become a grown-up.
Then you get the career, the house, the husband, the growing family and more than a few grey hairs to prove it, yet you still don’t feel like one.
By the time you reach 40, you realise that nobody feels like a grown-up and we are all just winging it in our own way.
Maybe life turned out exactly as you planned and maybe it didn’t, but nevertheless you have come a long way and everything is moving in fast forward now.
It is easy to get caught up in the demands of work, family, friends and your children’s school.
You may wish for hard days to be over, for long weeks to end, and for holidays to arrive.
Sometimes we forget to take a minute to stop and appreciate what we have.
This is supposed to be the happily ever after part. The moment we have been building up to. These are the days of our lives.
Slow down. Enjoy it. Admire how wonderful your children are. Be proud of the career you have carved for yourself. Feel good about the friends who love you. Look at how much you have achieved.
You are probably in much better shape, more articulate, confident and self-aware. You can cook an entire meal from scratch and know how to mix a proper drink, not just one to blow your head off. You have learned the things worth holding onto and the things to let go. You have found your people.
You are in your forties and your walls are not purple.
This is as good as it gets.