Perhaps it is because I have to face it now that I’m staring down the barrel of 40 (one month today) but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been looking at this age thing all wrong.
While I did a fairly good impression of not caring (at least until someone mentioned it), I admit now that I imagined I was heading towards a door marked LIFE only to find, when I arrived on the eve of my birthday, it was locked.
With no key in sight, all I could do was turn around and look back down the road at all the things I had done in my 39 years, the places I had been, the people I had met and…remember.
It was not a bad feeling, by any means. I am blessed to have lived the life I have, with all its twists and turns, but there was a certain amount of resignation that that was it. I was done.
I think part of the cause, for me, is definitely because this watershed birthday has coincided with the all consuming nature of early motherhood. (Although who is to say that I wouldn’t still be a bit wobbly if I’d had Freya at 19?)
In her very early weeks I remember finally realising that it wasn’t about me anymore. I was a mum now and it became obvious that my needs were no longer important – especially when she was so poorly and needed me so much. What a shock to the system after 37 years of exclusive “me time”. There was a certain amount of panic at first, maybe even a feeling of claustrophobia, but after a while I became sort of zen about it; like dedicating the rest of my life to her needs was exactly as it should be.
Only, of course, I wasn’t looking far enough ahead. It didn’t occur to me that my life was only on hold because I couldn’t see beyond what was right in front of me.
I wonder if the reason I caught a glimpse of something glinting in the flower pot next to the aforementioned door which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the missing key is because Freya’s world is now expanding beyond me? She is gaining independence and simply doesn’t need me as much any more (I’m just going to go and have a little cry. Back in a mo).
It started with being able to find an hour (and the energy) to run again. The first clue that, hold on, I am a mum but I can be apart from her (she’s with her dad) and her world doesn’t crumble. That I’m not letting her down by doing something for me (in fact, I think I’m probably a better mum for it).
Then I put her name down to start (part-time) nursery in September, which she is more than ready for, and it suddenly occurred to me that she won’t be here. And while she will always be my number one priority I started to wonder what on earth will I do with myself?
My immediate thought was SLEEP (unrealistic) swiftly followed by WORK (more likely) with a small dose of PLAY (would be nice).
But here’s where, after unlocking the door, it swung open and a million questions came racing towards me.
What would I do for work? Could I expand my freelancing? Could I get a new staff job in the same or similar field? Should I retrain and do something else entirely (not that I’d really want to but the option is there if needed)? Or maybe I could seriously look into my long-held dream to do a masters (more on this in another post)?
And what of my ambitions outside of work? I want to learn to play piano and cello (not at the same time), write and run.
Suddenly, the possibilities seemed…endless.
I don’t know if any of the things on my list are realistic, especially given that she will only be away for a few hours at first and we are not millionaires, but I feel lighter at least thinking that I’m far from done.
I now believe that maybe (second) life does begin at 40.