The year I turn forty

Ten years ago, I wrote a post about turning thirty. Ten years?! It seems like no time at all… in some ways. In others, I was a very different person then.

2020, of course, is the year I turn forty. That feels— very grown up. It feels like I should definitely be an adult. Which can’t be right, because I’m still about 16 in my soul. However, it is definitely time to revisit that ten-year-old blog post and take stock again. A performance review, if you like.

In my 30 post, I was very wisdomous (thanks Joey Tribbani, excellent word) and was quite sure my thirties would be where I worked out who I was. Well, that did kind of work out. In the last ten years, I’ve become a full-time partner in our (thriving!) family business, designing book layouts and beginning to get some jobs editing books – and it is so satisfying, I genuinely love it. I have also started on the road to academia, though. In 2010, I still had the unfinished business of my unfinished degree, and no prospect of ticking that box any time soon. In the following ten years, I got my BA, my MA, and here I am on my PhD. I’m a linguist! So basically I still love books, but now have both professional and academic reasons to be absorbed in them. I win at life.

Another thing I’ve learned in the last ten years is, as I was hoping, to be more at peace with who I am. I said: “I won’t have learned grace and poise and polish – I’m afraid that I am and always will be a bit of a shy, bumbling mess.” Well, yes. And I’ve been through lots of different kinds of therapy along the way. I now finally self-identify as autistic, awaiting a formal diagnosis. It has helped so many pieces of my personal puzzle fall into place and I generally, I think, cope with life better.

It hasn’t been the easiest decade. Since 2010 I’ve had repeated bouts of depression, and dealt with other mental health issues (and, indeed, physical health *glares at fibromyalgia*) very close to home. And I don’t think these issues will fully leave us, but I think I am better equipped to deal with them.

Speaking of health, there is of course the big, covid-shaped elephant in the room this year. I still have a thing about birthdays. We really make a big deal of birthdays in our family – we spend the day together, we eat out, we have balloons EVERYWHERE, and of course, cake. Lots of cake. And I think I can count on the fingers of one hand the times in my whole life that I’ve slept well the night before a birthday. I genuinely wake up every hour and then I’m up properly before 6am. 2020 means we have to… Adjust our plans. No eating out, no trips, and it’s a little more difficult to surreptitiously buy and wrap presents when we’re all in the house all of the time and only Andrew braves the shops.

Emily (the daughter I didn’t have the last time I wrote a life-review post like this, but I was right, she is adorable) had her tenth birthday in lockdown, and Daniel, who was just about to start nursery, will become a teenager in three weeks, and he’ll have a lockdown birthday too (mostly because he enjoyed Emily’s, to be fair). A teenager! And to think, I was nervous about being mum to a nursery-aged toddler…

The world in which I turn forty is full of worries. We have Trump in America, we have had more apocalyptic events in the last six months than in the rest of my lifetime (hello Australia bush fires, the Amazon, plagues of locusts, earthquakes, volcanoes, green glow around Mars, asteroids heading towards earth, did I mention Trump in America…), and we have the most incompetent and openly corrupt government I have ever known. That’s all besides the Coronavirus, which at the moment feels like it has completely changed the world we know and it’s impossible to predict whether we’ll go back to the way things were or if, almost overnight, the world has permanently changed.

So the year I turn forty isn’t just a big deal for me; it isn’t just a landmark year for me. This is a year we’ll all remember. But in the meantime, let’s enjoy the cake.