On 23 April, I turned 35… Yup, that’s halfway through another decade… now that’s a crazy thought!! I don’t know about you, but I always find my birthdays a very reflective time – it’s like having my very own new year. I look back on the things I’ve done in the last twelve months, and think about where I want to be by the next one.
After 30, I’ve felt like every year, a little more slots into place. I didn’t think I would ever be 100% comfortable in my own skin, but every year, I get that little bit closer. This year, I’m more content in myself than I’ve ever been, I’ve learned to accept who I am, appreciate the flaws, embrace the body I’ve been given and be genuinely happy in the moment.
After years of dreading birthdays arriving, I’ve grown to love being older, and feel like I’m finally becoming a woman – a journey that is only just starting and can only get better. The experience that comes with age – the knowledge you can actually survive everything life throws at you – brings a whole new level of appreciation. The storms of heartache and grief can be weathered, bad memories will fade, and forgiveness can be found in yourself and in others.
I feel like I finally know myself, and care less and less what people think of me. I know when I need to take time out and I don’t feel the need to ask for permission to do so anymore. I can say no to the things that no longer fulfil me, without the guilt and let go of the things that hurt me, without feeling like it was somehow my fault. By being content, and treating myself with kindness and love, I have so much more to give to others.
With a whole year spent mostly in lockdown, I discovered exercise was definitely a key component for keeping me sane. My runs became an escape from the stresses and worries of a new strange life, and the living room workouts gave me a reason to switch off Netflix and do something for me. This means, that at 35, I’m definitely the fittest I’ve ever been and I’m back into a clothes size I haven’t seen since my teens (although this year has also taught me the number on the scales and the size of the clothes I wear, are the least important factors of my fitness journey!) It’s definitely something I’m motivated to continue, knowing it has such a positive effect on my mental health, my mood and wellbeing.
I feel like I’ve spent, maybe wasted, so many years focussing on where I thought I should be by now, that I never really appreciated where I was. I’ve written before about how I always thought I would have children by now, and it’s something that dominated my thoughts for such a long time (read more here: Oh Baby). After accepting that it won’t happen for me, and coming to terms with that, I feel like I’m finally able to really appreciate the things I have in life rather than focussing on what I don’t. And boy, am I grateful for the things I have, and the people I am surrounded by.
Friendships have always been so important for me, and now at 35 I have friendships that have lasted nearly two decades, some that are past 7 years and others that are new, but I am grateful for every single one of them and couldn’t ask for better cheerleaders in my life.
On a work front, we are expected to know exactly what we want to do in life by the time we reach 16, and for some people that’s an easy question to answer, but for me I feel like I’m only just in the right place professionally. I’m lucky enough to enjoy my job and was given the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship to get the degree I’ve never had – something I should achieve by my next trip around the sun. I know my 16 year-old self would be really proud to see where I’ve got to.
So, although I might sometimes flit into a daydream of what could have or might have been, I can honestly say, as I sit here in my spare room with Beyonce playing and my dog snoring at my feet, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m loving being a woman in her mid-thirties. I can look back at the naïve, insecure young girl I once was and be grateful she’s grown up. I’m grateful to have my health, my fitness, my friends, my love and my family and am so ready to keep growing, evolving and changing for the better, as the years tick on.