26

birthday cake

[Photo by Sheelah Brennan

Tomorrow is my 26th birthday. It's an odd number to type, 26. It's not a neat and tidy number, like 25. Maybe that's just my anxiety about getting old. 26 is not old, it's really not (even if I will have to tick the next box up when I fill out official forms) but I feel more aware of time marching on now than ever. Maybe it's all of those nostalgic Buzzfeed articles about our favourite childhood TV shows that have surfaced over the last year. I'm officially in my mid-twenties now, and I'm finally understanding why my Grandma always says that she still feels 18. Things move forward is so gradually, it feels like nothing can have changed and yet almost everything has. The days are long and the years are short. 

I read so much about being a twenty-something. The think pieces abound, telling us what every twenty-something is thinking, doing, feeling. Like all things on the Internet, there are parts that have me nodding in agreement and other parts that feel completely alien to me. I feel like there are a lot of pieces out there reassuring us that it's okay that we haven't got it all together, which is an important message for sure. There are days when I really need to read that. But other times? I kind of feel like I'm doing okay as an adult. I pay my bills on time. I'm married and have responsibility for a small & grumpy cat. I know about property prices and I have an ISA. Those aren't the hallmarks of adulthood, of course, but they feel like something. Something solid that shows how much time has passed.

I've always felt old before my time - something about being an anxious perfectionist and a first-born, perhaps. Or maybe I'm just a stick-in-the-mud. I've not given myself much of a leeway for mistake-making, partying and playing. All those articles seem to insist that it's an essential part of the twenty-something experience but I'm naturally cautious and I like to plan things out. I'm not one for jumping in feet-first. I spent so much of my University and post-University years trying hard to reach the next thing, filling all my spare time and constantly crossing of to-do items. There were no gap years, no summers travelling Europe, no 'finding myself'. I know myself pretty well, and I don't really feel like I've missed out all that much from not doing all that - that's just not who I am. The grass is always greener, though. Right? Life is so full of infinite possibility that we could never do it all, no matter how hard we tried. 

I feel pretty good about being 26 tomorrow. I feel like I'm in a good place in my life.  Not much has changed really - I'm still stacked out with a to do list that never seems to end, with an eye on what's next - but I feel happy with what I've got on my plate for now. I'm ready to coast for a little bit, to just keep the balls in the air that I'm already juggling and not add anything else. But just for a little bit. The best is yet to come, that much I am sure of. So I've planned myself a lovely birthday weekend. Last year I was feeling a bit sorry for myself on my birthday - I had a horrible fever which meant I had to call off my plans, and Paul was away with work. This year? We're going away to a holiday cottage in North Yorkshire (with a hot tub!) and I'm planning on ignoring the Internet for a few days, and reading as many books as I can in front of the fire. Which, when you think about it, is definitely not a bad way to spend a birthday.