I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to continue these blog posts without making at least some reference to the fact that I’ve just had a rather significant milestone birthday. So, here it is. My rather belated birthday post.
I’ve done the maths, and it appears that I’ve been on this earth for half a century. Ok, I hoped that would sound less ancient than 50, but I think I might have missed the mark on that one. 50 years is a big milestone and feels like an important time to take stock. But, as so often happens with me, it’s also left me thinking about milestones more generally.
My morning journals have included a lot of looking back over my life recently. Examining things I’m proud of, ways I’ve grown and things I have learned. I’ve had so many ideas and thoughts on this topic, that I considered doing a “50 thoughts about being 50” type post, but I realised that you probably didn’t want to read quite that much and I certainly didn’t fancy writing it. Instead, I’ve gone with 5; one for each decade.
1. Not all milestones are created equal
Turning 50 is a big deal, without any doubt. And I’m very grateful for the thoughts and wishes and fuss made of me on the day. It is slightly arbitrary, though. In a few years’ time, if I am asked to list the 5 most important milestones of my life, I doubt turning 50 will even be on the shortlist. Instead, I would probably list the day I joined the army, my wedding day, the births of my children and surviving a heart attack (and before I get in trouble, those are listed in chronological order, not the order of importance). Turning 50 is fun, but it probably won’t be life-changing. The milestones that really stand out are based on our choices and our efforts, rather than the movement of the earth around the sun.
2. The important thing about milestones is what you do with them
Although it might not be one of the key milestones in my life, I do believe that turning 50 will mark at least some period of change for me. Not least because I’m reflecting, thinking and working on myself to ensure that I am always learning and growing.
Milestones are useful to me, because I make use of them. They are a prompt to do some deep self-evaluation. I wondered, in the run-up to my birthday, whether I would feel uncomfortable and old at the idea of turning 50. By using it as an opportunity for reflection, my focus has been on learning and growth. I’ve met 50 with a sense of pride and accomplishment, and that’s an incredible birthday gift.
3. Milestones are a little different this year
This might be stating the blindingly obvious, but turning 50 this year was a very different experience than it would have been if I had turned 50 last year. With luck it will be back to normal for next year, but for now 2020 is what I’ve got to work with.
We couldn’t do a lot of the things that we would normally do to mark an important birthday. I suspect that my family has had to throw out a number of plans, some of which are likely to have been ideas they’ve had for a few years. In line with everything else this year, it has been an object lesson in understanding what we can control, and learning to live with how much we can’t.
4. Milestones are about sharing
My birthday wasn’t just important to me. It was also important to my friends and family. Many of them also really missed the opportunity to come and be together in person, to spend time talking and laughing and to eat cake. Honestly, I think I feel more cheated about not being able to celebrate other people’s birthdays with them this year than I do about my own. There’s something wonderful about celebrating the achievements of someone you care about that really can’t be substituted.
5. The best milestones come with cake!