Words by Jess Lambert
I’m not very good at celebrating birthdays. I don’t really know why. I like the idea of it, but I’m not the socializing, party animal kind. For my last birthday I stayed in with my housemate and her partner. We watched a horror movie, projected onto the wall and ate an obscene amount of bad food and cake. We drank a fair amount of wine too. I mean, why not? It was my birthday after all.
I guess it’s a consequence of moving a lot. I have friends. They’re just not all in the same place. Maybe one day I’ll manage to get everyone together in a room and we’ll party. One day.
Later this year I turn 36. I’m equal parts excited and disbelieving. I recall the year me and many of my friends turned 30. So many people experienced what I’m going to call ‘a moment’. Not a breakdown per se, but a definite fear of the big 3-0. I think I was the only one who was actually excited.
I don’t know what it was exactly, but it felt like an entry into adulthood. I did a lot in my 20s. I completed my Bachelors and my Masters, I lived in Germany for just under a year, I volunteered in a homeless shelter and I moved to London where I worked as a social worker. I bought a flat. I played a lot of gigs and released my first EP, Little Paradise - a truly exciting moment.
So what was it that didn’t feel like adulthood? I honestly don’t know, but I felt maybe as though it was a time for exploration. A time for trying things, for failing at things, for meeting people and gathering experiences. I was independent, I worked various jobs, I was always careful with my money. I still am. If I’m being brutally honest, though, I still haven’t settled down. In my head my 30s were going to involve settling down and doing what everyone expects you to do in your 30s - get a steady, decently paid job, buy a nice house, get married, have kids, you know? The usual.
Needless to say, it didn’t happen. Life hasn’t been as steady as I thought it would be. That’s OK, though. I was never one for wanting to conform and do what everyone else was. I think I’ll always wonder ‘what if…’ thinking about different places, different jobs, meeting different people and all the chances out there in life and how there are only a measly 24 hours in each day and that, the older I get, the more I need to spend at least 8, if not 9, of those 24 hours sleeping!
So much changes the older you get, sometimes it’s hard to keep up, sometimes it’s hard to remember how things were. As I sit here, half way through my 35th year I think about all that is to come, all that could be, all that has come to pass, all that never happened. I never thought I’d be where I am when I was younger, though, when I try to remember my thoughts as my younger self I’m not sure I ever really knew what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a teacher, a doctor, a singer. Even then I could never settle on one thing that I wanted to do and I still can’t now. I still want to do it all.
My younger self had such vague ideas about life and what it meant. The 35 year old me still can’t put all of these ideas into something coherent and stable, but I’m starting to. More and more I take pleasure in staying put in one place. Yes, I’m thinking about moving again, but for different reasons than before. More and more I formulate what it is I want to do in the longer term. More and more now I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t. I don’t think the 20-something me really understood that.
But why mention disbelief? I’m excited to be on the path to 36, yet I’m slightly disbelieving that I am where I am in life. That I am this age, that I’ve made it, that I’m doing OK despite all that life throws at me - I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far. I think working as a social worker showed me how fragile life can be, while also showing me the resilience of the human spirit. Maybe it was working with older people that made me understand that 30 wasn’t really that old when I got there, despite knowing my 13-year-old self probably would have said that 30 was ‘well old’ and rolled her eyes had someone tried to argue the opposite.
When I think about all of the things I do, all of the things I have done, I sometimes need to just sit and drink it in. Is this really me? Every time I get up to teach English, to teach yoga, to teach a Body Combat class I think - really? This is me? This is what I do? I love it all. More and more I think about going back into social work and whether I could do that and still teach yoga and Combat. Could I make time for my music again? I mean, why couldn’t I do it all?!
Either way, I know change is on the horizon again. Another crossroads, as my father calls it. Another moment to stop and think, what now? Where next? This time I’ve got options, which sometimes makes these decisions harder than normal. I know, ultimately, there’s no ‘wrong’ decision to be made. Only different ones, with different outcomes. I often wonder these days where I’ll be when I celebrate 36, who I’ll be with, what I’ll do. I hope it’s a good one, no matter what it is I do. I hope I’ll be able to look back on this last year and think: ‘Yes, I made a good decision’ rather than ‘Yes, I made the right decision’.
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About the Author:
Jess currently teaches English as a foreign language in Glasgow, Scotland, alongside teaching yoga and fitness classes. She’s always been a voracious reader and has been known to pen and perform a few poems. In recent years she has released two EPs and singles that she wrote and performed herself, with more in the pipeline. Her hobbies include hanging out in coffee shops with her laptop, curling up on the sofa with a good book, and eating good veggie food.