Milestones are things that I have started to think about recently. Some people don’t chose to notice or celebrate them and a milestone that is important to one person won’t even factor into someone else’s life. Personally, I have always enjoyed a milestone, I love getting everyone together, having fun and making memories. I have been thinking a lot recently about what milestones I’ve clocked over the years because in the next few weeks, two new milestones are approaching – turning 30 and ending my Dubai adventure.
I agree that age milestones shouldn’t define who we are but in this day and age it’s hard not to notice what is socially expected when each age is reached. I vividly remember having in depth conversations with my best friends at secondary school about our life plans. Being married by 28 and my first child when I was 29 or 30. We sat and talked about what our wedding day would look like, where our honeymoons would be and what we’d potentially call our children – typical girly aspirations and memories that I hold dear to my heart. However, milestones such as these we can’t necessarily plan. My life at 28 and certainly at (nearly!) 30, looks nothing like I’d planned or imagined it to be! In many ways this makes me sad but when I’ve thought about it, it’s not totally down to the fact that I’d love to be married and having children, it’s due to socially formed ideas about what I, as a woman, should be doing at this age. It’s a bit of a Bridget Jones situation; you know, being the person at a family gathering and being asked – “So, are you with anyone yet?” “Not met the right man yet Hannah?..It will happen one day when you least expect it.” All the typical cliches.
We cannot put a date on when these milestones will happen, but then,I would never have said by the age of 29 that I would have worked and lived abroad and travelled to some amazing places. I would never have thought I would have met and expanded my friendship circle in the way I have. And I especially wouldn’t have said that at 29, I wouldn’t have worked for six months, have no money and be bald. Life is one old curve ball I tell you!
When I look back, I have had so many occasions in my life that I would consider a milestone. Simple things such as learning to walk, talk, ride a bike…all milestones! But as you get older these moments hold more significance; becoming a sister is one of my favourite milestones ever! Studying for and achieving GCSEs, A Levels and a degree; making friends, losing friends and making new ones again. Experiencing my first true love and all the trials and tribulations that go with that. Passing my driving test, flying solo for the first time and learning to cook an egg! Getting my first job as a teenager and getting my first teaching job as a qualified adult. Leaving home for the first time for uni, leaving home to live in my own home and leaving home,as in England, for a new home abroad and then returning to my childhood home because of illness. And then we have the sad milestones; experiencing the loss of family members, watching friends experience loss and coming to grips with what adulthood really is. Learning to cope with the fall out from jury service and more recently the hell that is ME and alopecia.
It has hit me that we talk about reaching milestones in our lives but the reality is, these milestones are our life. They aren’t all separate events to mark, they are quite simply life. Our lives. Okay, we don’t do things on a daily basis that count as a significant event but when you take time to write a list of the things you consider milestones, you’ll find that what you have done is written a story map of your life, the good, the bad and the ugly.
If anything, the last few months have made me open my eyes a little wider to what goes on in the world around us. I’ve taken note of what society both expects and accepts of me, as a woman, a woman of a certain age and as a woman who is bald.
As I approach the big 3-0 in less than two weeks, I’ve become less concerned about it. I have held this milestone is such high regard and been excited to celebrate it in a typical twenty first century way. You know, as Pintrest says – thirty things to do before I’m thirty – well if it means buying a new razor for my head, trying a new herbal remedy, sleeping on the sofa or in bed etc, my list is well on the way. Life just isn’t a glossy magazine. From speaking to my friend recently, she said how when she was growing up, these so called ‘milestone birthdays’ just weren’t a thing. Just another age, another birthday. She is shocked at how they are now celebrated so luxuriously. I suppose in the way that stag and hen dos used to be a celebration in the local disco as my mum would say or a few sherbets in the local. Now, the pressure is on – do we go to Zante or Magaluf?! It’s all ridiculous.
Having said all this, I love celebrating birthdays, regardless of the age. Like I said, I adore being around my friends and family and simply making memories. So, I will mark my 30th, just not in the way I’d planned but you know what, that’s ok. The same as it’s okay to feel sad that I’m in the situation I’m in as I approach 30, but then that emotion would be the same no matter what age I would be approaching. I had a good laugh during a conversation with a friend last week about what was going on in our lives and the lives of others around us; social media makes it so easy to portray your life as rosy and enviable. We laughed at our situations when we compared them to all the engagements, weddings, pregnancies and births that seem to be splattered all over Facebook and Instagram at the moment, all the things we “should” be doing at our age and aren’t. After all, you have to laugh or you’ll cry right? Rather cry with laughter than with sadness, so, suck it up and move on – we’re fine! Imagine if social media was the other way round – stating the sleepless nights and worries of new parents, the arguments and stress about wedding venues and guest lists….always two sides to every story.
The next milestone is a harder one for me. I haven’t really thought much about going back to Dubai to draw a line under this experience, get ‘closure’ as they say. It’s all too much to think about and cope with, I’m so anxious about flying alone and breaking away from my support network. I’ve just been focussed on getting my things and coming home because this is where I need to be right now. However, over the last few days, the magnitude of the situation has hit me. It’s not as simple as packing up and coming home. I have so many memories and emotions wrapped up in Dubai, I’m not just drawing a line, I’m leaving what I’ve called home and people I’ve called family for the last few years and it hasn’t been my choice, it’s been forced upon me.
Unless you’ve lived abroad, I think it’s a hard thing to understand. Especially with Duabi. It’s a holiday destination, not a home for most people. Some people who visit Dubai or have even lived there, don’t understand the pull, don’t understand why you would enjoy living there. But I have and I am going to be so sad to leave. I know I can always go back but I feel this emotional tie is being prematurely cut. I’d planned on doing a third year and then coming home and I haven’t had that third year, it’s been taken away from me and I hold a lot of resentment towards that. But, as always, I’m trying to focus on the positives from my experience, I’ve lived the sort of life I thought I could only ever dream of – I had a pool on my roof for goodness sake! I’ve travelled more in two years than I’d ever hoped for, met new people that will be friends for life, spent my weekends having pool days and brunches and not worrying about money. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been tough too – the work load, being a home bird living so far away from home and learning new money – seriously, I still don’t totally know what I’m paying for things! I would recommend living abroad to each and every person I know, it changes you for the better. So, yes, this milestone is going to be very hard. I’m returning to Dubai completely different to the person I was when I left back in October, but once again, it’s a chance to see people, thank people and have a few weeks back in the place I will always see as a second home.
I wonder how many of you will now sit and think about your story map and count your milestones – makes me giggle as I write that because I know a few of you will. We don’t take enough time to stop and reflect upon our lives and all the good things in them, we should do it more because the good normally will outweigh the bad.
Happy bank holiday weekend for tomorrow.