I often feel as I have achieved very little. I can be feeling fine and then I will have a conversation or see something and its like a black cloud just comes and floats over me , like you see on cartoons when the loan figure is standing and a rain cloud hovers only them and rains on them. I feel like that there is a race for life….get married, get a car, a house… and that I have lost that race.
I had many plans of what I wanted to achieve by 40. Ever since I can remember I have always seen my 40s as being the most important years. Like…. I need to get them right so that I can enjoy the last parts of my life. 40 was a good number. Far off, I had years to do what I felt I needed. But I arrived at my 40th birthday and had, in my eyes , achieved very little .
I have always felt lesser than my peers. My whole life. When I say peers, I mean the people I choose as my friends. They do nothing to make me feel like this, but I would say that 90% of the people I hold close have either achieved most of the things I set out to do or are well on their way. It has always felt like that. There is a good and bad twist on this. The reason I feel inferior to my peers is because I always choose friends that bring me something in terms of emotional or intellectual. On a deep level. I may know many people but the ones I call my friends, they will have something about them that means I keep them near. And that usually means that they are quite grounded. In fact,…that is the first time I have thought that out loud… The people I choose to have in my life are usually very grounded.
Now I know for a fact that a few of the people that read this and are my friends are now thinking….well then she cant see me as a friend then, because she knows I’m a nutter and not grounded at all. That made me smile. Because even though most of my friends are mad as a box of frogs… trust me… they are grounded. Another reason is , apart from a special few, my friends have always been older than me. I don’t really know why, but my best friends, except one, all older than me.
So, they are older and more grounded. They have achieved most of the things I thought I would have by now and have not. They never flaunt this in my face. I have supportive and loving friends.
But I often feel rubbish because I have not achieved the same as they did by the same age, And I really really wanted to.
A recent conversation with one of my close friends the other night got me thinking on a deeeep one. Why have I not achieved what I set out to do? Why does it upset me so much? What can I do about it?
So here is where I am at. The grounded part. The journey we all take to 40, because for me that is the pivotal year. And for me it has always been about decades…. Will do this in my 20s…gonna get here in my 30s. I have always had a 5-year plan since I was young, and it often had to change over and over. Anyway… hear me out
Decade 1: 0-10
Now these are important I think in being grounded. I won’t bang on about Attachment theory and ACEs, but they are so relevant during this decade. The first few years is how you learn about love and trust, You learn about feeling safe and cared for. These are the years that you start your growth into who you will become.
For me, much of this time was spent in a state of anxiety. I was born into domestic violence and my dad was violent towards my mother in the womb. I’m not sure how much research has been done about the effect on a baby when a mother is abused during pregnancy but I’m sure it had an impact. My early years were fractured beyond belief. I had a mother mourning many people in her life and trying to parent with no guidance. My mums mental health , I would imagine, had an impact on me from birth and mist definitely impacted on me throughout my life including these early years, I was exposed to violence and abuse in countless ways and as much as my mum tried to protect me much of this stuff took place in the home, Home never felt safe at this age. Do you know I slept with my mum until I was 14? Between 0-10 I slept where ever she slept, usually on the sofa we slept as my mum was too scared to go to bed most of the time in case she didn’t hear the brick though the window or the door being kicked. As I got older and bigger I would often just go to sleep on the floor next to her. In my clothes a lot of the time. Bedtime for me stopped at around 7/8. Them routines that many children thrive off were not there for me.
Decade 2: 10-20.
I guess these years are when you do your learning and planning. You start secondary school. You start to think about what you want to do in the future. You worry about exams; relationships start to develop. You have your first kiss. First love. Then around 18 you start work or go college or uni. These are the years that you lay your foundations, Get your qualifications. You lay foundations in terms of relationships and learn about your own likes and dislikes. You experiment and discover the world. By 20 you should be ready to start thinking maybe about long-term plans. Your parents or others will guide you. Advise you.
I don’t even know where to start with this decade. How ever bad I may have thought 0-10 was… I was in for a rude awakening. Abuse and violence are the themes for this decade. Don’t get me wrong, I had some of the best times of my life during this decade. I made ridiculous amounts of money and spent it on ridiculous things. When I think about the amount of money that passed through my hands and how little I did with it…it makes me feel physically sick. When I was 17 my mum was told she could buy our flat for £40,000. It would be worth about £250,000 now. I could have got that money at 17. My mum never told me that she could have bought the flat until years later. I just sat in stunned silence as she just casually told me that in 1997 she was made the offer. I asked her why she didn’t say anything, and she laughed and said, “People like us don’t ever own our own homes”. I lived in debt from 18 onwards. Leaving a certain lifestyle also meant leaving the money it brought. I had saved some and I just spent it. I got my first flat and just bought ridiculous things for it. No planning. No forward thinking.
I had two children in this decade. Suddenly I was a kid and then I was a mum. There was no transition. It just went from one to the other. I don’t think I have really thought about the impact of being a parent so young and so intensely.
I suffered some of my worst stuff in this decade. Things that have impacted on my up until right now. This very second. Things that changed me in so many ways.
A lot of things were stolen from me in this decade. Milestones. No leavers assembly from year 6 and then transition t year 7. No first day of secondary school. No first kiss. No uni. No college.
I feel like I never got time to even think in this decade. This decade was the decade of survival. Just keep swimming.
Decade 3: 20- 30
This period I think is the most important. This is when you can start to make moves. Many people have started or are saving for a first home. They start to look at careers rather than just finding a job. Most people will be driving. Will be thinking about what they need to start a family. This is where you may start to think about settling down. Because of this you go on holidays, party , live life. This should be the decade you lay your foundations for the future. Stat to think smart.
I kind of did I tried. I went into this decade in a very abusive relationship that I was hiding from people. To be clear and I ended this decade the same way. But … I started to realise that I needed to lay foundations. This is the decade I started my education. Only two decades’ too late. This is the decade I discovered I am dyslexic and not stupid. This is the decade that anxiety cripples me. But I had plans. I planned to get a degree and start a career. I plan to save for my first home. By the seaside. I got a job I loved. I started to save. I made a 5-year plan and it started to go well. I got my first qualification in criminology to set me up for my degree I planned to do.
Life was on track. Yes, I was a few years behind of what I would have liked but it was OK. We had some of the best Christmas that year, Me and the boys and my mum ….. and my dad. This decade I learnt to have a “Normal” relationship with my dad. We stopped arguing. He stopped trying to bring me in on what ever the “Next big job” was. He respected my boundaries. Yes… I would say around 2002 life was going well.
And then….Boom. My dad died. And my mum took that so so bad. And the kids took it bad. And I took it bad. And we all just kind of clung to each other. And my mum could not function like she had been and once again I had to care for her. She moved in with me and the boys and as much as it was lonely, I was 15 again. Caring and supporting and providing for everyone. And it really hit me. But I stayed on track. I kept on working and studying and doing what needed to happen.
And then she died.
And it all stopped. Me. My thoughts. My plans. My love.
And then she was born. And I had to deal with the worst pain and the greatest love all at the same time. Mourning my mother whilst falling in love with the granddaughter she would never hold was and is the most painful thing that has ever taken place within me. And it took me years to recover.
And in the midst of it. Him. The one who almost broke me.
All plans had to go on hold. All savings had to be spent. Life didn’t just get flipped. My life resembled a house the police have just raided and searched. I was not broken I was ….splintered …. And so that decade was written off
Decade 3: 30 – 40
This is the decade where you start to make your big decisions. Where the house should be under the belt. The car should be on the drive. Education should be done or at least you know your path. This is the decade of evolving into what you plan to truly be. I have seen people make some bog moves during this decade. I have seen people say right…time to grow up … and the get married, have children. They move away. I always thought that this was the decade I would come good. And I did I guess in many ways.
I went into this decade with no plan. I was in the worst relationship I ever experienced, and it drained everything from me. From everyone involved. I felt stuck and worthless. I was still deeply mourning my mother, and this impacted on everything. But I continued to study. Do not ask me how. I made a realistic 5-year plan and worked on it.
However,….. things shifted when I left him. And I will never look back for a second on what I did…but the impact on me financially was horrific. It set me back and it has taken a decade to recover.
This was the best decade. I got my degree. The boys went to uni. I was free. I learned to laugh again. I danced again. I could breath.
I had my plan and now as I looked ta the plan I realised that all the things I thought I would achieve by 40…many of them would not happen. No matter how much I tried. So, I just went with it, I stepped up a gear. I created out of the shadows, I made moves so that I could function as a single working mother. I made some of the best friends in this decade. I started to feel again.
The best memories for me are in this decade along with some pretty high emotions.
It hurt me to know that I was once again far behind what I perceived to be the goals that I needed to achieve.
I said when I turned 30 that I would walk into my 40th birthday how I planned to spend that decade. I had that thought for 10 years….how I spent my 40th would be a reflection of the next decade.
Decade 4: 40- 50
So, this decade you have to have your shit together. Like…this is it. No more messing about. This sis the decade you need to lay down the final seeds and watch the grow. You should enjoy these years and not waste them because these are the years before the menopause, something I have a deep fear of.
I stepped into this decade halfway through a masters! Me … almost got a masters. And I am almost there. A few more months and I will have a qualification that still feels way out of my league
I planned my 40th for this year with care….this was how it was going to go
On the Friday… go and see my friend in London. Lots of laughing and giggles
On the Saturday…. Me and all my friends were going to Nando’s…then bingo…then the casino. If you know me at all you will know that these 3 things…all on one night….would be by best day ever
Then on the Sunday …big fat roast with my family and day of movies and chill
The Monday…my birthday…so…listen to this…get up and go to work. Would have been so spoiled with gifts and cake. Then I had a driving lesson booked straight after work…then we had booked the cinema for me and the kids and then pizza hut.
I planned it so well…and I really don’t like spending time with people, so this was kind of a big deal
But …I knew that I wanted to spend my birthday and start the 4th decade with all of my loved ones. I had spent years avoiding people and for the first time I wanted to be with people. I was going to start my 4th decade not alone.
Do you know what day my birthday is?
The 23rd of march…or you may know it as…The day England went into lock down.
It all happed so suddenly that no one really know what to do. And then it just happened. Me and my son spoke the day before and we agreed that he needed to go into lock down with his partner. She still had to work so it made sense. I would not have agreed to it if I had known how long it was going to be. I would have made them both come here.
And so, I woke up on my 40th birthday and burst into tears. No son. No friends. A little girl who cried and cried because she was scared we was all going to die. No cards came through the door. I had cards and gifts that people had given me the few days before and that made me cry even mor. That people had even thought of me during this.
Then half way though the day we had the incident where my daughter tried to make me a cake in secret…got it wrong 3 times…and used every single egg in the house and when I went to the shop…there were none.
I cried all day. I had the news on and just watched this madness unfold. I can honestly say that was one of the most scared I have ever felt. What if I got ill…what about my daughter? What if my kids got ill?
I went to bed that night and my daughter cried in my arms until she feel asleep. I lay there and could not believe that’s how I was starting this decade.
However. Lock down and the first few months of my 4th decade have been…. Life changing. And for the better. I have learnt to slow down. To appreciate. I have learnt to communicate and to put boundaries in place always. I overcome fears. I spent a solid 6 months with may daughter and got to know her in a way that would not have taken place without lock down.
I learnt to survive. To build a home. I took stock of my choices. I decided not to quit. I laughed…. A lot. I lay in the garden on a summers night with a fire pit going watching harry potter on the laptop whilst my daughter toasted marshmallows.
I learned what it is like to miss someone so much it makes you hurt. I learn who my real friends are How strong my mental health can be.
I learnt who I really am. Deep down. I met Blondy for the first time in a long time and we made our peace, and then I made her an army to keep her safe.
I made a new 5-year plan.
So, to be fair…the 4th decade is going very well.
But I still know that I never achieved what I wanted to do by 40 . and that hurts.
However, now I have broken it down and looked at this way, I think I am grateful that I am still even here. That I can type this up on my laptop in my bed. Where I pay the bills and no man has any sort of control over me in any part of my life. In a safe house that I created.
I look round my house now and my life and realise that actually…. I am grateful for everything I have got, and it makes me know that if I just keep working hard I can achieve more.
I sometimes feel like I have lost the race for life. But then I look at all the above and can see that when many started running this race, I hadn’t even put my trainers on yet. Damn…. I hadn’t even gone to the shop and got the trainers and other people were halfway down the track
So …. This will be the decade I stop comparing. Worrying. Analysing. This is the decade of just being. And if I archive things along the way…well…great. But I have kind of filled my quota of achievement already for this decade by just being here…with my little girl next door in her room eating strawberries and watching stranger things…. Whilst I joke with my son and friend about Harry Potter Drill ( you heard me right)
I guess the dark cloud can finally go. I may not win the race of life….. But I didn’t give up…and I will take that