Today is my 45th birthday. I’m away in Stuttgart on a business trip with a rather large side of pleasure thrown in. I’m here with Stepper, the spectacle frame brand, with whom I’ve been working throughout the year. I’ll write about it in more detail in due course, but suffice to say, I cannot wait for this evening. We’re going to the beer festival, but it’s not so much the beer I’m excited about, it’s the fact I have a dirndl to wear. I have always loved dressing up.
I suppose I must now concede to being middle-aged. After all, if I get the privilege of reaching ninety then I shall have done extremely well. I’d settle for that, although I’m not without ambition to reach one hundred.
I’m sure most of us will agree, especially those of us who are parents, that our lives are ever-evolving in a practical way. I say frequently that although my children are 17 and 15, they need me just as much as they did a decade ago. But in a different way. I’ve written a lot recently about the university open-days which Poppy and I have attended. In less than a year, she will embark on an exciting new phase in her life. I’ll be returning to work in optometric practice soon. My working week will involve two days in employment and three in self-employment working from home. The dynamic and routine will alter at home. Our little family unit will change significantly before my next birthday.
My 45th birthday feels like a significant one, a time for reflecting. It feels like I’ve reached a theoretical midpoint, yet in many ways, I feel like life’s about to begin again, or at least enter a new, very different phase.
My Childhood And Teens
My brother Chris was always happy for me to dress him up.
The three of us are still incredibly close.
I loved both primary and secondary school and made the most of every opportunity. Hard-work came naturally and I was sensible, popular, fun-loving and sociable. I played netball and the piano and had a Saturday job from being 14. It was happy and carefree, the perfect childhood.
I went to university when I was 19, bursting with enthusiasm and ambition. I worked hard.
And played even harder…
I had THE best time and made lifelong friends. These photographs were taken 19 years apart and six children later. Our responsibilities might have changed, but the friendship hasn’t.
Throughout my education I knew that being organised and methodical meant I’d get high grades yet have plenty of time to enjoy life. That’s stayed with me and is something I’ve tried to instill into my children.
After I graduated, I worked in optometric practice. I enjoyed the clinical rather than the commercial side of optometry and I built up a large network of colleagues, underpinned by friendship and mutual respect. I was a consummate professional and passionate about my patients and their ocular well-being.
My early to mid-twenties were so easy and enjoyable. Life was fun. I had a high disposable income and a career I loved. I had a huge circle of friends and a great social life. It was a whirlwind of hen parties and weddings and I myself got married at 24. I lived in Oxfordshire at that time. My late twenties were quite a contrast; I felt rather more frazzled. I had the children quite close together, (I was 27 and 29 when they were born), and went back to work four days a week, when each of them was just five months old. As much as I adored my work, I did feel somewhat pressured to go back. I wasn’t ready. I just wanted to be at home with my babies.
By this time, we’d moved back to Lancashire, (where I grew up). We lived close to my parents who were a constant source of support. As well as that, I met some lovely friends at a post-natal group, most of whom, I’m still in regular contact with. Between my days at work, I met with them several times a week at playgroup, coffee mornings, swimming lessons and baby massage classes.
My early thirties were much like my late twenties. They revolved totally around my two young children. When I was 32, we moved to what was, at that time, my dream home in a small village just outside of Skipton. It was a gorgeous barn conversion, a listed building in two acres of land. My friends from the post-natal group threw a surprise leaving party before I left. I was touched beyond words and that evening is a very precious memory.
We moved because my then-husband had a new business here in Skipton. Although I didn’t know a soul, I wanted to support him. Poppy started school just days after the move and very soon I met a group of mums who became fabulous friends. This was 13 years ago and I cannot imagine life without their company, friendship, laughter and support. Despite all of our children being way beyond primary school, we still see each other often. This is us just last week in fact at our birthday night out.
I worked part-time in practice until 2010 when I realised that for the sake of my children, I needed to relinquish my career. The reasons need not be dwelled upon or given air time to, but once again, I felt pressured, this time, contrarily, to stop working. However, I can’t deny I enjoyed being able to do the school run every day. It was lovely to go to their assemblies and sports days and to be involved in all aspects of their schooling and extra-curricular activities. But my brain soon got bored, so a few months before my 40th birthday, I started writing my blog
I kicked off my forties with an amazing black-tie party. I love parties and have never shied away from celebrating my birthday. My family and friends were all there under one roof and I loved every moment.
Why Life Changed Dramatically…
Less than five months later, our lives changed dramatically. As a consequence, I got divorced and moved house. This too deserves no more airtime than it’s had in previous posts. I was 40 and a lone-parent with two children and I worried that I’d never meet anyone else. It was a tough time, but my overwhelming feeling was one of relief. Relief to be out of an abusive marriage.
Here we are, starting life as a threesome in our new home.
My confidence had been shattered and I was exhausted and trying my best to build a new, secure life for Poppy and Harry. But, despite everything, and this still surprises me, I was happy inside. I got up, showed up and never missed a thing whether that be the children’s piano lessons or a girls’ night out. I still hosted dinners and parties and I have a lot of very happy memories from a very challenging time. I’m certain this is because of my natural optimism and my happy upbringing. My amazing family and incredible friends made it safe to cry and to express the tumultuous emotions. I realised that I’m resilient and that I had a good sense of perspective. Things I knew deep down, but this tricky period reaffirmed them.
…And How It Got Better
I continued writing my blog throughout. It was growing nicely and I became friends with some other bloggers. Barely a day goes by now, when we’re not in touch via WhatsApp. Here we are in London, almost two years ago.
Because of my blog, I was offered the position as copywriter and editor at Aspire, a local magazine. I worked there for almost three years and learned new skills, developed existing ones and enjoyed working with these two talented women.
Three years ago, I began writing a monthly column for Optometry Today, a role I still hold. My two worlds were slowly coming together and now I have a blog category about optometry and the world of optics. This was me filming for Optometry Today at the 100% Optical conference in January. I love this aspect of my work.
Work continued to fall into place so it was time to focus on my personal life. Little by little, I got my confidence back and dated a few men. They were nice, but not right. I wasn’t going to settle for second best ever again,(and neither should anyone else for that matter).
I was almost 43 when I met Ian. It’s obvious from reading my blog just how special this man is. Those who know us and see us together know this is true. Meeting him changed my world and I cannot imagine life without him.
And Now, My 45th Birthday
So, today, on my 45th birthday, I’m full of gratitude, love and pride. There are no regrets. I’ve learned from the difficult events in my life and I’ve moved forwards. However, If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to trust my gut instinct. It has never, ever let me down. I simply ignored it too many times. That’s something I tell my children over and over. I’ve learned over 45 years to be myself and to love and respect who I am. I recognise my strengths: I’m honest, intelligent, emotional, caring and intuitive. I like that I find silver-linings and rainbows in even the most difficult of circumstances. And, likewise, I recognise and admit my weaknesses too: over-sensitivity, occasional impatience and hasty impulsive words which I regret and berate myself for. But it’s ok, because I like who I am. I know I’m a good person and I don’t want to swap places with anyone. Why would I?
I will soon begin my dream job. The independent opticians where I’ll begin working soon is simply perfect. And I’ll keep on writing. Optometry is my pride. Blogging is my joy. I’m so very fortunate to have a career that entails both.
I have two beautiful, caring, resilient, hard-working, emotionally intelligent, happy children. They exhaust and delight me in equal measures and I could not be any prouder of them.
And yes, he’s a good shot. The plastic cup full of water hit me and knocked me out of the flamingo.
I’m closer than ever to my parents who are a tower of strength to me, my brothers and our children.
And I have THE most wonderful partner. Ian supports me in every decision and loves me wholeheartedly and unreservedly. He is everything and more that I’ve ever dreamed of.
I’ll take with me everything that I hold dear from my life so far. I shall continue to be myself, the woman I’ve always been, but I’ll take a little more care of her. I will relish every opportunity and will never put things off. My conduct will always be based on honesty, integrity, authenticity and kindness. My work hard play hard ethic will never change and I’ll love harder than anything. The laughter that has always come so easily will carry on ringing. I’ll strive to make beautiful memories and will keep viewing the world with an open mind. And above all else, I’ll love and treasure those people that matter.
I’m so incredibly thankful for the beautiful life I’ve had so far and I hope that today, my 45th birthday, is the start of an even better second half.