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At the beginning of this month I had a big birthday, I don’t really have an issue with that, it seems this time I’m more reflective than resistive.

Each new decade presents the opportunity of a new chapter and I like the idea of beginning a new adventure. As the chapters amass it is harder not to consider re-reading the story of this little life and considering where my path might now wind.

The first big birthday, I can’t honestly remember, I’m sure it was marked suitably, there isn’t much fuss made of ‘10’ though is there?

The decade had been as you’d expect, one of great change and growth, for the world as well as little me. Looking back it seems all brown and orange fashion with lots of hair, sundresses, polo necks and wide trousers: those are the impressions that stayed with me. I remember holidays drinking coke from bottles with a straw, walking to school, the mural on the wall in the hall of that hallowed building. Hot summers and paddling pools. Long car rides to visit grandparents, often lying in the boot of the car watching the street lamps flick by overhead.

The second wasn’t marked much either, in my culture we mark 18 and 21, not twenty. 20 doesn’t stand out.

The chapter had been notably different from the first, emotional upheaval, splitting families, moving across the country, new school, a different culture really…  The world was different too, exciting and ‘modern’ with different music and fashion. A colourful time to be a teen.

Independence was thrust upon me early, survival tainting so many choices I’ve made since then. Were they good choices? Not always. They were choices often made of necessity and they have coloured my life so much since. Given a chance I might go back and rewrite my life but then I would not end up here, being me, with my special loved ones. It all pans out in the end. I did my best at the time.

The 30th birthday was different, celebrated with friends and a husband-to-be, in our house. The chapter had been a struggle at times, I went to college, got jobs, found places to live, met people, there were so many good times and much laughter. I had the view (and still do to some degree) that life needs moments of joy, of lust, of love, of pushing the boundaries, of just doing! If only to supply memories for when doing isn’t an option any more: I lived, I loved, I laughed. I jumped out of aeroplanes and dove into the ocean, discovered a true love of the sea. There were night clubs and parties, boyfriends, lovers, naughty nights of passion and yes, the inevitable heartbreak. Occasionally I smile at the memory of those halcyon days. Yet I still wish I’d loved and lusted and explored more, travelled and risked and pushed more. It is what it is, I’ve no regrets on that score.

The next big birthday I celebrated with new friends, mummy friends mostly. That chapter had bought me my two ultimate true loves, although they took their time arriving! I can still remember the body clock kicking in, the crushing longing that underlined the first half of that chapter. Newlyweds and enjoying the honeymoon days, we travelled for holidays. Europe, New Zealand, Canada, America – snow seeking and sight-seeing. Working towards the goals society tells you are important, buying that house, working, having the babies, settling down. Coming to terms with a new role in life.

The last 20 years have gone so fast and been so full. Still living the little-life and loving it. These two chapters have been fairly similar and yet such a steep learning curve. It’s like life decided I had to be someone else for a while. The real me was left behind at 35 and put on hold, she’s clawed through the cotton wool through my writing and surfaces for air at rare moments with friends. Generally underneath all the growth I’ve nurtured in the last decade, the person I was is still surviving and still breathing, she’s still there, she’s just different.

Somedays, I’ll admit I don’t know her, familiar but not me.

That’s okay, this next decade will be a chance to grow and discover the seeds of me I’ve been planting in the last 10 years. But 50… did you expect that dear reader? I don’t know how my writing comes across to folk really? Do I seem so aged or are words ageless? Is 50 really not aged at all? Is there such a thing as aged or is it purely a state of mind? I mean seriously, it makes me laugh loudly at how ‘grown up’ being 50 sounds. Do we ever stop feeling like that?

It’s worth noting as I move on into the future, this next chapter, that the things I love and remember the most are not things or belonging, although some of those can trigger memories, but feelings and experiences, times of personal growth, of family and friends. The things money can’t buy.

Which is just as well really.

©️Juliette Turrell