Birthdays are important to me. Maybe it’s childish but I think they should always be celebrated, no matter how old you are.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but there should always be champagne, and there should always be cake. I’m incredibly lucky that the people who love me go above and beyond to indulge my childish needs and make me feel just that – loved – every April 17th, even if it is born out of sheer terror at what would happen if they didn’t.
I’m about to turn 32 and the world is in lockdown, and I can’t celebrate with my friends and family this year. I can’t hug anybody and I can’t get an Uber home via the Old Kent Road McDonald’s for a cheeseburger and chicken selects meal at 3am after my birthday night out. This year, I celebrate indoors. And all of this makes me realise more than ever how much I do have.
At the close of one year and the start of the next, be it new year or a birthday, we naturally take stock of our lives. We have a tendency to look at what we’re missing, the milestones we haven’t reached but expected to. Still single, still renting, still childless. All of that shit. I’m guilty of worrying about it; many of us are. If you’d have asked me two months ago how I felt about turning 32 I probably would’ve lamented these things. Now I just want my life back. My single, renting, childless life.
I want my friends, bickering over which playlist to put on, playing beer pong in my garden until it’s too dark to be outside anymore. I want my best friends from the different pockets of my life dancing to early 2000s RnB in my living room and belting out to ABBA hour together. I want hangover days on the sofa fuelled by lack of sleep, crap movies and served with mimosas.
I want to be one of the first people in the office, settling into the day as the friends I work with trickle in and I want to be told to “shhh” by my team because they “actually have work to do”. I want to be able to bother my work bestie at the end of her desk when I’m bored. I want to debate for an hour about where to go for an after work drink before ending up at the same old place where I pay £9 for a single glass of wine. Hell, I even want the London Bridge interchange and my Uber to cancel on me at the last minute.
I want falling asleep on my best friend’s sofa after too much wine. I want to dance in the streets of Soho with strangers coloured with rainbows. I want the body pump class I complain about endlessly, despite knowing I never regret going and might even enjoy it when I’m there. I want gin tins on the tube and all day picnics in St James’ park. I want trips to the theatre, sweaty gigs and dancing in a field with thousands of other people all weekend long.
I want the feeling I get when I make my way through an airport and the rush of excitement as my plane lands somewhere I’ve never been before. I want brie and red wine on the way back from Paris on the Eurostar, trains out of London caught in a rush on a Friday night for a friend’s wedding. I want five hour lunches in a restaurant followed by seven hours of cocktails in the bar of the very same restaurant.
Whilst I’m pretty good at taking stock and recognising how lucky I am, there’s every chance that if all this – *gestures vaguely* – weren’t happening, this now traditional birthday post would be strewn with a healthy amount of self pity. In fact it still could’ve been, spending a birthday away from loved ones and with the general sadness over the state of the world seeping in, but instead I’d like it to be a post of appreciation and of gratitude. Turns out the life I’ve built is pretty fucking great.
There has been a lot of talk about the lives we go back to after this. We’ll all be changed as people in some sense, some far more than others, and a lot of people will need a great deal of help. People have wondered what about their lives they would change, what they have learnt that they hope to take into their lives On The Other Side Of All This. I initially thought maybe I’d chuck my life into a backpack once again – but despite my great love of travel and exploring, you’ll have seen that almost everything I’ve mentioned here is around my every day life in the city I call home, and moreover, with the people I love. Ultimately it all comes down to the people. There’s not a great deal I want to change at all, it turns out. All I really want is someone to share it with, and so, I hope to be braver.
Other than that, I’m getting LVL lashes and going out for a meal cooked by someone else whilst I drink a whole bottle of really fucking good Malbec. I’ll go out dancing with my friends and stupidly order tequila shots for everyone. Then I’ll go home via the Old Kent Road McDonald’s.