It’s a Tuesday afternoon. There’s a bus strike on. I have taken a day’s annual leave to wait in for a washing machine repair man, whom I was told would be around ‘at some point in the AM’. No sign of him yet, of course…
It’s also my thirty fifth birthday. For some reason thirty five seems much older than thirty four did. I spent a lot of time yesterday hearing about Millennials and how Generation Y is driving the democratisation of creativity. There are countless talented kids out there with iPhones and GoPros, producing content which has cultural impact. The YouTubers. The vloggers. The indie artistes. I am Gen X, officially booted out of the 18-34 demographic bracket as of today. As my friend Ben put it, ‘thirty five is a real adult age. Not young adult. Just adult.’ I find it incredible that thirty two years have passed since this picture was taken.
You’d be hard pressed to fit all the candles on poor Dougal’s back this year, and you’d want someone standing by with a fire extinguisher if you were going to attempt it. But it pleases me so much that my last haircut at a proper hairdressers involved having my fringe snipped exactly like that.
The thing is, I don’t feel any different inside. I don’t feel like a grown-up at all. If anything, I feel more energetic than ever. I seem to be revisiting things I tried in my teens and early twenties but didn’t stick at for one reason or another. Taking a second bit of the cherry. In my teens, my dreams of being a writer, or a rock star, or an actor were exactly that – just dreams. But who says you have to pack them away when you get a ‘real job’, or have a family, or when it dawns on you that you’ll probably never be able to make a living doing the thing you love? Why not do something simply for the joy of it? Last time I had a birthday-induced mini existential crisis (before turning thirty), I wrote a book, and today is going to be a nice opportunity to sit on my sofa in peace with numerous blankets and pots of tea, and work on my latest novel. Writing doesn’t pay my mortgage, but I wouldn’t give up everything it has given me for the world.
This time around, I’ve rediscovered my love of singing. I had classical lessons at school, and carried them on for a while after I left. I’d give anything to be one of those talented individuals who make it all seem effortless. To have the sort of voice which brings grown men to tears in a good way. I don’t have one. But I can carry a tune, so when we received an email at work asking for people to form a vocal group, I signed up without hesitation. Yesterday, after a few short weeks of rehearsal, Disney Voices performed together for the first time, on stage at the Lyceum in London’s West End in front of an audience of two thousand. We were opening the annual UK Cast Members’ forum, introduced by the real Rafiki from the London production. There was dry ice, and lighting, and thunderous applause, and as we took our bows, it hit me that I’d just performed on stage for the first time since university. And on a real West End stage! Teenage Me would have killed for that opportunity, possibly with Showgirls style stair tripping.
As I get older, and time becomes more precious and seemingly scarce, I find myself looking for ways of concentrating on things that enrich my life and give me pleasure, and minimising the amount of stuff I don’t particularly love. I want to push myself to do things which scare me. I am past the point of holding back through fear of failure or making a tit of myself. I guess that’s what being an ‘adult’ means to me. It’s welcoming new experiences, feeling the full gamut of emotions, and recognising that they’re all valuable in one way or another. It’s the freedom to take charge of your happiness, and the increasing awareness that you are the only one who can.
So today, I’m taking time out to reflect, write, and appreciate all the beautiful messages pouring in from friends, family, colleagues, and even lovely people I’ve never met, except in a cyber sense. I’m making plans, counting my numerous blessings, and getting ready to make this year my best one yet.