Ageing is a confusing business. There’s an assumption (I think) that we should be changing, improving, progressing and developing as human beings, or in some imaginary chart of life. Having chosen not to have children, to get married or to invest personally in a career I lack some of the milestones that many people identify with and use to mark their life progress. Instead I find myself at 35, and at the beginning of a new year (screw the end of December nonsense- who starts a new year a third of the way into Winter?) and I have that odd sense that I should surely have accomplished something by now.
I reinforced that by talking to my Mum last night who was also having to remind herself that I was now 35 – it tends to be accompanied by a lot of ‘gosh’ I guess when your first born hits such an age. I have a similar problem when I realise that makes my little brother (third in line) 31 – a terrifying notion. It’s very hard not to compare myself against my siblings, both now married, one with a pair of miniature humans. Good jobs all round, with some career path in mind, well travelled, fairly adult (I exclude my brother from that description with the exception of work)… and both younger than me. Hmm.
So What Have I Done?
I’ve been with my other half for fifteen years now, that’s the entirety of my adult life (I don’t count time at university as being adult, for I think obvious reasons). We’ve bought a house together, which we’ve partly decorated but mainly filled with the fruits of our kleptomaniac obsessions, and with a cat we adore (the second we have loved deeply since being together). I have never felt closer to another human being – I like the phrase “living in each others’ pockets”; I can’t tell whose pocket or their contents belong to who any more.
My job which I’ve had for almost as long, in various evolving forms does not fill my heart with joy or fulfilment, though at the right times it does tickle my brain and I do it very well. It does pay for everything though, and surely that’s what it’s for. I’d love to have a job that filled all of my creative ambitions, that energised me intellectually but I can’t imagine what that job would be. Oh well. I have emotionally drifted far from old friends and from family, as well as physically and communicatively. I never know why.
I am bad at looking back and bad at looking forwards. I am quite good at the present. I have embraced improvised comedy as something I feel passionate about and it has shifted from hobby to source of joy and reward. It is good. I’m one of the people who has enabled MissImp to keep advancing and to be on the verge of being very special indeed. The friends I have and those I socialise with I feel close to and intensely interested in, even if I may seem to never remember anything about them. I still love to read; I read hundreds of books a year and each makes me feel happy. I love my Lego. I enjoy the creativity and destruction involved in it. This is the 443rd post I have published on this site. I write several thousand words a week on diverse subjects, including myself. It is rewarding.
Slightly Broken, or Ace With Cracks?
I have shared more emotionally in the last year than in the decade before that. I guess that’s what feels most significant about the last year. Last August, just after my birthday I started to attend counselling sessions, which I made myself refer myself to. They followed a period of CBT I’d ended up in after deciding to do something about my appalling sleep patterns. The counselling finished in January this year – a fairly short, but intense dose of person-centred therapy. During the ten months or so that all this was going on I maintained an erratic blog about how I felt and what was going through my mind. They are intensely personal, and terrifying to me in content. They deal with sexual abuse, fear, obsession, anxiety, depression, self-harm and who knows what else. They were tough to write, but for me, epically important. I have previously shared them with a few close friends and that was pretty difficult, but helpful.
This August I’ve made the decision to move those thirty or so posts from their previous anonymousish home to captainpigheart.com. I’ve come to realise that although I started this website to write pirate stories, it’s actually about me and my thoughts, feelings and interests. Sometimes that means piracy, other times it means panic attacks. I started the Autofiction series so I could write about myself in this public-ish domain where I don’t have to hide, pretend that everything’s okay and through the absence of personal horror imply that none exists. The honesty of it is important to me. As is the absence of shame. Pride and shame are peculiar concepts – I have never understood excessive pride in simply being what you are, and similarly there is no reason to feel shame for the things we are not responsible for.
Don’t feel you have to read those posts (it really isn’t for everyone), but they are in the archives under Slightly Broken. I’ve put the Autofiction in there too because they are kind of the same thing. I’m proud of how far I’ve come – if I had made different decisions in life I probably would not be here now. I owe that to very many of the people around me, but most especially my other half, Marilyn. I may not have kicked over the traditional milestones by the age of 35, but I’ve found some different ones and I reckon I’m doing alright.