Tomorrow I turn 35. While it is the age, I have been informed, that my fertility apparently drops off the proverbial cliff (poetic!), researchers have also said that it is the age at which women peak – becoming more confident and happier.
A few years ago I wrote this post on my birthday, reflecting on the lessons my then 32 years had taught me.
This year, I’m doing something similar except, instead of lessons learned, I am reminding myself of the many wonderful things in life and all that I am thankful for as my confident, happier 35 year old self!
1. I am thankful for the gift of a blank slate and being able to start over at any time. Nothing in this life is permanent – this is both a positive and a negative. While I cherish the wonderful moments while they last, I also know that the difficult moments will pass.
2. I am thankful for laughter. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to laugh and that you often hear my laughter before you see me. I will never stop laughing loud and long – it is good for the soul.
3. I am thankful for my freedom.
4. I am thankful for my softness and my compassion. Seeing the good in people, even after all I have been through, is a gift.
5. I am thankful for forgiveness. For being forgiven and for my own ability to forgive. Grudges and anger are so brutal and damaging to your soul. It is important to find closure and to let go of these things when the time is right.
6. I am thankful for my health. From being a baby who needed surgery, to a child with continual ENT problems including hearing issues, to gaining too much weight in my late teens and being generally unhealthy, I am now a healthy, strong women in my thirties who is fit and healthy enough to have summited the highest freestanding mountain in Africa. My physical strength and health is a gift.
7. I am thankful for a career that I love. Teaching is one of the most emotive, exhaustive careers, especially working with the youngest children. But the joy I gain every day from seeing how children grow and learn and change so rapidly and being a part of that adventure. I love it.
8. I am thankful for my mum. I was raised by a selfless, superhero warrior woman who loves us all so fiercely. She is the epitome of care, support and love and our family are kept strong because of her influence and her incredible heart.
9. I am thankful for my dad. In a world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the truly good men amongst the misogyny and the patriarchy, I was raised by a man who demonstrates that there are good, kind, gentle, honest, trustworthy men who will lift you up, support everything you do, and love his wife and family so loyally and wonderfully. The older I get and the more I encounter men from his generation, the more thankful I am for him and his influence.
10. I am thankful for my sisters. There is a lot to be said for siblings and cousins. They know you. They know you from before the time you even really knew yourself. You have a million shared moments, share experiences, shared emotions. They stand by you, they are effortless support due to how much you have shared. I have two wonderful younger sisters and I love them to the ends of the earth. They are a part of my soul.
11. I am thankful for loyal, fearless friendships. Living in places all over the world for long periods of time, I always run the risk of becoming isolated. I am thankful for loyal friends who have been in my life for a long time, people I have met on my travels who have become part of my heart, and my friends who become family within my own little corner of the world at any time.
12. I am thankful for grandparents who came from a generation of survivors. Each of my grandparents lived through WWII in the UK and my Papa was stationed with RAF Ground Crew in Burma for much of the conflict. It is hard to imagine what it was like for them all during this time of fighting, rationing, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, the Blitz. This survival instinct, resilience and grit is something that has been passed down through the generations now and I feel that my own resilience and grit is partially down to their influence.
13. I am thankful for the kindness of strangers. There have been countless times that someone has helped when I have needed it or I have witnessed helpers in different situations. From helping me carry heavy suitcases up staircases in the London Underground to sending a donation to help strangers in a difficult time, it’s a beautiful thing to witness kindness in all it’s forms.
14. I am thankful for opportunities to perform and be creative through singing and acting. In school I was in every orchestra, choir and band you could think of but, in my 20s I stepped back from it all. Thankfully, in my 30s, I have picked it all up again and it is the creative outlet that I need in the midst of a busy career.
15. I am thankful for the gift of being a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on. To be trusted by someone to the level that they share their deepest stories and fears and dreams is an honour.
16. I am thankful for second chances – first impressions of people and situations are not always accurate.
17. I am thankful for my own space. My little house is my haven, leaky roof and occasional mouse included! It provides me with shelter, running water, a comfortable and cosy place to sleep, a place to host friends and cook meals. Plus it is filled with all kinds of knick-knacks and special things that remind me of all that I love.
18. I am thankful for guilty pleasures: listening to that band you love on repeat, watching cheesy movies, eating peanut butter from the jar with a spoon, giant cheese platters with chilli jam, binge-watching entire seasons of television in one weekend.
19. I am thankful for my travels. We live in a beautiful world but not everyone goes out there so see it. Get on that plane/train/bus/bike/boat. Watch the different landscapes roll by the window. Lie on different grass in a different place and watch the stars. See how people laugh with each other the same way all over the world.
20. I am thankful for opportunities to tell people how you feel about them. Life is too short and, even if the outcome isn’t what you planned, it’s better to have no words left unspoken than to wish you had when you had the chance.
21. I am thankful for the chance to close the door to things that happened in the past. Your past does not predict your future, it is simply the path that led you to this point.
22. I am thankful for photographs and mementos of people, places and memories I love. They remind me that my life has been filled with love.
23. In the same way as I am thankful for second chances, I am also thankful for burned bridges and being able to say goodbye to toxic people in my life. Give yourself permission to let go of anything or anyone that drags you down.
24. I am thankful for technology that allows me to stay in contact and see my family and friends on my computer screen in real-time. It eases the guilt of living so far from them knowing that I can be in contact with them within moments if we need to be.
25. I am thankful for being brought up in a house filled with music and dancing. It started my endless love affair and obsession with all kinds of music, filled playlist after playlist, motivated me to study music and learn instruments, prompted non-stop downloading of songs and spending all my money on gig tickets and festival tickets, and fuelled a lot of dancing until the wee small hours with my friends.
26. I am grateful for learning how to admire someone else’s beauty without questioning my own. Women are taught continuously to compare themselves to the botoxed, filtered, airbrushed images that are surrounding them all day long. It took me a long time to become comfortable and happy with the face I see in the mirror. It takes daily reminding and constant work to be okay with that reflection but I am finally there.
27. In a strange way, I am thankful for my brokenness. I will never look at my scars and flaws as anything less than a crucial part of my story. They are a part of what makes me who I am and I am more interesting and wonderful because of them. Shattered glass lets more light in.
28. I am thankful for reunions. Reunions with family. Reunions with friends. Arms that can’t hug enough, eyes that can’t open wide enough to take in all the changes, stories that tumble out of each other’s mouths in desperation to catch up on time lost, smiles of joy and tears of happiness.
29. I am thankful for being able to reinvent myself. From choosing the next crazy hair colour to moving to a new adventure, I embrace and often dive into change.
30. I am thankful for my understanding of my own mental health and my ability to cope with and recognise the times when I am not doing so well, and the strategies I know will help to pull me back out of dark places. Sometimes I need help to do so, and other times it comes down to self-care.
31. I am thankful for mighty women who inspire me, both within my own life and in the wider world. Warrior women with fire in their hearts for change, equality, and breaking glass ceilings.
32. I am thankful for the writing of Neil Gaiman. My love of fantasy and science fiction has helped me find an escape when I have needed it and, no matter how many other authors I will read, I return to Gaiman every time. His writing creates worlds that fascinate, inspire and help to explain parts of the human condition in a way I have never seen.
33. I am thankful for poetry and the power that poets have to give words to emotions that we haven’t found.
34. I am thankful for one more birthday. One more year on this crazy, beautiful planet. The gift of 365 more days.
35. I am thankful that I am not where I thought I would be at 35 and that my life path has been so much stranger and beautiful than I had planned. Life is full of surprises and, if everything had worked out exactly how I had imagined, I’m not sure I would be the same person that I am today. If the next 35 years are just as crazy and beautiful, I will be just as happy.