A few weeks ago, I turned 28. It is hard for me to reconcile this number with my idea of myself; I still feel like I am exactly where I was at 18. I am still at uni, working towards completing my undergraduate degree, even though now I am in my final semester; I am still struggling to become a writer in the face of an often overwhelming fear of failure. I am nowhere near where I thought I would be at this stage in my life. I am still trapped in the previous stage, or still trapped in a mindset that expects life to unfold in neat, orderly stages.
But when I take a moment to look back at my twenties I am struck by how tumultuous they have been. At 21 I was depressed, suicidal. At 22 I moved out of home for the first time and fell in love – an insane, disordered love I didn’t know how to handle at the time. The year I turned 23 I fell in love again, and this time it was a love that made me feel stronger, safer. I was 24 when I lost my mother and 24 when I felt real grief for the first time – grief that I had no real concept of before, that I never knew I could feel. In that same year of my life I left my hometown and moved to a new city, an experience which has given me insight into the grief of others and which has redefined my idea of ‘home’. At 25, my partner and I bought our first house. At 26, I proposed, spontaneously, so in love I couldn’t keep it in. I never thought I could be the one to ask, but I am braver now. At 27, I got married.
Across all these years I have written and not written, struggled with writer’s block, struggled with anxiety, struggled with depression, re-enrolled at uni and dropped out and re-enrolled again, lost my ability to write and my desire to live and then found them both again.
I am afraid of 28. I am afraid it will be like 21, 22, and 24 – too much like these years and not enough like 23, 25, 26, 27… I am afraid I will get to 29 without hope or alteration.
Birthdays make me introspective; birthdays make me write, frantically, reminded of the finite nature of my life. It is trite, perhaps, to dwell on mortality as I age, and disproportionate the amount of worrying I do about death when I am not even 30 yet. I know it is useless to worry about death at all, as my worry won’t change anything. But I still meet every birthday in the same way: an uncomfortable mixture of hopeful and regretful.
My hope for 28 is that I will find optimism, despite all my fear and worry about this particular year of my life. My hope is that I will get to 29 feeling like progress has been made. My hope is that 28 will be one of the years I look back on fondly and think: 28 was a good year.