I turn 27 today and as I tuck into yet another slice of the world’s most beige birthday cake, I’m thinking ‘this isn’t half bad’ – the cake for sure, and life in general.
When I was a child I got the idea into my head that I would be a ‘proper grown up’ at the age of 27. I defined ‘proper grown up’ as being married for min. 2 years and expecting my first child. My parents were much older than the parents of everyone else in my class and it embarrassed me. I don’t recall being teased about it but when all the other parents were turning 30, mine were turning 40 (and then some) and there was always a shock-horror-gasp reaction when I said it. I decided I didn’t want to be an older parent and took an average of the ages and decided 27 was the Goldilocks age to start a family.
It sounds so naive and laughable now, but I was only about 8 years old – I have a distinct memory of thinking ’27’ when I was walking through the halls in primary school: the coarse, blue carpet underneath my little gym shoes, the smell of acrylic paint, lots of children scrambling and shouting (maybe break time). I don’t know why I was thinking of it, but I was. Of course I knew nothing of life and careers, options and realities, and all the amazing things women can do – if you give them an extra 10 years than your average man.
It’s quite sad that to an 8 year old girl, the “significant stages” of life are marriage and children – nobody asks about graduating or founding your own company, but this isn’t news or my soul opinion. At least from documentaries and basic knowledge of society, those thoughts rarely cross a boy’s mind – and certainly not so young.
My friend called me recently and we were discussing how strange it is that girls, from a very young age, are expected to be in relationships – even though boys obviously all have germs at that age, we still need to be ‘with’ them. I remember politely smiling and looking awkwardly at my mum when her friends asked: ‘Have you no got a boyfriend yet?’, ‘Are ye no with anyone?’, ‘Aw, dinnae worry, I’m sure you’ll find a nice laddie soon’. Even more disturbing was the string of adult women who told me that if I stood in the shower and held the shower-head across my chest, my breasts would ‘pop right out’ and then I’d ‘get a laddie, no bother’. I was 6.
Maybe it’s a small-town-thing, or maybe it was specifically my-hometown-thing, but what a strange culture to raise a child in. All girls have some elements of those ‘expectations’ pushed upon them no matter where they’re raised, but the shower-head one was weird, and totally perverse.
Nowadays I’m a 36D and face away from the shower in case they grow any bigger. I’m pretty happy with ‘me’ and my body – sure, we’ve had our qualms and I don’t always love her but she’s aright, and if she gets bigger or smaller over time, we’re not going to worry. I don’t need my body to do extraordinary things, I’m just happy she keeps my noggin on my shoulders and carries me from A to B. That’s all I’m asking for… oh, and good buns! Namaste.
Despite this refreshing confidence and acceptance of ‘who I am’, as soon as January 1st rolled round, it dawned on me that I’d be turning the big two-seven, and I can’t say I handled it very well. For all that I understood I was spraffing absolute tripe as a teeny 8 year old, I still couldn’t shrug this ‘ideal’ that was so deeply ingrained into my little mindbrain.
I didn’t feel lost, but unaccomplished. I started to worry that I wasn’t as far along as I ‘should be’ – career-wise and relationship-wise. I have this image of people in their late 20s, running around as managers and going home to their partners. Some people have that already, but I don’t, and for quite some time it really bothered me.
Recently though, I’ve done a few workshops – one was through work, where we teamed up with an agile coach and created our mission statement and core values for the Mental Health ERG (Employee Resource Group). The other was a ‘Marketing 101’ Workshop I signed up to independently, for my own curiosity. Both workshops were incredibly valuable and allowed time for reflection, which really helped with my direction and regaining my confidence.
Suddenly the clouds parted and I started to realise that I am taking the right steps and I do know where I’m going and what I want to achieve – those plans and the end-goal might change, but for now I’m pretty savvy. Things are good. I started to get really excited about turning 27, what a great age! The year of confidence, of empowerment, of success. Eight-year-old-me is probably having a mild panic attack, but I see you, Inner Child, just trust the process hun, we’ve got this.
I might not be doing exactly what I thought I would be doing, and I’m still a long way off from where I want to be, but I’m laying the foundations and everything is perfectly clear. So, happy birthday me! I’m doing great… and my cake is really good.