Last week, I turned 33. It seems like a big number, and surprises me every time I tell anyone my age. I've always looked younger than I am, and it used to frustrate me when I was in my twenties and would get asked for ID every time I went to a bar or bought alcohol in the supermarket. People older than me would assure me that once I was in my thirties I'd be grateful for looking young, and that I'd take being asked for ID as a compliment of my youthful looks. Well, I can tell you that at 33 I'm positively offended if I don't get asked for ID when I'm buying alcohol. Which is almost never these days, unless I want some white wine for a risotto. How different things are these days! I look shiftily at the cashier or bar tender until they ID me, and then I proudly waft my driver's licence showing me up to be a child of the '80s. "Oh but you look SO young" they always say, and secretly I love it.
I was on a train home to Devon once, sat next to a lady in her eighties who's husband had recently passed away. We chatted for a few hours, during which she told me that the ten years between 29 and 39 were the happiest of her life. It was the time of getting married and having babies and everyone being well and happy and moving forward in their lives. It hit me a bit like a gut punch, to realise that there will come a sad day where I will start to lose people in my life that I love. Children leave home, friends move away, people get divorced, family members get sick and parents shuffle off this mortal coil. It's the circle of life, but one that in your early thirties you mostly haven't even begun to complete. It's the upswing, for most of us, and certainly for me and for that I count my blessings daily. I hope this hasn't gone somewhere too morbid...my point is that life, to a certain points gets sweeter with age because your life is filled with more and more of what makes you happy. But at some point, holes start appearing that can't be filled, and that's just the moth eaten blanket of life that we all must wear. I know that youth is wasted on the young, but we must try to waste as little of it as we can. We must know when things are sweet, and squeeze out every second of sugar.
Being in my thirties has been a wonderful thing. I have a deep happiness that I can't say I felt when I was 23. That awful insecurity that gnaws at you when you're really young, that scrambling to find your place in the world, of not really knowing who you are and what makes you happy. It slowly sheds off of you with each year that passes. Your life strips down to the essentials, you're OK with saying no to a lot of things and you worry so much less about what everyone thinks of you. You're free to focus on what matters to you, because you have left behind the expectations of others.
For me, at 33, life looks as good as it ever has. I am rich in love and kindness, friends and food, beauty, inspiration and creativity. I am on the cusp of starting a new chapter, of buying a new home and moving out of the city. Responsibilty bears down on my shoulders, however, and sometimes overwhelmingly so. I have traded the uncertainty of my youth for the security of a family, and while freedom often eludes me, I have joy in abundance. If the last ten years has taught me anything, it's that you can never have everything you desire all at once. The secret to life is to be very clear on the positive and negatives of each situation you find yourself in, and make the best of them before they change. Be grateful, on the daily, because if you are then your heart will always be happy.
So, here's to 33. Because if that lady on the train was correct, I've still got six more years of the best ones of my life. After that, it's anyone's guess.