I was always one of those annoying people who had something of a "to do" list from a very early age. And everything on that list was to be completed by the age of 30. I won't lie, it was a pretty stereotypical list: Get married, buy a house, have babies, that sort of thing. I took it for granted that I would easily achieve everything on it and bingo, life would be grand and I'd celebrate my 30th with a big, family party, planned by my devoted husband and our ridiculously cute children. In reality, I haven't done the big things on that list. There will be no family party, because the devoted husband exists only in my head (and if you happen to be reading this, Graham Coxon... Call me) and the cute children exist only at my place of work. And they go home to their parents, whilst I...er, go home to mine. At the age of 30.
Our kids would be SO cute. And asthmatic. BUT CUTE.
It would be really easy to get a little downhearted about that mental list of mine and the very few things I've checked off it. The thing is, earlier, during one of my "WOE IS ME" moments (and as the big 3-0 approaches, there have been a few of those), I suddenly remembered that one of the biggest things on that checklist has been ticked off.
Okay, I am not sitting here, safe in the knowledge that I have written a series of books so hugely popular that children everywhere adore them, or so massively successful that apparently I can glorify abuse and nobody minds (no, I am not and never will be over my hatred of 50 Shades of Grey, thanks for asking), but I AM sitting here, safe in the knowledge that I'm a published writer of books. Children - maybe not millions, but enough for it to be a start - have my books on their shelves. People have asked me for my autograph. I've done story workshops and given interviews to the press. There's no husband, no children and no house, but damnit there are books.
With that in mind, I began to realise that I have achieved something that other people spend half their lives trying and failing to do. I was one of those people until last year. I was the one opening rejection letters from publishing houses and wondering if I ought to just give up. But I didn't. I kept going and I still am going.
It's funny how positive thinking about one thing can lead to positive thinking about other stuff, too. Today I've been a little down about things I won't bore you with here (no, not just getting old and being broody and not being married to the aforementioned member of Blur...). It would be really easy to let myself mope. In fact, sometimes a good mope is actually almost enjoyable on some weird level. Today, however, I decided to cheer myself up by thinking back to that checklist of things I wanted to achieve by the time I turned 30 and reminding myself that okay, I've not done anywhere near everything on it, but I have done other things I'm proud of.
For example, I went out in public dressed like an angel and didn't get murdered. RESULT!
My twenties haven't contained the purchase of my own house, or a big white wedding, or the birth of my first child, but they've contained other experiences. Some of which have been amazing, some of which have been bloody awful but all of which I've learnt from.
So without further ado, I have decided to present to jot down 30 things that I have achieved over the last 30 years. What better way to remind myself that tomorrow is just the start of a whole new chapter of my life, rather than a marker of goals missed?! These things aren't really in any particular order, but I've numbered them so you can see that there are 30. So here we go:
1. I am a published author of children's books (HUGE personal goal: ACHIEVED).
2. I have assembled a close circle of friends known affectionately as "my WI" or "my girls."
3. In related news, I have learnt to cut off false friends and vindictive people who are out for themselves. Give them the snip, then notice how much happier your life is without them!
4. I've been a radio DJ.
5. I've survived an abusive relationship.
6. I've had a child I've worked with tell me that I've changed their life.
7. I've been a school counsellor for children suffering from the effects of bullying.
8. I've been in a band.
9. Speaking of which, I've met members of the most important bands to me: James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire from the Manics and Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon from Blur. And also Gary Barlow from Take That. :P
10. I've ridden on every single scary rollercoaster at Alton Towers.
Yes, including this one. Yes, I nearly wet myself.
11. I've been to New York City.
12. I've flown in a glass-bottomed helicopter to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
13. I've climbed mountains.
14. I've learnt to drive, passed my test and have no worries about driving long distances. Give me a road, stick my favourite tunes on a CD and I'm off!
15. I helped raise a beautiful cocker spaniel puppy into a wonderful, loving dog who I loved with all my heart and I will now do the same for our little Labradoodle.
16. I have never cheated on anyone.
17. I have supported a former friend through the worst time of her life, wholeheartedly and without question.
18. I have been to see musicals in the West End and on Broadway.
19. I haven't let fear stand in the way of me trying new things.
20. I've got a close relationship with both of my parents and a great friendship with my sister.
That's her, that is.
21. I've eaten in some amazing restaurants and I've become a pretty competent cook myself.
22. I've followed my love of live stand up comedy around the country and I've met my favourite comedian (Jon Richardson) several times.
23. I can sing.
24. I think (I hope) I've learnt to be a good friend.
25. I am organised.
26. I don't love by halves.
27. I have conquered my fear of public speaking and have given speeches.
28. I have been to some amazing gigs by some utterly awesome bands.
29. I can adapt to different situations and get along with people from all walks of life.
And perhaps most importantly of all...
30. I like the person I've become.
So yes, I will be 30 tomorrow. And no, I haven't done all the things I wanted to have done by now. But you know what? That just means I have it all still to look forward to.
Happy birthday to me. ;-)