In a few weeks time, I will turn 40. Birthdays in general have never bothered me. Turning 30 simply made me feel more ‘grown up’. Every year since has just been a number. But 40 seems different. I don’t want to be a 40-year-old.
It sounds old.
It is old.
Perhaps it’s because in the last 3 years I’ve seen doctors more than I did in the previous 35 years combined. I’m becoming more aware of my own mortality. The clock feels as though it’s ticking down, not up.
I spend a lot of time reflecting on my life now, for better or worse. I’ve been lucky enough to experience some great highs, and unfortunate enough to experience extreme lows too. It’s certainly been a life of extremes already. I’ve rarely lived what many would phrase ‘normality’.
I lived through, and worked in, one of the most exciting periods in technology. I’ve witnessed the growth of things like Facebook, Google and Twitter – and been working in the same field long before they were conceived. I sat with people that went on to become big players in the industry, long before they became known.
While I’ve tasted some success that many could only dream of, I still feel I missed out on a lot of opportunities. I was either too early to the party, or too late.
Self-confidence is something I’ve always lacked. Except professionally. I’ve been too confident professionally, to the point of arrogance. Refusal to give up on projects that, with hindsight, were never going to work – have cost me dearly.
Or, perhaps – I simply chose the wrong career. I written before about how I feel this has impacted my health.
Truth is, it would be wrong to blame my career choice entirely. For a long time, I loved what I did. The almost instant gratification that software and the internet offer suited me well. I did go into the industry at the right time, and I did take many right turns. I know there are very few that are fortunate to always take the right path.
Aside from work, life has dealt many blows. I’m sure it would make for a watchable movie. These experiences have brought me very close to the edge, closer than I feel comfortable admitting publicly.
But nobody has a totally trouble-free life, despite what the social-media-obsessed world may have you believe. While I can sit and analyse each move I made, there are none I would change.
Every good moment could only have come about as a result of the bad.
I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, though I think it would be safe to say it’s something I suffer with. I don’t believe I have a single trigger, which in many ways makes it that bit harder to deal with. It’s impossible to completely avoid everything that sends me ‘down’. For the most part, I believe I handle these things reasonably well – it’s only when a combination of factors occur at once that I feel unable to handle it.
I’m guilty of bottling things up. That’s just my nature – I’m not an outwardly emotional person. I’m pretty certain there is a reason for that, but as of now I don’t see the need to add yet another diagnosis to my medical record.
Admitting I can’t deal with something feels like admitting failure. I become a failure by not admitting failure.
So, while turning 40 fills me with dread – it’s also encouraged me to change my view.
I’ve come to realise that dwelling on failures does no good. I can’t change the past, nor would I want to.
I can sit and wallow in self pity until the day I die, or I can shift my mind and think positively. I’m a big believer in positive thinking – though I confess this is often a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ scenario. I need to heed my own advice from time to time.
I take comfort in knowing that it is possible to get out of a hole, no matter how deep it appears to be. Perhaps I will live another 10 years, or I may live another 60 years.
What will be will be.
I need to stop dwelling and start living. I need to look forward, not back.
Instead of chasing the money in the hope it brings me the dream, I’m chasing the dream in the hope it brings me stability. Perhaps I’m only able to do that having already satisfied many dreams. My mid-life crisis came before I turned 30. I no longer feel the urge to ‘have more’, I’m happy with ‘enough’.
What does this have to do with gardening?
Failure is accepted in a garden. Gardens don’t dwell on this – the failures are added to the compost heap to return some goodness to the soil, and we try again. Gardens never give up – they might get overwhelmed with weeds, trodden on by boots and neglected for years. But it only takes a little effort to transform them. Much like our own mind.
Time outside makes me happy. Getting my hands dirty in soil makes me happy. It may leave me with aches and pains, but mentally it makes me feel healthier than ever. A garden, or in my case an allotment plot, forces you to do something little else can – look forward. Plan for a future. To plant something today, is to believe tomorrow will come. To me, that is one of the most powerful things to have in your subconscious.
So, as I turn 40 next month, I do so with a look to the future.
I will continue to learn in the belief I’ll be around to share what I learn with others.
I will plant trees in the belief I’ll be around to see them mature.