My friend is about to turn fifty and she’s having a party to mark the occasion. And why not? It’s quite an achievement to get to half a century!
But the wording of her invitation was a little odd. Instead of being excited and enthusiastic, I sensed a reluctance to engage with the birthday itself. It’s almost as if she’s ashamed that she’s only having a party because she can’t think of anything better to do.
I think this is 50th birthday pressure at work!
When I was approaching fifty, people asked me how I was going to celebrate for months beforehand. I know that each time there’s a zero at the end of your age it’s a bit special but being fifty seemed to be more of an event than all the milestone birthdays rolled into one. And with that came pressure . . .
When expectations were so high, I began to feel like nothing I did could possibly match up. I’d had some special treats in the run up to my birthday but I was stupidly worried that the day itself might be a bit of an anti-climax.
So I gave myself a talking to.
My thought process went thus: what would be your perfect day?
Well that was easy – a day on a Caribbean beach followed by dinner alfresco basking in the golden light of a spectacular sunset with a warm breeze to gently lift my hair from my face. Sounds idyllic right?
But I live in Yorkshire and getting to Barbados for the day wasn’t entirely practical, especially not with my children in the mix. And there is no guarantee of golden light in high summer here, let alone once autumn arrives.
So instead, I broke my perfect day down into its constituent parts. It seemed I wanted 1) seaside, and 2) food outside. Now that I could achieve.
So I went to Bridlington to walk on the golden sands and then had a picnic on Ilkley Moor with my family. And even though it wasn’t quite my perfect day, it really wasn’t that far off, given the limitations of real life.
But it was memorable and that, I realised eventually, was what was making me fret. It wasn’t that I needed to do something spectacular. It was more that I wanted it to stand out in my mind as a special day.
So my friend might be apologetic about having a house party to celebrate her 50th birthday but actually it’s not about what you do. It’s HOW you do it. Making memories doesn’t depend on the backdrop. It depends on the people that you share the time with.