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On turning 38

This week I notched up another birthday. It was not a big one… Forty is still some way off and something I may start worrying about in June 2014. But after the sea changes of the past twelve months, 38 felt like a birthday worth marking.

The past year has been a time of many changes in my life and I have been intensely aware of shifts, large and small. By going more slowly, I have seen the rippling effects of changes in priorities. I have had the time and space to observe myself in the world and my interaction with my surroundings, the environment, other people and my own hopes and anxieties… On the one hand, I have enjoyed watching my interests and priorities develop and my mind and body grow calmer. On the other, I have witnessed a rekindling of simple pleasures that delighted me as a seven-year-old as well as principles that fired me up as a teenager. In short, I feel as if I have moved on, come home, and set out again each day… in many ways and for many reasons. Below are just a few.

Ten things I have realised

  • My siblings are the best part of my parents’ legacy!
  • Growing is more fun than figuring out what I shall be when I grow up.
  • I may criticise my country, I may never feel fully at home here, I may rile against its infrastructure and institutions… but after revisiting life in continental Europe, I know that I want to live here.
  • There is no reason to stay in a career just because you are good at it.
  • Leaving the law is a whole lot easier than most lawyers would have you believe (and as all ex-lawyers will tell you).
  • De-cluttering gets easier with practice – I have not regretted letting go of anything I have given away, not even books!
  • Most people are happy for you to pick their brains.
  • It is easier to break a bad habit by developing a good one.
  • There is no perfection in gardening – there are just too many variables – and, anyway, perfection is not the point. There are so many other rewards.
  • There is no point investing in a summer wardrobe in the UK (no matter how much the fashion industry tries to persuade us otherwise).

Ten things I have discovered

  • I can still run. What is more, I actually enjoy running!
  • Potatoes are not just bland starch, not when you lift them in the afternoon and eat them in the evening.
  • It is possible to deliver a home-made three-tier wedding cake to a Limerick wedding without a car.
  • Despite my initial reservations, I like Twitter. (I am still not sure about Facebook though.)
  • I can watch my cats for hours. Their behaviour, responses and little peculiarities are endlessly entertaining.
  • I like colour – something I discovered thanks to photography and Vivienne McMaster’s e-courses in particular.
  • It is possible to wean oneself of a double espresso habit. And I feel much better for it!
  • Yoga lessons are not just about the 60 minutes on the mat. Yoga’s lessons kick in during the painful stretch of a run, when struggling with violin exercises, on crowded buses and during relaxing walks.
  • Skip-diving is quite fun, especially seeing the baffled looks on respectable neighbours’ faces when they spot me picking out old sash windows, planks of wood, pallets…
  • Making sourdough bread is not a chore, it is relaxing.

Picking up a camera has changed my relationship with colour

Ten things I still believe

  • Accepting Mr M’s proposal of marriage was the best thing I ever did!
  • When faced with injustice, inequality or indifference, we cannot do everything but we can all do something, and often more than we think.
  • Investing in friendship, food and learning is never wasted.
  • Information labels can change buying habits: food; clothes; household goods; cleaning, laundry and garden products…, which is why corporates lobby so hard against them.
  • Reading around a subject is always more rewarding than slavishly ticking off a reading list.
  • BBC Radio 4 alone is worth the licence fee.
  • Most people are fundamentally decent.
  • The world needs less specialists and more interdisciplinary generalists.
  • A cup of tea works wonders!
  • Cleaning may be therapeutic (although am still not fully convinced) but a peck of dirt in your lifetime does you no harm.

A birthday gift from Mr M. He understands the power of tea!

Five projects for the coming year

  • Finish my masters.
  • Set up a community garden or a community of micro-gardeners.
  • Formally launch my millinery business.
  • Turn the shed into a potting shed with a water-harvesting system.
  • Re-enter the job market.

And a few things I have (reluctantly) accepted

  • Sometimes, fit-for-purpose is good enough.
  • I can no longer wear high heels (without paying the price the next day).
  • I shall always file my tax return with minutes to spare.
  • Gerri Smalley July 20, 2012, 11:18 pm

    Happy birthday to you…
    38 was fun and a year of revelation for me, I became an artist at 38. I will be 40 in 2 months and 1 day. I pretty stinking excited!
    I love the tax return bullet. LOVE
    Great reflections, insights, and goals.
    Oh, that teapot is adorable!!

    • Meg and Gosia July 20, 2012, 11:38 pm

      Thanks, Gerri. I look forward to reading about your adventures and discoveries as you embrace 40!

  • Sue Marzinske July 21, 2012, 12:06 am

    Only 38??? You are still a babe at that age!

    Your lists were delightful, and I especially loved the oh-so-true comment that “there is no perfection in gardening”, but I have worn out another pair of gardening gloves this week trying!

    And long live the Renaissance people, or interdisciplinary generalists, as you call them. The Age of Specialists has lost the interweaving of knowledge that gives depth and magic to information.

    • Meg and Gosia July 21, 2012, 11:15 pm

      ‘interweaving of knowledge that gives depth and magic to information’ – beautifully phrased, Sue, as always!

  • Tat (@muminsearch) July 21, 2012, 7:34 am

    I don;t have a very solid relationship with my own brother, so I am loving how close my own kids are. I hope one day they’ll be able to say that their siblings are the best part of their parents’ legacy 😉

  • Debra July 21, 2012, 1:22 pm

    Happy belated birthday my friend. I’m so thrilled to have gotten to know you over this past year. All the best for 38! xoxo

  • nanettefayephotography July 22, 2012, 12:57 pm

    I love your lists….Happy Birthday!

  • Michelle July 22, 2012, 12:57 pm

    I hope your year holds everything you want it to, and your shed evolves into the potting shed of your dreams 🙂 I’m about to curl up and sleep. Thank you for such a touching and inspiring post. Happy Birthday.

  • Wanda July 23, 2012, 6:25 pm

    So much wisdom-dear Meg-it is important to get out of the rat race and experience real life as I see you have discovered. My hope is that you retain this knowledge as you venture back into the “working world”. I so agree with your insights esp. “just because you can doesn’t mean you have to”. Keep up the blogs-love your writing! Lainie’s mom

    • Meg and Gosia July 23, 2012, 8:24 pm

      Thanks Wanda. Yes, it will be interesting and challenging to see how I deal with long-learnt habits when I return to work. I am pleased to hear you enjoy my writing.


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