Today I turned 40, which is no bad thing if you consider what my life was like at 20, which we’ll get to in a bit. Before you start reading, take a look at the photo above. You’ll find out why shortly. Nice hat though, right? Found that jaunty little head-piece on Cambridge market today.
I was planning to visit the London Science Museum today but a grotty head cold placed that pan of sciency soup goodness on the back burner until next weekend. Instead we took a stroll around Cambridge and drank in the eclectic cosmopolitan atmosphere in glorious May sunshine.
Forty at 40?
I had thought of making some kind of list, a 40 Something Something type of deal, but after mulling it over I figured that was a tad clichéd so I’ve decided to go with a comparison between me at 20 and now at 40.
I could wax lyrical about how I don’t feel any different now than any other birthday, but that would be bullshit. Okay, sure, I’m a year older, and you could say I’m half way through my life (if I make it to 80 that is) but that’s somewhat negative. It’s hard to imagine I might only have 40 summers left!
It could be argued that middle age of 40 (viewed by those in their 80’s) or old age (to those in their teens) is the part of life where Old Man Age starts knocking on the door to hand out wrinkles and grey hairs. Personally I think I look pretty good, and perhaps a little younger if I shaved the grey stubble off my face once in a while. I hate shaving so that won’t happen any time soon.
I do feel different. I’m better.
Bold statement, right dear blog reader?
Ah, but not if we take a look at my life when I was 20. Remember I said to take a look at my mug? Okay, then get ready for a shocking and embarrassing photo from when I was 20.
Yeah. That was me. Head like an inflatable ball. If I was any fatter I’d be blind due to my eyelids and cheeks trying to merge together. That’s one yucky photo. Feel free to scroll up and check the difference.
But it’s not just physical differences that have changed.
Let’s do a comparison.
Life at 20.
At 20 I was an idiot. A complete waste of space. I was unemployed for long stretches. I treated my body like shit. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life (to some degree I still don’t) other than writing. It’s taken 20 years to learn that craft and I’m still learning now.
Between 18 and around 24 my weight ballooned to over 26 stone, that’s 364lbs, which is just insane. And it stayed that way until a few years ago when all of a sudden it just dropped off fast, really fast. I had a nasty hernia caused from being a huge fat turd, and being a moron it didn’t stop me shovelling crap in my mouth and not exercising.
There was no direction in life. I drifted and did nothing, or as close to nothing as possible. I sucked at managing money, being sociable, keeping a job or even finding one. In an alternate sc-fi-esque reality I would have been euthanized for being a drain on society.
If I had a time machine and went back to my 20 year-old self, I’d look me up and down, shake my head in pity and check the following off a list:
I can recognise now why I was like that. Weight played a big part in my lack of self-confidence. I was very aware of people looking at me and judging everything I did. I was never sure if I was doing or saying the right thing and more often than not I’d keep my mouth shut in case I was ridiculed, and then abused for being a tubby lard butt.
Memories of people laughing at me for my size and shape are still there, not that I care these days, but that sort of thing caused a blight of introvertism at 20, made me shun what I could have been. Life sure is cruel, but only after you’ve walked a dark path can you can enjoy that which is filled with illumination and happiness.
Life at 40.
I’m glad to say I’m no longer an idiot. I’ve shed 11 stone in weight, 154lbs, and though there’s a little to go, damn, do I feel good! There’s the hip issue that I’ve blogged about before, What A Pain In The Hip, and though it still hurts like a bitch now and then it’s much better these days.
I’ve gained plenty of confidence, and that isn’t only due to weight loss. I believe that has also come from life experience. I’m more pragmatic in my thinking, and though I’ve always been laid back I now lean toward thinking way before acting.
I have a good day job, one that I truly love and take great pride and satisfaction in. That alone is a blessing and often on the drive home after a long day I wonder how many people are doing the same thing, but are also very happy with their day’s work.
I know where I’m going. I have purpose. I have an aim to reach for. My day job boils down to a simple sign.
I think on Monday I’ll print one of those out and put it on my desk at work.
Just a reminder that even when things get busy and the to-do list seems never-ending, I do indeed love every minute.
In November last year I published my first novel on Amazon called The Range – give this a click to take a look – which I had worked on for way too long, and am now working on the second in the trilogy called The Holt. That’s taking longer than I planned due to my day job, but hey, I’m really enjoying writing it when I can! My previous estimate of finishing in May 2015 has been binned in favour of November time, maybe. Fingers crossed.
I’m just better!
The fact is that at 40 my life is so much better than at 20.
Health – I’m no longer a fatty, though admittedly there’s still a bit to shift before I’m where I want to be.
Wealth – meh, not wealthy by any stretch, but I’m not in debt, so all smiles there.
Happiness – plenty of that, thanks. Hips aside, I smile a lot. I laugh and enjoy every moment.
Personality – I believe I still have the same ideals, only now I favour pragmatism, empathy, charity, reflection and positivity over inner rage, anger, self-confidence and self-loathing.
Just a number, right?
You must have heard some say that your age is just a number. Yeah, it is sort of, as the mind doesn’t seem to age as fast as they body. In truth I’ve not given the actual reaching of 40 years of age much thought. It’s not a big deal to me.
Some folk worry and stress out about this number. They make bucket lists and complain or moan. Not me. So what if I get grey hair? It’s just hair. Wrinkles, meh. It’s skin. It will get wrinkly. Failing eye sight? Yeah, already wearing glasses at times, no big deal.
Life isn’t too bad at all. I have my health, a good job and I’m happy.
Rather than run through a deep and thoughtful summary, I’ll leave you with some nice photos because life is indeed rich with colour in all aspects.
That is a dish of Spicy Squid Tempura I enjoyed today at YO! Sushi in Cambridge, along with extremely tasty Japanese Seabass.
Here’s a lovely photo of the punts on the River Cam, always a good spectator sport.
And finally, a funny pub sign in Cambridge that agrees with my sense of humour!
Hey there dear blog reader!
You ever have one of those days when everything seems to fit and everything you do works out just right? The sort of day where you’re smiling away and folks are smiling back, the banter flits back and forth like birdsong, and you can almost touch the happy vibe floating in the atmosphere around you.
From the moment I woke up to right now, the mood within my bubble has been silky smooth and tinged with mirth and energy. And it looks like we’re having a barbee later this evening which serves to bookend the day just perfectly! I thought I’d share my positive happy smileyness with you, along with a few pics in full techno-fun-o-colour-rama!
Christmas means different things to us all. You may take solace in religion, share quality time with family and friends or crack open the booze the second the sun clears the horizon. For me Christmas is about moments. From a subtle smile and kind words shared by friends seldom seen, to those loud explosions of delight made by unwrapping a desirable gift or greeting of distant chums, it’s the moments that make Christmas magical for me.
A gift doesn’t have to mean something physical, something purchased, wrapped in fancy paper, given and unwrapped. I think of a gift as a moment. Be that a hand shake, a meaningful hug, a good conversation or the roar of laughter after a moment of silence at Christmas dinner.
My Christmas is about friends catching up over a glass of wine, silly paper hats worn with pride, smiles on faces, joy very much evident as the gift of friendship is exchanged and renewed. On these rare days I take it all in, savouring the atmosphere, sharing the laughter, good food and solemn reflection for those no longer with us, for they too deserve a moment of our time.
Plenty of people take family photos at Christmas. You should take a moment to really enjoy these little treasures. I took the photo below today after Christmas dinner. The people in it mean nothing to you, yet they mean everything to me. Every silly smile, awkward pose and grand gesture is magnificent. This is a moment I will remember forever because it reminds of a day of goodwill. A day of moments.
…about making connections.
It seems that in our crazy 24/7 world of hustle and bustle, technology induced hysteria and disposable everything, people seldom try to slow things down and enjoy life. Then when Christmas arrives with a flurry of noise and colour, I find it’s the connections that make the event special.
I was out shopping a few days ago, making a few last-minute purchases, swept along with the surging crowds in Cambridge and, like so many, I was ducking and weaving, hurrying from one shop to the next without pausing to look around. It was late and as I hadn’t eaten all day I stopped to grab a hot-dog. I huddled out of the rain as I squirted mustard on my dog.
The crowds were dwindling, shoppers slipping off home out of the cold wet rain. As I went to leave the hot-dog vendor called out. Thinking I’d forgotten my change I turned around. The vendor gave me a huge smile and said: “Hey man, you have a great Christmas, k?”
I smiled at this because it didn’t sound like the standard photocopied greeting. In one second I clocked the look in his eye and the smile on his face.
This guy really meant it.
“You too, fella,” I replied. I gave my dog a wiggle. “Have a good one.”
Walking back to my car I ignored the rain which had already started to dampen my hot-dog bun. I at with a smile on my face. After all the shops I’d been in, where checkout operators dish out a robotic “Merry Christmas” to each and every customer (repeat a phrase enough times and most people will lose the enthusiasm for its meaning) it was that connection of sincerity that made my shopping experience a memorable one.
…about the wonder!
My niece, Daisy, was thrilled to receive a personal video message of Santa Claus this year. She showed me the video on my sister’s iPad. She showed it to everyone else. Twice. Three times. A dozen times and probably more. But her wonder never waned. She watched it over and over. Santa knew she’d been a good girl. Good enough to let her know. Personally.
As adults we’re guilty of losing that wonder. Those once special moments become flat because we’ve seen it before. We know what to expect. But it doesn’t have to be that way you know, dear blog reader. The wonder is still there to be enjoyed. You just have to take the time to tuck away your expectations and for a moment touch the possibility of “what-if” and let the power of imagination captivate you.
Continuing my story of shopping in Cambridge, before the rain came again, I watched a street artist near the market. I stood and watched for a long time. The guy was stood perfectly still, eyes wide open, never blinking. He was a living statue. A semi-circle of shoppers gathered around him. Every so often a young boy or girl would approach him, cautiously, as if not quite sure what to make of the strange statue.
The look on their faces was wonder. The same look little Daisy had when she showed me the video message from Santa. And as I stood there watching those children, I couldn’t help but be infected by their wonder. I was enthralled to say the least.
I stood there for at least 15 minutes. The guy never moved a muscle. Every time a parent encouraged their kid to drop a coin into the statue’s pot I half expected him to shift his position and give the kids a scare. I gave him a handful of change. Well earned.
…a squeaky ball!
Amidst the mountains of crispy roast potatoes, slabs of turkey, fart inducing sprouts, snoozing relatives, glasses of wine, silly hats, jokes, chats, smiles and creamy trifle (loaded with enough sherry to put you in an alcoholic coma for a week) one moment captured my Christmas perfectly.
For our dog Ben, whom Christmas has little meaning beyond a vague and curious interest in the rainbow of scrunchy wrapping paper, a squeaky ball is something to be treasured. It’s such a little thing. A squeaky ball. After all the excitement of the big day it’s nice to see Ben enjoying the little things in life.
We all have our squeaky balls. They’re the simple things in life, like a hug, a feeling of wonder at a special Christmas message from Santa, an unexpected and heartfelt connection with someone, and a special moment you’ll tuck away in your noggin to remind you of this Christmas.
Whatever your squeaky ball is, I hope you cherish it.
When the rush of the holiday season is over and normality has been restored, try to remember your squeaky ball. Don’t make this a fleeting glance in your room of memories. Dig out that squeaky ball – that feeling of wonder, connection or moment, and let it shine a light into your life once more.
I raise a glass and toast your good health, dear blog reader, and offer you my sincerest best wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
And in case you’re wondering, my Christmas squeaky ball this year is watching Ben playing with his squeaky ball!