When I was a teen, my friends and I worked out how old we would be on New Year’s Eve 1999, and I was HORRIFIED to see that I would be thirty. THIRTY! I might as well have been a hundred. How boring, I sighed, I’d probably spend it at home, with my kids and my husband, while the rest of the world partied the night away, like it was, well, 1999…
Fast forward to said New Year’s Eve, and to be fair, my prediction wasn’t far off. I spent it in a cottage in Wales, full of ‘flu, desperate to go to bed and leave everyone to it. I watched it on telly, managed a weak “yaaayyy…” before crawling upstairs with a Lemsip.
Next New Year’s Eve I will be 50. FIFTY! How the hell did that happen? OK, so my birthday is a good 18 months away, but it still seems unreal. I don’t feel any different to that ‘flu-filled 30 year-old who’d rather poke her eyes out than go to a New Year’s Eve bash. I’ve always been a home-bod, happier in my slippers in front of the telly than teetering around parties trying to think of something, (anything), to say. I don’t have FOMO, I have no fear whatsoever about missing out. I have FOAGO – Fucked Off About Going Out; because it’s such a bloody palaver.
While I want to stress that this FOAGO has nothing to do with my age; I am now, however, quite happy to say it out loud, and don’t really care what that makes me look or sound like. And that is EVERYTHING to do with age. This is a joy that comes with getting older, where you finally give less of a damn. Even Davina McCall, who always seems to get it right when it comes to boundless energy and enthusiasm, admitted in Stylist magazine that there have been times when she hasn’t always felt the confidence she conveys, that she has often faked it til she felt it. I’m a big believer in this; I’ve spent most of my life pretending to be more confident and outgoing than I really am, and it is hugely reassuring when someone like her, who we all know and love, holds her hands up and admits that she hasn’t always felt as fabulous as she seems. It’s a feeling that we spend our young adult lives striving for, and I can tell you, it’s worth the wait. It will come, just not in the way that you expect it to. That feeling of having nothing left to prove is the greatest release you will experience; hang in there long enough and it comes to us all.
There’s so much out there now about pushing forward, not letting anyone or anything hold us back. And while that’s great, and empowering, I think it’s also worth putting out there that it’s ok to not want to go anywhere. We are who we are, and not everyone defines themself through comparable fabulousness. If there is anything I have learned about myself as I’ve stumbled into middle age, it’s that nobody really cares what you’re doing as much as you think they do. We are all too busy navel-gazing and stressing about whether we’re getting it right to notice that all those people we are comparing ourselves to are doing exactly the same thing. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” said Theodore Roosevelt, and to a point, he was right, especially if we only use comparison as a way of making ourselves feel like a failure. Comparing our older, wiser self to our younger, insecure one is a good way to see how far we have come, and how much we have to be grateful for, which in itself sparks joy. Don’t look at how winding the road that got you to this point has been; each curve is a turning point, each crossroads is a chance to change your life, in one way or another. You may have to double back and start again, but those miles weren’t wasted, they were a chance to learn.
My teenage self had a vision of what life in my thirties would be like, and she thought by then it was all but over. As I edge ever closer to my half-century, (Me? Really?) I would love to whisper in her ear that life has not gone the way she expected it to, that there have been setbacks and heartache, but each experience has taken her on an incredible journey where every stumble has made her stronger.
And I’d tell her that the invention of Netflix means FOAGO beats FOMO any day…