Pushing 30

I turn thirty next week. The big 3-0. An entire decade away from leaving my teens, yet in the blink of an eye, I’ll be waving my twenties goodbye too. I’m not as fussed as I imagined I would be. It’s just another birthday. Not a particularly big deal. But I suppose, if I sit and think too much about it, thirty is quite the mile stone. It’s real adulthood. Time to become a proper grown up.

Once upon a time, ten years ago, as I turned twenty and imagined what life might me like at thirty; I figured I’d probably be beginning to think about getting married. Buying a house. Maybe even have a kid or two. Of course, I would have been a millionaire by then, thanks to an X Factor win when I was still young enough not to have been put in the “overs” category. I would have been my ideal body shape (I realise now, that at 20, my body was as “ideal” as it was ever going to get) and I would have finally found a haircut I was happy with. I would be in an exciting, happy and overtly romantic relationship with a real life Disney prince (preferably Phillip from Sleeping Beauty) and we’d probably be so blissfully happy that people would vomit at the sight of us. I’d be in an incredibly successful career. Probably quite famous, or at least unimaginably important. On first name terms with Liz (the Queen), most definitely. I’d have seen the world on my gap year. I’d speak numerous languages. I would absolutely have won a Pride of Britain award.

I mean, realistically, that’s quite a lot for me to tick off in three short days. Disappointingly, I don’t think thirty is going to be quite how I imagined it, ten years ago.

So what will it be like? What have I done with my life in the last 10,947 days (holy sh*t).

November 29th 1987, I arrived earth side. Born to Linda and Nigel, at around 4am, I believe, weighing a respectable (but still measly) 6lb something. My Mum always used to say, I was smaller than the Christmas turkey that year.

Obviously I remember naff all from my babyhood, but I think it was a happy one and photographic evidence from that time proves that I was well fed. My parents divorced when I was about 2 (minimally amicable, but still friendly enough that, by my recollection, i spent ample time with both of them).

I had full sets of grandparents and great grandparents on each side. About a gazillion cousins. Aunts and uncles all over. The double Christmases enjoyed by children of “broken” homes. My Mum remarried. He was a kiwi and the romance was whirlwind. She was wed in New Zealand during a round the world trip that we took when I was five. Dad didn’t. He did however, spawn a couple more siblings for me. Mum also provided a baby sister. From what I recall, life plodded on contentedly, through my childhood years. Life was good. We were happy. We lived on a nice street. We had lots of friends. Our family all lived locally. I saw my Dad three times a week. He let us have various rodents because he had a much softer pet policy than my Mum (who only ever allowed hamsters and even that was banned after mine ate my sister’s).

Then one day, when I was 9 years old, my Mum asked me to come inside earlier than usual (anyone else have to abide my the streetlight curfew?). She said she needed to talk to me and hesitantly broke the news that she’d been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I knew it was bad. I knew how dangerous Cancer could be; but I don’t think I ever, even for a minute, imagined she would die from it. No way. Not my Mum. Life continued much the same, after that, but there were differences in Mum. Hair loss, weight gain, the sadness and anger and frustration that come with having no control over the disease ravaging your body. Eventually, she had to stop working. I remember she found that hard. Her career was everything that she’d worked for. And suddenly it was gone. For years she fought it. I went with her to chemo once and watched as it took them 13 attempts to find a vein in her swollen hands. Life still went on. Fun, friends, parties, BBQs, a new relationship for my Dad. Remission for my Mum. A ritualistic burning of the wig. Carefree childhood resuming. Two kittens, gifted, as a reward for finally giving up the thumb sucking at 11 years old. Then, later, more tumours. More treatment. And one day, she let me stay home from school. Told me it was in her liver. There was nothing more to be done. I lay with her as she took her last breaths, only weeks later. It was the day before I turned 14. Sixteen whole years ago. An entire lifetime, it seems now. She was 30 herself, when she got her diagnosis. Just 30, when all of our lives changed irrevocably.

Life was very different after that. Emptier. Sadder. Harder. Scarier. Traversing your teenage years, motherless, is no mean feat. When I first started my period, I was forced to rely on Jeeves and that ridiculous paperclip thing, to tell me whether or not it was ok to have a bath (it was). I chose to stay living with my Step-Dad and sister. At 14, my main concern was staying close to my mates, but my relationship with my Dad took a bit of a nosedive after that. Six months later, my Step-Dad moved his new girlfriend in. A good friend of my Mum’s. I moved swiftly out. I went to live with my Dad and his girlfriend and my two newest siblings. I won’t lie, life was strained. A grieving teenager. An angry Dad. A new Step-Mum. A toddler and a newborn.

At 15, I got my first job, cleaning hotel rooms for £3 an hour. £30 a week to fund a growing junk food habit. By 16, I was bulimic. I’d hide bags of sick in the bottom of my wardrobe, or the neighbours wheelie bins. I’d leave college early, just to find a quiet place to purge. Diet pills. Excessive exercise. A stress fracture from walking miles every day on weakened bones. When my Dad found out, our relationship hit breaking point and at 17, I moved out. My Gran and Grandad provided a port in the storm and gave me a home whilst I plodded (badly) through my A-Levels. At 18, with money I’d saved from working behind a bar (where I met my first love), in a photography studio and for the civil service; I headed to Liverpool to embark upon a Performing Arts degree at Hope University (the crap one). I spent summers living with my boyfriend, until he slept with someone else in Magaluf and got busted when he accidently gave her my number instead of his own (I’m deadly serious). Broken hearted, I returned for my final year at uni, determined to make the most of it.

There were some wild oats sewn (sorry, Gran) and a lifelong friendship solidified. Pidgey. We bonded over an incident of pigeon rape on the window ledge of the computer roon that we were both working in. We became inseparable and both got tattoos on our lady gardens after a heavy night out in Newcastle and some ill advised pills that came as an aperitif with our chips from some backstreet takeaway. As the end of our final year approached, we both knew that we couldn’t move back home (and there was no money for a gap year), so we agreed that whomever got a job offer first, wherever that might be, we would move there together. At 21, I was offerend a graduate scheme at Majestic Wine in Huddersfield.I called her and announced that we were moving to Leeds. We’ve been here ever since.

When my Nana died, my first year in the job; I travelled home and, seemingly, reached a new level of understanding with my Dad. We’d both lost our Mums now. Something shifted in our relationship after that. Bridges were built.

Life in Leeds was good. Great. I was living with my best friend. We had our own apartment, with a dishwasher, a balcony and house rabbit named Derek. We developed imaginary relationships with “Tom and Carl” in the flat opposite and later, I developed a real relationship with Carl (whose name was actually Tom, which wasn’t at all confusing) after they beckoned us over one night and effectively made all our dreams (briefly) come true. A year or so down the line, Pidgey and I parted ways. We both realised, reluctantly, that our friendship was beginning to suffer the strains of living under the same roof. She moved into a house share and I sofa surfed for a few months whilst I began the process of buying my own place. At 22, I bought a little flat on Leeds Dock and lived there happily for two years with my two cats and, towards the end, my boyfriend (a bizarre relationship, initially prompted by the unrequited love I felt for a chap known as Sweet Sweet Ed, but that ended up dragging pitifully on for about 3 years).

I got a new job, new friends, new social life. Pidge and I would still meet up sporadically to get shit faced together and life was pretty glorious. Eventually, my relationship stuttered to a fairly sour end and less than a month later, the Spouse swaggered into my office. Less than a month after that, I was pregnant. At 23 years old, I was up the duff with the spawn of a bloke I barely knew. A heart to heart in the car park of M&S Food, as we loaded the car with Christmas dinner supplies, resulted in me deciding that I absolutely couldn’t keep it. “It” being my gobby 5 year old, who apparently had a lucky escape.

That was that. We sold my flat and bought a family home. Our daughter arrived a few weeks later and on my 25th birthday, he hid an engagement ring in a game of Mousetrap. Exactly 4 months after that, we were wed. Ralph was made that night. We sold our house just after his first birthday and moved in with the In-Laws in Hertfordshire. I was 27 and trying to hold together a marriage that was beginning to fray at the edges as we battled through the pain of our second miscarriage. We spent 6 months living there, as we searched for a house in the Home Counties, and then returned to Yorkshire to our old town, but a new home, just before Daisy turned 3. Weeks later, I lost another one. That Christmas, aged 28, I fell pregnant with Rufus. 29 has seen me become a school mum, a mum of three and now, a dog mum. It’s seen me lose another baby, but it’s seen me be able to use that to open a dialogue with others and maybe even help some people along the way. I’ve started blogging. I’ve made new friends. I’ve gained confidence back, at 29, that I’d lost somewhere around my mid 20s.

And in three more days, I’ll be 30. Not a millionaire. Not an X Factor winner. Not even with a decent haircut. But with thirty years worth of life behind me (good, bad and indeed, ugly). Thirty years that have seen huge loss, but also great gains. Insurmountable sadness, but also happiness beyond measure. I might not have set the world on fire, but I’ve experienced it. I’ve lived it. And really, I can’t be too disappointed with that.


Alright then thirties, let’s be having you!

8 thoughts on “Pushing 30”

  1. I’m so emotional at the moment but this made me well up a little. Your life has been nonstop and I don’t want to sound patronising but you’ve done a bloody good job of it despite a fair few shitty situations. Can’t wait to see what the next ten bring you xxxxx big hugs

  2. Loved reading this, such an honest account of your life. Thank you for sharing. It’s strange to think how our lives turn out, often so different from what we though it would be like. 20 years after leaving NI, I’m still in Leeds and doing a job I love…teaching at Newlaithes 😀
    Thanks again for sharing this.

  3. Gosh Charli. That was some read. I hope you’re really proud of everything you’ve achieved – you should be. Happy birthday for in 3 days

  4. What a lot you have been through and I admire you for sharing it all. You have faced what life has thrown at you and come out stronger. Much love to you. Hope you have a fab birthday – you deserve it! x

  5. Oh Charli! What a life you have led and experienced. Some really really tough times that I can never even try to imagine. You should be so proud of yourself & im sure your mum would too & she’ll be looking down on you & your gorgeous family you have made. Here’s to a wonderful new decade though I’m sure with some bittersweet tones to it. Happy 30th tomorrow xxx

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