Two days ago I had the tremendous pleasure of experiencing my 25th birthday. It started at 8:30 in the morning when my mother, for the first time in as long as I can remember, brought me breakfast in bed. I’ll never forget the look of pride on her face as she lay a delicious breakfast of omelette, diced melon and freshly squeezed orange juice across my lap. God bless her.
The experience was dampened somewhat by the fact that I had not risen before 8:30 on a Sunday in probably 6 years.
As I gazed at her bleary eyed and only partially sure this wasn’t a delicious dream, she kissed me on the cheek, told me she loved me, and left me to eat.
I immediately fell asleep again, the breakfast still laying across my lap. Twenty minutes later I awoke, the breakfast miraculously unscathed during slumber. I proceeded to eat, and tried to reflect on how being 25 felt.
I’ve had no shortage of friends, family and strangers telling me that 25 is a big age.
“Ohhh, you’re getting old!”, they all infuriatingly chide, as if they’re the first person to ever make such an amusing quip.
I found this somewhat perplexing as most of the people who told me this are either 5 years my junior or 30 years my senior. Everyone my age doesn’t seem to care.
I suppose I should listen to the real oldies, on account of them actually being old. They’ve experienced aging, and are probably trying to warn me that this is where is all goes horribly wrong and that I should flee immediately. Fairly soon the bitterness and bed-wetting will set in, I can presume. If only I owned a lawn, I could start telling the local kids to get off of it.
Smug idiots aside, it seems a perfect birthday to take stock and reflect on what I’ve accomplished in the first 25 years of existence. Unfortunately, all I’m reminded of is the below picture from The Simpsons, of Homer Simpson’s graduation yearbook.
But how to measure success at 25? For the first handful of years’ success amounts to being able to defecate at the designated time in the designated receptacle. Then being able to colour within the lines, and then pronouncing the ‘n’ in ‘government’. Your pen license, the multiplication tables, making the football team and being able to tell Left and Right without doing that thing with your hands, all of these are the pillars of achievement during your adolescence. And yet, I’m sure in 60 years’ time, not soiling myself will once again become an achievement.
Having attended a wonderful and expensive high school I am bestowed with the privilege (or so they tell me) of having fellow alumni who, statistically, will make up a significant proportion of Australia’s most successful people. (This is literally not a joke; they tell us this.)
So far some of my fellow classmates have travelled the world singing on stage; acted as humanitarians in third world countries; some own art galleries. Yes, OWN art galleries. (Apparently it’s the new hot look this summer.) Some are doctors, some are starters in the AFL, and some have over 3000 Instagram followers.
At last count I had 384.
These are wonderful achievements, and my friends be proud, and I proud of them.
And that leaves me, 25 and with little to my name except a big pair of legs and a Silver Cheerleading medal.
Yet strangely, I am ok with this.
For I am happy.
Happiness, that rarest of commodities and the hardest to quantify.
I have a self-confidence that borders on arrogance.
I have a close handful of friends whom I would trust with my life.
I have a family who loves me, and I them.
I have a hobby that I am passionate about and that keeps me, ironically, grounded.
That is not to say that the man with the art gallery is not happy, I’m sure he’s ecstatic. It is just that owning an art gallery doesn’t necessarily make you happy.
Happiness and art galleries aren’t mutually exclusive.
I truly believe that too many of us these days forsake our own happiness for what is expected of us, either by the expectations of those around us, or for the ones we place upon ourselves.
I have no doubt that I will be able to list far more impressive achievements in another 25 years’ time. A career, a house, maybe a family, and hopefully a Gold Cheerleading Medal.
But if I cannot look at myself in the mirror and truly believe that I am happy with who I am as a person, then I will have gone backwards from my 25th birthday.