Not the 50th birthday I was expecting

I need a few more candles

Even though I’ve been writing technical documentation and training material for over 20 years, I don’t call myself a writer. But I know through experience that writing can sometimes be a challenge. Sometimes, the words don’t seem to flow as easily as they should and now is one of those times.

I’m struggling to write this post. In the past, it was mainly due to the challenge of making something fundamentally dull sound interesting. On this occasion though, it’s because it’s getting hard to see. My eyes are starting to fill with tears.

I’m writing this two days before I turn 50 – a milestone I’ve been planning for a while. At this very moment, I should be sitting on a small seat on a large plane. My only concerns being ever-decreasing legroom and where I was going to put my gin and tonic when attempting to open what was seemingly the worlds smallest packet of pretzels.

But I’m not. I’m sat, a little sad, in my back garden staring at my phone, where a reminder has popped up telling me to check-in to a flight that no longer exists.

The plan was to spend my 50th birthday with some of my favourite people in some of my favourite places. Instead, I’ve had to cancel hotels, flights, restaurants and limos, and I find myself unemployed and riddled with all of the self-doubts, lack of worth, and general confusion that being made redundant and being unemployed hammers into you.

I didn’t think I’d be in such a dark place to start my 51st year.

I’m not fond of these dark places. They stop you from being aware of the good things happening around you. All of your attention is focused inward on the single gloomy, disheartening moment. Everything else seemingly dulled by a dreary black depressing filter.

But it is just a filter. Underneath the colours are as bright as ever. If you manage to step back, concentrate, squint and look really hard you can just about start to make them out.

So on my birthday, I won’t be sat with friends in a trendy bar on the other side of the world. I’ll be sitting in my garden with the other half being watched enviously by a pair of house cats through a slightly murky kitchen window.

But if I do step back and make an effort to look harder, the filter burns away, and all of the bright colours start to shine through.

I can see that recently others have been through and lost a lot more than just a holiday, and those I care about are safe and have a roof over their heads. That I’ve reached the milestone of 50 years old, and despite the bad things we all inevitably go through, it’s been a blast. I know that I was in a very similar place when I turned 21, and since then, I’ve seen more and done more than I ever dreamed. I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled the world, eaten in the best restaurants and drank in the best bars. I’ve met the most amazing people and heard the most interesting, scariest and silliest stories from the best of them.

But the colours are at their brightest when I realise that during all of that I met the most amazing, unique, intelligent, funny and loyal person and she decided to spend her life with me despite my moods, quirks and bad jokes.

Is it any wonder my eyes are starting to well up. Happy Birthday to me.

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