A Life Unexpected.
Yesterday I turned 40 years old.
In my twenties I always said I wouldn't make it past 40, I believed I would cease to exist at that age if not before, collapsing in some darkened club perhaps or just not waking up one morning, I say this not to elicit sympathy or as a cry for help long past but as my truth and an important part of my story. This belief stemmed from a life of oblivion, excessive drinking and partying which I managed to escape shortly after my 30th birthday. I'm glad I'm still alive, healthy and no longer in the thrall of drugs and alcohol, I cannot take part in that world anymore and to be honest it is no longer my world, I celebrate 10 years clean and sober this year too.
Well, what has happened in these last 40 years? There have been moments of extreme pain, but also many times of momentous and quiet happiness, the thrill of meeting new people, that moment when you engage in deep conversation with a friend and connect, the hugs, smiles and love from those I care about or even those I have only just had the pleasure of meeting. I have lost people so incredibly dear to me, felt so much pain I thought I might physically break yet in those moments of despair found a deeper bond with others and reinforced the love between us. From adversity comes strength, from despair comes love and hope. Well that has been my experience anyway, though I'm aware we can all look back at the past with rose tinted glasses sometimes.
Why am I writing this you may ask, well I wanted to simply put more of my story to paper, we all as humans crave deeper human connection (I know I do) and the way to that is often through sharing your truth, history, trials and tribulations with others. I've long believed expressing vulnerability is a strength.
My twenties were years of partying, a faux sense of finding myself, debt, extreme highs and equally extreme lows. The latter years of my twenties seemed like one long desperate party to keep the wheels turning, but as I mentioned earlier the wheels came off shortly after my 30th birthday and I ended up in a treatment centre for drug and alcohol addiction. Don't get my wrong there were amazing moments in my twenties, meeting partners, meeting my best friends and experiencing life and mind expanding situations. But it always seemed that I was chasing a feeling, chasing intense connection or emotion, I craved 'love', for I did not love myself.
My thirties were the years of action. Action to cleanse myself of all past regrets, the baggage I would drag around with me from place to place, how exhausting that had become. Most of that baggage, regret and sadness left me when I entered a rehabilitation centre and began some serious work on rewiring and repairing myself with the aid of counsellors, twelve step programmes and meetings and the others who took their first steps into sobriety with me. We were on a journey together and I'm happy to say some of those people are still in my life now and I love them deeply. I gave myself to sobriety, I was at breaking point before I stepped into rehab and I was willing to hand it all over to just feel some peace.
After finding recovery I decided I needed to find new interests to pass the time, Art came into my life. I picked up a camera and started taking pictures, then a brush and some paint. The whole thing has snowballed from there with the help of various people along the way encouraging me (you know who you are). I love creating, truly love making art for arts sake, making it for me and if others enjoy it then that's an added bonus. If you had asked me decades ago would I have published 3 books, been part of multiple exhibitions and curated my own I would have told you that you were crazy. It is such a pleasure to still be on this journey, creating, collaborating and meeting people who have that spark behind their eyes, that passion for making.
Thirties were also the years I lost my best friend a shock of such magnitude that I had thoughts of ending my own life. Once again I say and share this not to elicit sympathy but to speak my truth. I was near collapse emotionally and mentally but somehow I managed to hang on, to scrape by until I got myself into therapy and allowed myself to be angry, to cry and scream. I allowed myself to heal. This wasn't an easy process and is still ongoing, I lost more friends in my 30s each loss brought back that crushing sadness I had felt over my best friend. I mourned, I used that grief in my art, to create something or to help me change in a positive manner. If I change and become a better person then they still live within me, right?
This brings me to my present place, to these present thoughts, throughout the last year a consistent thought has surfaced, like a buoy floating on the ocean waves and it is one of time. As I reach 40 years old and if I think of this point, universe willing, as halfway through my life, I ask myself do I have time? At the end of the day that is what life boils down to for me. Will I have the time for more love, to create more art and build more connections, to experience life to its fullest and leave thoughts of happiness within those I meet. People often say they would go back and tell their younger selves to do things differently, to make changes earlier as to benefit them in later life. I would change nothing, all the troubles, sorrows, trails and tribulations, all the happiness, love and immeasurable real human connection, all of it has contributed to who I am in this exact moment and I love that person. To those who have ever doubted their reason for living, the answer is connection.
For each second, hour, day and moment I live past my 40th year I am grateful. Grateful for time I never thought I'd have nor at the time did I want.