How I’m not afraid of my birthday (but still scared of watches)


I’m turning 26 next week and I still can’t wear a watch. I’m aware it sounds crazier than giving up sugar but it’s been over a decade and I’m yet to reconcile myself with the idea of having a clock attached to my body.  

At some point in my childhood I must have been okay about watches – I don’t remember wearing one but I do remember desperately wanting a Baby G for my birthday. You know what, thinking about it I’m not sure I ever got one. I’m gonna have to pick that up with my parents when I see them because it’s suddenly occurred to me that could be the reason I’ve spent most of my twenties feeling lost and confused. 

Or why I still have a lot of unrealistic expectations looking through the Argos catalogue.

Nevertheless, by the time I reached my teens the wrist was a no-go zone. Somewhere between dangling from a tree as a kid and noticing just how prominent the veins are when you cling onto things tight, to starting cumulative frequency aged fourteen and realising that no matter how many times you look at a clock in one day, time won’t pass any faster, things got irrational. 

It’s tricky to explain to someone who can wear a watch without their throat feeling tight just how nauseating the idea of time ticking against your pulse is. And obviously it’s even trickier to rationalise when you live in a time where watches don’t actually tick. But it’s as much a part of me as my croissant addiction and it’s here to stay.

On a related note, I’ve been trying to find a way back into my blog, because alongside work and croissants and writing a play and going on trips and not just to Tesco, I’ve been short on time. But it suddenly occurred to me that a year ago I was looking at turning a year older with a very different attitude. My dread levels were comparable to discovering dragons are the first task in the Triwizard tournament – or just whenever anyone takes out an acoustic guitar at a party. 

This year feels different though. If someone takes a guitar out at my birthday this weekend I’ll probably just attack them and resume normal service. We have thirteen guitars in our house (it’s a house of musicians by the way – not a museum) so if I’m not careful it’s fairly likely I’ll spend the rest of my twenties in prison. 

Somewhere along the line – whether it’s being in a full-time work for a year, in a theatre that I love, moving in with Eduardo (“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to buy me tampons”), being more creative or simply not wearing as many crop tops – I think I might have grown up.

Something has changed that means the prospect of turning 26 next week is not only not giving me a nervous breakdown, but actually getting me excited. I’m not talking Bake Off excited – because that would be ridiculous – but just positive vibes and real motivation for making it a year to remember. 

25 has been a weird year. Despite being more settled than the year before, I’ve still felt in limbo a lot – like I’m waiting for real life to begin, like I’m looking at myself from above wondering how that same person walking to work like an adult is the one who sometimes feels disproportionately sad about Mary-Kate and Ashley growing up to be really un-smiley. 

Breast scans and abnormal smear results have sent my health anxiety through the roof on many an occasion which has been about as helpful as algebra. I invested in some private therapy in the hope of discovering a worry-free existence and – despite one month having to sacrifice haircuts and vitamins to pay for it – it worked but it also meant a lot of delving into who I am, what I want and what I need, which has been kind of exhausting.

(I’d like to just add quickly – although I’ll be dedicating a whole blog to it at some point soon – that paying someone to help me get my head straight was the best decision I made this year and I recommend it with all my heart. Fight the stigma and look after yourselves please.) 

I haven’t run away from anything this year. I performed something I’ve written for the first time since age ten when I wrote a pop song called ‘Making love anytime/anywhere’ and sang it to my Dad without realising what it meant. Brexit and chronic hayfever happened. Christmas feels well and truly adult now, even if I’m still slightly scared of the sound of crackers. 

But I guess what got me thinking about the whole watch thing is that for the first time in a long time I feel okay about time passing. Clocks ticking. Seconds vanishing. By all means I’m still reasonably concerned that my frown line takes a lot of forehead stretching before it disappears in the morning. Mostly though – with the exception of doctors’ appointments which are still a minor to moderate distraction – I’ve stopped being so scared of the future. Butterflies are no longer part of my daily routine. I’ve stopped freaking out about change, or lack of sleep, or travelling. The prospect of tomorrow, next week, next month doesn’t scare me as much as not doing anything at all and not being happy with myself. 

So next year – well next year looks good.

I’m not fixed. I still can’t wear a watch; veins in compromising positions will always be an issue. But I’m making my 26th year on this planet the first I get my act together and give blood. Getting through life without wearing a watch is one thing, but I’m not letting a silly fear stop me from saving a life. 

Plenty of being 26 will be the same as it is now – except the part where I try and learn to pole vault in time to get to Tokyo in 2020. I want the little things to stay exactly the same. The people who keep my world spinning, adventures in the countryside, pun contests, a strong Tupperware game. I still have some work to do on not thinking about fatal illnesses too much. I’d also like to consume more cereal generally, my boobs to stop hurting all the time, to not cry the next time I try and do Park Run, to avoid getting my cactus caught in my hair a second time, and to win more 2ps at the arcade. 

This will be a birthday of not thinking about age and time and growing up. It will be a birthday of celebrating the now, with my favourite people, in Grease-fancy dress and threatening anyone who picks up that guitar. 

See you on the other side. X 

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