I love my job. I organise adventures and take, or send, people on them.
I used to be a police officer and get abused every day.
Now I don’t.
Just about every week I have a call or email from someone telling me they have a significant birthday on the horizon - one that ends with a zero.
Some like to sweep a big birthday under the carpet, some like to bring in the new decade with a raging party and others like to mark it by taking that trip they’ve always wanted to do.
This is where I get involved.
The trip can be anything from a going with a group of girlfriends to Paris or with their family to Italy or they may want to climb Kilimanjaro or hike to Machu Picchu. The choice is theirs.
Having turned 50 myself this year, I always get a little excited when someone tells me they are turning the same age. There’s a level of kinship.
When they tell me the travel plans they have in mind, I am 99% really excited for them and I love helping to pull the trip together. There is also 1% of me which is a little pouty with self-pitying jealousy.
You see, for my 50th I took my family and drove three hours down the road to the Byron Bay Hinterland for the weekend. Not that I’m complaining, this is my favourite area of Australia, but it’s not quite the Machu Picchu experience.
If you’re wondering why I only did the local trip I should explain further. What was also significant about the weekend was that this was the first time my two sisters, my mum and I had all been together for 26 years. (It is not lost on me that some might delight in the idea of not having a family gathering for 26 years.) Life had just got in the way. Our homes were scattered from the UK to Australia, we were all busy working and raising our families and before we knew it 26 years had passed.
THE WAKE UP CALL I NEEDED
I met a lady this week, I would like to tell you about her.
I was at a tourism conference and sat at a table of businesswomen. We all gave our business pitches as the conversation flowed. The lady I was sitting next to didn’t say much. She was an attractive, petite, blonde lady roughly my age. She appeared to be quite reserved in the group situation. In the break, I got the opportunity to speak with her one on one. She told me her story.
She talked about the successful company she started with the man who was her business partner and best friend. He also happened to be her husband. They built up the business whilst raising their three children, who were now young adults.
She spoke about how her husband had got ill a couple of years ago and they had to spend a lot of their time in Brisbane while he sought treatment. She was very matter-of-fact about it all until she informed me that her husband had, in fact, lost his battle with the illness and passed away earlier this year. I was not expecting that.
She was clearly still shattered. She continued to tell me how, just six weeks ago, she had sold the business they had worked so hard to build together. I was devastated for her; this year was certainly her annus horribilis. I asked her if she had plans for the future. She informed me she was heading to Fiji with a girlfriend the next week and after that, who knows.
She then finished with those words I had become so accustomed to hearing,
‘I’m turning 50 next year, so . . . .’
This time I felt a kinship close to sisterhood, but I did not feel a mixture of excitement and jealousy. The word ‘so’ was left hanging, because there was nothing to add. In that hanging sentence, she had taught me about gratefulness and perspective about my own life.
I imagine a little part of her had died with her husband. When she is ready, she will learn how to enjoy life again, as she had before. But for now, she was simply exhausted.
So, if you’re having a birthday soon, significant or otherwise, make the absolute most of it. Don’t brush it under the carpet; life is too short not to be cherished and celebrated.
Throw the party. Eat the cake. Or take the trip.
Remember though, if you take the trip, call me to help you coordinate it.
Better still, take me with you!