Forty. I roll this number around my head sometimes and although the big-four-o is two years off, I can't help thinking about it. A few months ago I read some posts about the expectations of life at 30. A few of the things that seem to be expected of a newly turned 30 something still have yet to happen for me.
I don't have many regrets, my life has turned out the way it has through choices I have made and circumstances beyond my control in equal measure. I like my life, I love my partner, the home we live in, my job, my friends. I'm pretty happy. Things have just taken longer than I expected and that's just fine.
Over the years I realised that it's OK not to be doing the same thing, at the same time as my peers. When we're younger, most of us assume that by the time we reach 30 life will be sorted and who can blame us for thinking that? For most of our early lives we follow the same path - school, exams, first jobs, learning to drive - these things all happen at about the same time.
I certainly assumed all of these things. But for me things only really started to come together at the age of 33 when I met my partner. I'd decided to end a few long term relationships because I knew they weren't right for me. At the time a lot of people thought I was crazy but I will never regret waiting for the right man. Four years on we're living in our 'forever home' and (only very recently) I got the job I'd always dreamed of. Marriage and babies are still to come.
Sadly, I'm made to feel like an outsider at times by my married friends with children (and after a conversation with a childless friend I know I am not alone in feeling this way), but I was not going to jump into something that wasn't right for me in order to 'keep up' or 'fit in'. I've witnessed the result of such actions within my peer group and the outcome is never a happy one.
When it comes to getting married, I feel that a big white wedding at the age of forty is a no-no. I fully expect to be much nearer forty, possibly even older, by the time we tie the knot and although I've never wanted the pomp and ceremony, I do feel that the sort of wedding we could have had our 20s or early 30s is not quite right for us now. The older I get the smaller the day becomes in my head, I don't want speeches, a first dance or a three tier cake and neither does Mr Joy. We want a small celebration, perhaps even at home.
My dress will be lovely and my shoes fabulous but - dare I say it? - both will be age appropriate. Oh yeah, I went there. As much as I would like to think that everyone should be able to wear whatever they please - especially on their wedding day - sometimes it just doesn't work in reality. Just as wet look leggings should remain the remit of late teens and early twenty somethings, the lavish wedding gown is a no-go area for the forty year old bride.
I guess we could tie the knot wearing matching Elvis outfits on the top deck of a bus IF we wanted too, but we don't. What I do know is that our wedding day will be perfect for us at that moment in time. And then babies, which is another can of worms entirely when you're the wrong side of 35...
So as I sit here today, the day after my 38th birthday, eating Champagne Truffles (yes, at this time in the morning), I'm sticking two fingers up at the norm, knowing that although it will sometimes be hard and sometimes I'll feel like an outsider, I'll continue to do it my way and in my own sweet time.