Today, I’m 10,000 days old. I know this because my sister figured it out for me. It’s a huge number, and makes me even more grateful that the standard measurement for human life spans is years, rather than days. Birthdays and anniversaries often make me look to the future – I feel like I get asked frequently what I expect to be doing when the next year has passed, or in five years time, or perhaps longer. I don’t make those kinds of predictions at the moment. I’d like to, but it’s a reality I find too daunting at the moment. Putting things down in writing or even just verbalising them frightens me – rather than pushing me on, I have a negative outlook on those ideas, because once other people know about them, they can ask, and I might be failing.
When I was 5,000 days old (that’s a little over 13 and a half in standard measurements), I had everything planned out. I knew what my careers – yes, plural – would be, I was certain that I’d marry and have children (though if I’m honest, the latter was more about following the crowd), and there was no doubt in my mind that everything would work out well. I don’t look back and think that I was naive at 13, more that I was hopeful and excited. If I found the piece of paper which mapped out my desired life – something which I was required to produce at school when I was about 13 – I don’t think I could give a single item a complete tick: even the exam results I plotted out for myself three years into the plan weren’t as glittering as I assumed they’d be.
If I produced the same project today, it wouldn’t be a series of boxes with illustrations and captions such as, “age 22 – graduate with a first class degree and instantly get the job I want”, it would be seven enormous letters spelling out, “be happy”. It’s abstract, but it’s all that matters to me when I honestly consider what I want. And if that’s the goal, surely every decision should be made upon the basis of whether or not it fulfils that? It sounds idealistic. There will be those who are shouting at their screens, or snorting and rolling their eyes with the implication that I should get real. But happiness is the reality I choose. It’s not expensive or impossible. I’m not obliged to get a “good” job or produce children in order to follow social conventions. I can do what I choose with the next 10, 20 or 30,000 days of my life. And that will hopefully make them a lot more liberating than the previous 5,000.