My secret birthday

Today is my birthday. I am twenty six. I know there are thousands of people older than me who, reading this, will think or say, "Ah, twenty six, you are a mere fledgling, a babe in arms, a youngster, an infant", and of course, they are right, because age is solely relative. But right now, this is the oldest that I have ever been. When I was growing up it never occurred to me that I would become this old.

From the age of around twelve or thirteen, I looked forward to being twenty one. Twenty one, it seemed to me throughout my teens, was something to aim at, a pinnacle of ageing. My mother had always talked about how fabulous it had been to be nineteen, and I looked forward to that, en route to twenty one. She was right, as mothers have a habit of being. The year I was nineteen to twenty was brilliant. I was the happiest I have probably ever been, the most carefree, the most relaxed. I laughed a lot, and I remember that year as days of sunshine, drinking, punting, shopping, reading, loving and friendship.

And twenty one was always on the horizon, a goal I was always heading towards. After intensely disappointing 'A' level results, and a fortuitous place at a university I subsequently enjoyed but had mentally dismissed months before, it was a constant in life that held me up during life's flux, something I could achieve without work, without effort, purely by looking both ways when I crossed a busy road and trying not to drink myself into unconsciousness on too much of a regular basis.

I now feel as though it was more of a crest. Life has only become more complex and trying, and while there are still rewards, happy times, smiles and love, there are now responsibilities, shattered dreams, broken hearts and painful secrets. I must conceal the wounds that time does not heal.