On the eve of my 29th birthday I find myself alone and feeling reflective. At what age do birthdays begin to elicit such a response, I wonder? Certainly in my early twenties getting older was merely an excuse to celebrate.
Now though, at the ripe old age of not-even-thirty-yet, at 17.58 on a Wednesday evening, I find myself bracing for the last year of my twenties. I don’t know how the passage of time feels to those who live with good health, but with multiple sclerosis there is something palpable about the importance of each year ticking by.
Another year – still here; still walking, still talking, still remembering. Albeit slower and more laboured than before.
But there is something about this year, for me. This particular, inconsequential, not-typically-considered-a-milestone birthday.
The last year before thirty.
365 days before my life begins to end, if I am to believe my sixteen-year old self.
I knew nothing about MS when I was diagnosed as a teenager, but I thought (based on my misinterpretation of information found online) that my MS would begin to progress in my late-twenties, and that “begin to progress” meant rapidly spiralling to severe disability. My life would most definitely be over by thirty.
Quite the little (ableist) scenario I painted for myself.
I remember thinking, “well, I’ll just have to make the most of my twenties”.
So here we are. About to enter the final countdown. Because you see, despite now recognising that sixteen-year old me was woefully inaccurate in her predictions, she planted a seed. A seed that, instead of growing, was squirrelled away in the corner of my mind. There is something ominous about my impending thirties, regardless of reason and rationale. Something unchartered – I have never let myself think beyond thirty before.
And my reality is that with each passing year I have lived twelve months more with a progressive illness. I cannot say with certainty that the next decade will be as kind to me as the last; the statistical likelihood is that it will not, particularly as I am beginning to see more tangible signs of progression.
Right now – at 18.58 on the eve of my 29th birthday – I would like to stop time. I would like to pause my body in her current state; no more, I don’t want any more. Not yet.
But of course I can’t stop time. I can, however, cease to stroll down doomsday avenue.
I can remind myself that the last ten (twelve) years have looked nothing like I thought they would, ergo the next ten might be equally surprising. I can be grateful for the life that I have created around MS, safe in the knowledge that I now possess the skills to do so. I can acknowledge my personal development around disability – recognising that I no longer fear physical progression in the way I once did.
I can begin to write about multiple sclerosis again.
I thought that by taking a step back from blogging I would limit MS to the peripheries of my life. I thought that blogging was making it “more” than it needed to be.
I was wrong.
MS is more to me than it once was – it impacts almost everything I do now; in small ways, and bigger ways, and the biggest ways. I can’t pretend otherwise. I need to expunge, and diffuse, and process, through the medium of writing and sharing, thus creating space for everything else in my life offline.
Everything else like my marriage in April.
No, twenty-nine is not the beginning of the end: it is the beginning of my next adventure.