How much a year holds

And just like that, I'm 28. It's so strange, this constant ticking over. There is a handful of things which we align to reflect our identity, our sense of self. Our name, our nationality, our gender, our age... only this last one isn't fixed. Every year, just as we are getting used to that number which seems to embody something about ourselves, we are forced to let it go and embrace a new one. Every year we live is inevitably a smaller section of our time on this earth than the one before - it's why every year seems to pass by quicker. Still, the time ticks on. Each year we will in some way have to embrace every number as they race into our lives, jog by us - sometimes packing a punch or two and sometimes waving merrily - and then let us go.

How much a year holds. How much joy; how much pain; how much love; how much quiet. All these things the year presses into us, pressing them gradually tighter and tighter until, just like that, it releases us. We accumulate all these emotions and moments both glorious and dreadful, and with the arrival of just one day it somehow shifts from present to past. Not something we are living or enduring or enjoying but something we lived or endured or enjoyed, a thing of the past as we turn our attention to the perceived clean slate ahead.

We segment our lives by a calendar as if it means something, but the more I grow up (it's a work in progress) the more I appreciate it means nothing. It's all one big journey segmented not by the number of trips the earth takes around the sun, but by the stories we create for ourselves, and those we have no say over. The before and after of our grandparents being in our lives. Time spent living overseas. The slog through that job we hated. The shiny, peaceful time when work and home and everything is bringing you joy.

It's only with the beauty of hindsight you can identify these segments at all, and that alone is part of the joy of getting older - I'll embrace it where I can! In the meantime, I will not enter this new year as if some invisible page has been turned but I will gratefully carry on strolling down this path I have chosen, doing my best to create one of those segments I was talking about; the beautiful kind. Cheers to you, twenty eight.

R for Rachel - because if you can't on your birthday, when can you? (But actually, part of the massive EIRE markings at Downpatrick Head. These signals are all along the coast of Ireland, put there as guides for Allied air pilots in WW2... despite Ireland taking a 'neutral' stance in the war.)