Not to me, of course, I don't get to celebrate until later in the year. No, this is for a childhood friend of mine who is celebrating today. I was 13 when I first met him and he played a fairly active role throughout most of my teenage years. As with most people we drifted once we became adults - he went on to marry a couple of times, I got engaged a few and moved away. We still saw each other now and then but it was only a few years back that we reconnected and now catch up on a regular basis. They say true friends can go years then just pick back up where they left off and that is so true. I was there for him when he went through his second divorce and have backed him all the way in his new relationship - I say new but they're just about to celebrate their first anniversary and were together a while before that. We share a love of Star Wars too which can never be a bad thing.
So, anyway, I woke up this morning, picked up my phone to text and wish him a happy one when I got a reminder flash up telling me it was his special day - I don't ever remember setting those kinds of reminders on my phone but it tells me when someone is another year older just the same. Except this time, the one this morning, the one telling me it was his birthday, shook me to the core a wee bit - more than a wee bit, for it also pointed out to me that he is 50. That's right, 50. The big FIVE OH. I'm more than aware that his once thick mane of the darkest brown hair is now peppered with flecks of grey (ok, so he's pretty much all grey now and his beard is looking whiter by the day), my own hair has it's silver highlights these days too. I know his once taut smooth skin is now lined and creased in ways we wouldn't have imagined when we were teenagers. The muscles he once flexed are now beginning to look a bit soft, but how did we get to the ages we're at so bloody quickly? He is a few years older than me so I have a bit longer to wait, but my time is coming and way, way quicker than I want it to. How did he go from being the spritely teenager who got me caught by my Mum smoking, to this middle aged grandfather? I don't feel any different to how I felt back then - even if the reflection which stares back at me when I look in the mirror now is a stark reminder that time has marched on. I just don't get though how time can pass that quickly when I've not really done anything with it!
Those endless summer days we would hang out together down the local woods, swimming in the river trying to avoid the eels or riding our bikes the 8 miles to the local beach seemed to go on forever. Is there some magic (in a bad way) button that gets pressed as soon as we enter the world of work that suddenly makes a day last only 60 seconds? I remember how we all promised ourselves we'd make each day count and would always try to spend as much time together as we could (we were like the kids in Stephen King's masterpiece, IT - if you've not read it you really should). I feel we all got so caught up in work and life we forgot to make time for ourselves, forgot to make our days count. I understand now why my Dad would get us up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday and drag us off to the local forest for the day. He must have known, understood that he had to make his very rare days off count. I hated being forced from my bed so early back then, but now, knowing he never made it to his 50th birthday I am so grateful that he did, for those days out we spent together form the most wonderful memories and help to keep his spirit alive. He's been dead 24 years this year and I still cherish every memory. Louis must have known also, for he would wake me up at 11pm, midnight or later and drag me off to the beach for a couple of hours. We'd lay on the stones checking out the shooting stars making plans we both knew we'd never keep. He was dead before he reached 30. Donna, my best friend. Goodness, before she got with her youngest two's Dad, did me and her make it count?. We would take her eldest with us (her only child at the time) and we'd be out all the time. A wander through the woods at the weekend, a house party on a Saturday night, a last minute weekend in Manchester. She never made it to her 43rd birthday. It's as if the 3 of them somehow knew. They made the most of it and thankfully took me along with them. Donna eased off once her second daughter entered this world (she's the one I was talking about yesterday and she arrived 3 years before Louis died which meant I had more time to spend with him) but I still have such wonderful memories of the fun we had together. A little part of me died with all 3 of them but as I sit here now I realise how lucky I am. I'm still here. I still have time to do all the things I want to do. I don't need to let life pass me by; I should be out there making the most of it while I still can. Before it becomes too late for me. Sadly, life right now doesn't allow such things - between work and being penniless it's quite hard to get out and about so much - but I do try. It doesn't have to cost money to get out and about really, other than the travel costs to get somewhere and I try so hard on my rare days off to do things, but my friend's birthday today has reminded me I've not been doing enough. Are any of us doing enough?
I don't want to sit on my cloud thinking about how I wanted to complete this road-trip but never got round to it. I want to sit on my cloud and say "Wow, I made it with the help of some pretty selfless and amazing people". Life is for living. Are you living it to it's full potential?
Get out there people, start living while you are still blessed with the ability to do so and if you are blessed with wealth don't leave it rotting away in some greedy banks vaults, get out and spend it, enjoy it while you can. It's no good piling up in a bank if you're 6 feet under!!! Of course if you really don't want to spend it you could click here and share some of it around :) :)