My 35th birthday was more than just a mid-thirties milestone.
It was the day I closed my five-year line a day book for the last time.
This little green book has been a great companion over the last five years. Every entryholds a memory of the day, a more thoughtful 'note to self' or life lesson and a rating (out of 10). I appreciate this may be stretching the definition of a list somewhat, but I do sit it firmly in my 'did it happen?' set of lists, the important ones that hold you to account and help you capture the past so you can shape the future.
This little book has seen great happiness and success. This little book has seen cancer, loss and moments of real sadness. This little book has seen brilliant sunsets and terrible storms. This little book has experienced delicious dinners and skipped mealtimes.
It may be small, but with more than 1,000 life lessons in here, this little book might just contain a pretty accurate definition of happiness - mine that is.
Am I the same person who started writing in it at the age of 30? No.
Am I happy about that fact? Absolutely. But, what is great about this book of moments is that it tells me exactly how I was feeling each and every day, which is a far more accurate record than a brain that can't even remember what it had for dinner last week.
Rather than tuck it in a drawer with old diaries and 'I'm-sure-they-will-be-useful-one day' notebooks, I have started sifting through it. Typing out all the lessons, spotting trends and reminding myself of what it is that really makes me smile time and again will take time to explore. So, I thought I'd start with a few of the 'notes to self' or life lessons to give you a snapshot.
Here are some of my favourites (not all profound and without cliche):
1) Balance in life makes everything better (2015)
2) A good day at work can be as satisfying as a day off (2014)
3) Happiness isn't always fun (2015)
4) Just start and then you'll be excited to finish (2016)
5) Don't check email on the way to bed (a happiness hack right there and many a sleepless night caused when I didn't take my own advice) (2013)
6) You can have cancer and be happy (2014) (obviously not a route I would recommend but an interesting observation for someone seriously ill at the time)
7) Step back and enjoy the view (2016)
8) Work those edges (2016)
9) Hard work isn't always enough (2012)
10) The world is full of incredible people if you know where to look (2016)
11) Great flavours are not to be underestimated (2015) (Great to be documenting this more than a year after losing my taste buds to chemo)
12) Knickers can be lucky (2012) (Maybe not a deep life lesson, but it made me laugh)
13) If it's in the routine, it's easier to keep up (2013) (habits give you energy for other things)
14) Anticipation is everything (2013)
15) There is always time for friendship (2016)
16) It is ok to not be ok (2014)
17) The explanation is always better than the assumption (2012)
18) You don't need butter to make a light and fluffy cake (2012) (not a metaphor for life, you can come here for baking tips too)
19) You are the only person who can put you first (which is where you belong) (2015)
20) Adventurous days make better stories (2016)
And the one that made me laugh out loud:
21) I'd pay to have Imelda Staunton act out scenes in my life (2012) (I had just seen her in a play so it wasn't as random as it sounds).
I may not have analysed the last five years in detail, but I can already spot some interesting trends. I like things organised. I have a strange obsession with time and making the most of it. I like to push myself. Friendship and family are really important. I am quite fond of smiling and good food (particularly making bakes). I need to not procrastinate. Oh, and it seems I have a soft spot for Great British actresses.
I think I am getting wiser (from lucky knickers to the importance of friendship). But, I think I still have much to learn.
Ask me again when I've finished the next book!
And, why not make 2017 the year you start your own 'line a day' book? More fun than a diary, less time-consuming than a journal and more insightful than not writing or remembering anything down at all!
I look forward to hearing how you get on.
(By the way, I love Kikki K stationery if you're looking for a thoughtful brand to make record keeping even more enjoyable.)