Since I was 17, I have hated birthday. The build-up, the anticipation, the need for everything to go right, all the eyes and the attention are on you. Why? –  “Because it’s your birthday”. Let me tell you something. On any given day, it’s going to be someone’s birthday, somewhere. There’s no one day that’s more special than another. Except, one day a year you get to have the finite nature of humanity and mortality shoved in your face while those around you recount how many years you’ve been on this planet and liken it to milestones in history or lengthy prison sentences. Thanks guys.

I hate birthdays. Mainly because for many years I’ve hated the idea of aging. For about 3 weeks before and after a birthday, the very notion would send me into a whirlwind of anxiety and dread. Frankly, I didn’t want to have to think about it. I still don’t. And I’d appreciate if other people wouldn’t make such a big freaking deal about it.

However, now that the “big birthdays” (16, 18 and 21) are out of the way – for now, hello 30ths fast approaching, it’s become easier to let my birthday slip by with just a few texts from those with calendar reminders and a card or two from family members – now that my age is less of a deal, I can finally take the time to appreciate what it’s brought with it.

Yes, there were the girls in school who, at 17 and 18, seemed to have their sense of “self” all figured out. I didn’t. I spent years hovering, chopping, changing. Unsure. Experimenting. The phrase “late bloomer” springs to mind. It’s only when I stopped trying to cling on to “youth” so fervently did I realise the benefits those extra years had bore.

Now, at a nondescript 26, I can finally “do” my hair. Just about at least. I can now put on my makeup and actually be happy with it, feel like I know what I’m doing. I can get ready for a night out with more ease and less tears than in previous years. I can take a deep breath and get on with things rather than shut down and hide.

It’s empowering to feel like you can put yourself together, and feel like yourself at the end. Seems simple, but that’s a big ask to many of us, myself included. No-one can tell you how to be yourself, similarly no-one can tell you how long it should take to feel that way whether it comes naturally, or, like me, you spend the extra couple years … observing, we’ll say.

Could I have done that ten years ago, as a quivering, self-conscious 16 year old? Not likely. But, while I was worried about getting older, the rest of me was growing up – and it wasn’t so terrible after all.