by | Jun 2, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Tomorrow is my 31st birthday.

Every year, I write a blog post on the night before my birthday, reflecting on the year that has passed. It’s a wonderful way to look back on my life and see how much has changed, how much I have changed.

Being thirty has been a wonderful experience. I remember spending a lot of time in my twenties worrying about reaching the start of this decade. I had the preconceived idea that being in my thirties meant the end of my youth or that I was running out of time to create the life I wanted for myself. But it has felt like the opposite of that for me. My thirties feel like a resurgence. Like I am finally becoming more comfortable with who I am.

From the moment I turned twenty-eight, I started to feel a shift. And now, as a soon-to-be thirty-one-year-old woman, I feel like wildfire has started in my soul. I am shining brighter than I ever have before. There’s something beautiful and liberating that comes with ageing. And I truly feel blessed every time I reach another birthday because nothing in this life is guaranteed. I feel like I am shedding the layers of who I once was and making space for the authenticity and truth of who I will be.

I’ve had some amazing experiences in the last year of my life and I know there are so many more to come. When I look back, I see dozens of moments and memories that brought me joy and motivated me to keep going and keep writing my story. I will echo what I said in my last birthday post: I am a story. We are all stories. I am the narrator of this weird and wonderful tale. Some of my chapters are created by the choices I make and others are sprinkles of surprises that the universe has in store for me. One of those surprises in my life is my boyfriend JJ, who came into my life in the middle of chapter twenty-eight.

We have had some fun adventures this year together. We went on our first holiday to Brighton, we celebrated one year of living in our home and our two-year anniversary. And there were so many more, including date nights, meals with our friends, concerts, roller skating, birthdays, parties, a rock festival, trips to the cinema, ice skating and spending time with our families. He is my rock, my best friend and my love. I feel incredibly lucky to share this journey with him and our love deepens with each passing day.

Lots of other memories come to mind from my thirtieth year, including spending time with friends (old and new), joining a choir, starting The Magical Muse Club on Substack, writing workshops, attending a festival of autistic joy and going to a Taylor Swift yoga event. I also went back into the classroom after a three-year break. It was a rocky start as I spent some time in a few different schools. Then I found a school that was perfect for me. I worked with profoundly autistic children for six months, and it is an experience that will stay in my heart forever.

My career as a poet and author hit new heights this year too. I released “Sins & Sunflowers: Second Edition.” I had a book launch with my family and friends and that was one of the best nights of the year. There were also so many open mic nights and performances this year too. One of the highlights for me was seeing my Dad perform a poem on one of those nights, it was such a wonderful surprise and now I know where I get it from! I have submitted my work throughout this past year and I was fortunate enough to have a poem published in a Taylor Swift-inspired zine, a well-known literary magazine. I also found out this week that one of my poems got longlisted for a poetry prize, which is amazing! I know I am only just getting started with this; I want my words to reach as many people as possible.

I try to shine a positive light on things because that’s just who I am. But there have been times that I have struggled with my health and wellbeing this year. As much as I loved my new job working in a specialist school with autistic children, it was also part of the reason my health was declining. I had to make the difficult decision to leave, and although it wasn’t easy, I knew it was the right thing to do. I have a new job starting in a fortnight and it will bring me a better work-life balance and more time to spend on my creative projects.

I have a beautiful and magical life, but I also have a lot of darker moments too. And I cannot share my whole truth if I don’t mention the countless autistic meltdowns, the shutdowns, the tears and the trauma I am still healing from. It’s been a tough journey for me, learning to balance not one but four disabilities: autism, ADHD, PMDD and chronic migraines. I am a strong person. I’ve had to be. But I’m also learning the importance of softening, surrendering and asking for help.

I started therapy again this year, which was something I truly needed. My new therapist is great and I know we will find the answers together on how I can truly learn to thrive, instead of reverting to my default: survival mode. I’m still finding my way. As a complicated, sensitive, neurodivergent and messy human. I don’t always get things right. Sometimes I struggle with the push and pull of healing my inner child and the weight of adult responsibility. People say age is just a number. And it is. I am, as of tomorrow, thirty-one. But I’ve also been five, eleven, thirteen, twenty-one and twenty-five. All of those versions of me still exist inside and it’s okay to let them have their moment too.

Here we are, at the end of another chapter. Time really is flying by, but the most important thing is I’m having fun. Chapter thirty-one is starting soon. And I can’t wait to turn the page.

Written by Emma-Jane Barlow

 Emma-Jane Barlow is a 30 year-old author, poet, writer and autism advocate from the UK. She has been writing poetry since the age of seven and finds comfort in writing about her life experiences. She has two published books and is currently working on a third.

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