When I was five, my cat walked me to the bus stop. Half way along our enormous drive way, she appeared from a garden bed to curl between my legs in affection, and then plodded along behind my mother and I until we reached the gate.
A kiss from mum, and an affectionate face rub from Meggie, and I hoisted my school bag and crossed the road to the bus stop. Both stood at the gate until the bus pulled up, and as I settled into the seat beside my best friend, I looked back and spotted the cat still waiting patiently for me to go. As the bus pulled away, I watched as Meggie turned tail and disappeared into the garden beds at the front of our property.
It was at this time I realised my cat was more special than I knew.
When I was ten, I discovered Harry Potter. Already well advanced with my reading, I borrowed a book from a friend for a bit of light reading, and my love was born. A few short months later, I opened my Christmas gifts to discover the first two novels in paperback.
Christmas Day was spent in a cosy house surrounded by trees, sitting by the fire as I devoured the story of a young wizard and his two best friends. By twilight that evening, I had closed the last page of Philosopher’s Stone, and picked up Chamber of Secrets.
This habit of binge reading, and my love of Harry Potter remains to this day.
When I was fifteen, I became a goth. Far from being depressed or Satanic or any other stereotypes, I embraced the style of a friend and found a world in which I could wear costumes in public. I discovered my latent femininity, and the tiny glimmer of theatricality lurking inside my quiet, timid soul. I learned that I didn’t care what others thought of me.
I also learned that sometimes, friendships turn sour. That abusive behaviour doesn’t have to be blatant, or bruising, to damage you. I learnt that I was strong, and that I had friends who loved me for me, and not for the person I was trying to be.
Black lace and purple lipstick was a phase; the lessons I learnt during it were not.
When I was twenty, I dragged myself out from underneath my crippling anxiety and made a change. I educated myself, got help, and tried not to hide behind my anxiety. Once I knew what was happening, I owned my anxiety so that it would never have an opportunity to own me ever again.
I got a full time job, and booked an overseas trip. By myself.
I slip sometimes, but I’ve never forgotten what anxiety does to me if I let it marinate. I don’t let it dictate my life. Much.
Now that I’m twenty-five, so much has changed, and yet nothing is different.
My wonderful feline companion is gone, but so are the poisonous people I once called friends. My love of Harry Potter remains, complimented now by more than a decade of books, movies and interactive experiences. I’ve learnt lessons and discovered myself, discovered the strength that defines my weakness and the constant battle between them.
Friends have come and gone, and the ones I have now accept me for the Harry Potter loving, dessert making, sarcastic, anxious, solo-traveling cat lady that I am.
As far as birthdays go, twenty-five seems a bit of a non-event – but I hope that in another twenty-five years I’ll be able to look back and know that I learnt something.
For now, cake and wine are calling.
In case you missed it, today I turned 25. It’s also my 150th post, which means I’m nearly half way to my daily blogging goal :D