22 November, 2021

Major Life Events

In my 2020 Healing Project post talking about the importance of Experience in our lives, I promised to come back with a list of Major Life Events, that are specific to me, both pre-infertility and post-infertility. Rather belatedly, today is the day!

I have wanted to do this ever since I read a blogger feel sad that, after the birth of her last child, she would have no more major life events to eagerly anticipate. Rather, the life events she had to look forward to were now ones of loss – children leaving home, deaths etc. I could have pointed out that the children leaving home can both be a loss and a wonderful beginning (I’ve seen friends experience this, rapidly turning their children’s bedrooms into their offices, begin to travel, etc), that there may be weddings, new homes, , maybe grandchildren, retirement, travel etc in her future. But I understood her feelings at the time were full of the loss with the ending of her family-building efforts, even as I resented the implication that the only major life events that are eagerly anticipated are around young people – marriage, and giving birth, for example.

In the No Kidding community too, others have also talked about milestones, including Loribeth here, and she links to other discussions on the issue. She listed celebrations she did and did not get to have, and suggested a menopause parade, which I would be love!

So I wondered, what were/are my major life events?

NZers don’t have a big graduation ceremony when we leave high school, though we have an end-of-year  prize-giving (at which I would probably have spoken) except that I was off in Thailand on my AFS year. That was a major life event, perhaps one of my most major, in that it was my first time overseas, and really changed my life in many ways. (Though I also think my life may have been similar without it, given my interests).

I threw my own 20th birthday party, which was more significant for us than a 21st at the time.

Graduation from university was not a big deal. I attended my BA graduation, and my parents and sister were there, but none of my friends were really there or at the graduation ball, so it was all a bit of a wash-out. Except that we saw a shooting star on the way home! I didn’t even attend a graduation for my Masters degree, as I was living in a different city at the time. I got my degree certificate in the mail.

Rather than graduation, moving city, starting work and my first official pay packet was more of a major event for me.

I had a wedding, but it was different than the one I might have thrown even five years later, with even different friends and attendees. And so many years later, I can confidently say that the wedding was pretty much irrelevant, given all the living we have done together in our marriage. (It’s a good thing we – and my parents – didn’t spend a fortune on it!)

 My overseas trips have almost all been major life events. I can name most of my trips by year. Or I identify years by where we went, and what happened around them. The timing of some smaller or repeat trips are blurry – Bintan/Singapore, miscellaneous Aussie trips, Fiji – but name a big trip and I can instantly tell you which year. And I remember my husband’s birthday with a zero in South Africa more than I remember our 25th Wedding Anniversary trip a few months earlier to Sydney.

My one and only diplomatic posting to Thailand was a major life event, for both me and my husband. It lasted three years, and was a highlight for us both, which I guess does make it pretty major!

I hosted a small dinner party for my 40th. But it was in the midst of infertility, so I would not call it a major life event. In fact, my 41st birthday, when I learned that my tubes were blocked after further IVF was ruled out by my fertility specialist, is more memorable, in both a negative, heart-breaking sense, and in hindsight, the beginning of a period of healing and revelation.

I left full-time work, and learned a new contentment with my life. I got clients, and travelled for work. I met online friends in real life in London and Slovenia, travelled with a diplomat friend, volunteered for a charity, and as a result attended a celebration at the House of Commons in London.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in South Africa, but it was really “just another” very special overseas trip. I was perhaps more impressed with being brave enough to go up in a balloon in Turkey a year earlier, or the first cruise we took in the Aegean and Adriatic on the same trip. Or the five months we travelled together the year after. The milestone of my birthday was the least important or memorable of those events. (Though the degustation menu of nine courses at an amazing restaurant – ranked Africa’s best around that time – was a memorable birthday dinner.)

I blogged, met amazing people, realised I was capable of writing things people wanted to read, was published and quoted in magazines and other websites. They're all major milestones for me.

Then we get into the negative “major life events.” Positive pregnancy tests that turned into ectopics, hospitalisations, the end of our fertility efforts, my father’s death, my husband’s loss of job, my mother’s death, and then the deaths of my parents-in-law. Earthquakes and a pandemic. None of these were eagerly anticipated. They all brought both negative feelings and events and changes into my life. But they taught me a lot too, and often had positive results. Ectopics brought me life-long international friends and brought me to blogging. A hysterectomy and menopause brought me the freedom of being an elderwoman (as Jody Day likes to say, which is so much better than the term crone). Infertility brought me so many gifts I wrote a 25 post series about them.

But there are still major milestones to anticipate. Resuming travel post-pandemic is one, and hopefully spending a lot more time in either Europe or North America, or both. Moving house (as will be inevitable as I age) is another. It could and should be exciting, rather than a loss. Qualifying for our government superannuation (pension) as we turn 65 (or is it 67 these days, I’m not 100% sure?). (Still years away, I point out!)

What these milestones and events – positive and negative, past and future – have all taught me, and what life has taught me more generally, is that major life events aren’t really that important. I’m so glad I’m not limited by judging my life on a few major life events around children I did or did not have. What happens in between so-called milestones or life events is real life; life that is wonderful and sad and happy and broad and amazing and scary but all so worth it. 

With or without children. I’m glad you’re with me here as I continue to navigate through the years.

2 comments:

  1. dear Mali, it is lovely to see Slovenia in your latest post!
    I do hope that you will be spending lots of time not only in the North America, but also in Europe. I am looking forward to meeting you again!
    sending lots of love from sLOVEnia,
    Klara

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  2. I love the idea of celebrating milestones, but even bigger I like the idea of all the living in between. Interesting the celebrations and anniversaries and accomplishments and heartbreaks that are those major life events. Birthdays, weddings, moving, adulting, work... All outside of kids' birthdays and events. Food for thought!

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