Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

When I Was 35


In 2007, I wrote a blog post called When I Was 25. I had forgotten all about it, until the lovely Amanda visited and left this comment:

I’m so happy I came across this, now several years after you wrote it. I turned 25 eight days ago and I’m kind of doing research on the disenchantment and restlessness one feels around this age. I’ve certainly gained some insight in a different way than I expected from your post as well as all the comments.

I reread the post and realised that making an effort to remember a time long ago brings its own lessons, ones that are worth contemplating. It is now seven years since I turned 35 and since I believe in the seven-year cycle and the spirit of learning more, I give you When I was 35:

When I was 35, I thought my family was complete with two darling little girls. Then I fell pregnant again and our son was born. I learnt that being a parent of three children is significantly different from being the parent of two. A wise friend said, ‘Embrace the chaos,’ and once I did, life became much easier. But much more than that, my heart just expanded to include him and what a feeling that is.

When I was 35, I had never heard of blogging. Now I have a whole alternative, Internet-fuelled life and I love it. I have even met some people off the Internet and came home intact.

When I was 35, the idea of writing a book, finishing it, rewriting it multiple times, joining an online writing community, getting beta readers,  submitting to and signing with a literary agent was only a dream. I made it reality.

When I was 35, I grew tired of buying expensive (though delicious) cakes at the  bakery and taught myself to bake. This happened.

When I was 35, I thought that donning sports shoes and propelling my body in a forward motion was closer to hell than I thought it was ever necessary to go. As an asthmatic kid and an adult with couch-potato tendencies, jogging never entered my personal vocabulary. This year, I’m running in the MLP Marathon relay event.

When I was 35, I was still buried deep in the intense phase of parenting: nappies, bad nights, tantrums. Now that my three spend large chunks of the day in other places being taken care of and taught by others, I have had the luxury to do things like write, run and earn money.

When I was 35, I had never had a migraine. Now, I have worked out my cure: no alcohol for two weeks of the month. It’s radical, but it works.

When I was 35, I had just moved to the Burg from Surrey, England, and was suffering culture shock. I settled down, made lovely friends and a home for my family. The Burg grew too small, so for a while, I considered Berlin, the German city that holds my heart and where I still hope to live one day. Now I live in Heidelberg and love my new life.

When I was 35, I still highlighted my hair blonde. Then I went grey for Obama and it turns out I was leading a major trend. Just call me a rock ‘n roll fairy princess.

When I was 35, I had been married for 10 years and believed that I was in it for the duration. I still do *waves to darling*.

When I was 35, I had no idea what my future held. I trusted that things would work out, that I would be gainfully employed, that my family would be happy and well. Since then I have read hundreds of books, held dozens of dinner-parties, cooked hundreds of meals, written hundreds of thousands of words, written dozens of articles, run a few dozen kilometres, met my girlfriends for book club dozens of times. On the bad days, I have sighed and taken stock and picked myself up and carried on. While I now have an inkling of what my future may hold, I still cannot say for sure that it will turn out the way I have it in my mind. But I won’t stop hoping. Or cooking, baking, reading, wiping faces, loving, writing words, occasionally running, dreaming, sighing and imagining a world where my family is happy and well.

What was life like for you when you were 35?

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

14 thoughts on “When I Was 35

  1. Ah well, 35 was a bit traumatic, as it was the time when I finally gave up the lecturer’s job because of chronic fatigue and began my three years out. I suppose I think of it as a borderline age, when all the foolish things you did in youth catch up with you, and when all the wise things you are just beginning to embrace light up like a landing strip, if you can take the blinkers off enough to see them.

  2. When I was 35 I had just met the man who became my husband. I was working like a maniac and taking a second graduate degree. I was thinking about quitting smoking for that man. I was in much better shape and jogged every day while smoking a pack a day. In every way but the fitness, I love my life now, but that was the beginning of what is now my life.

  3. Ah – 35 was a great age.. so full of confidence. Single and free to do what I liked…

    Life was empty though and I longed for kids.. Two darlings right now! 9 and nearly 8.

  4. 35 was a blur. I had been 2 years married and just became a mother for the second time (the math works out, by a few months), then immediately got promoted at my Big Important Corporate Job. Two babies at home and five twenty-somethings reporting to me at work. At some point during that year, an exec at the company told me I needed to appear “less frazzled.” He had no kids and lots of money. It was the first time I seriously contemplated assaulting another person.

  5. Can you believer that when I was 35, I still hadn’t a clue I was going to be a minister’s wife? I wasn’t even a member of a church (although I would join one within the year). Would have laughed at you if you’d predicted that for my future (as probably would have my husband, who was a sales director at the time). I was living in CT, miserable in my job, and thinking about changing companies. I had no idea I would soon be “rescued” by a marvelous new boss who made all the difference in the world. And, like you, I wasn’t blogging and couldn’t begin to imagine what a wonderful world that would open up for me.

  6. When I was 35 I had just met the man of my life. Someone who would take me and my son and adopt us comepletely and kindly and help us find “home” in every way that home can be good. It was a time when my best friend from way-back-when said I finally chose a safe harbour instead of stormy seas. Having children does that to you; makes you seek out the safe harbours. That is probably why, for the time you were there, the Burg, was just right.

  7. Pingback: When I was 35 | Musings from the sofa

  8. Great post!

    35 was a rough year for me. My fifteen year marriage was falling apart and I had completely stopped writing. Being the child of divorced parents, I’d convinced myself that splitting up was not an option. Turns out it was the only thing that made sense. Even though the kids went through some tough months, I think all of us have come out on the other side happier and healthier.

  9. Lovely post. When I was 35 I was living in Joburg and was in a good-but-boring job, had a nice house and a dog but no-one to share them with. So I decided to follow a long-wished-for dream to study clinical psychology. And I moved back to Cape Town. You now the rest.

    Yay for Heidelberg by the way. That coffee sounds really good right now.

  10. Out of work and down to my last ten rand, I walk the streets of Johannesburg looking for a job.

    I get one, helping to erect fences for a construction company. It is hell on winter mornings straining fencing wire with a wire-puller when there is frost about and my fingers are numb with cold.

    I become an order taker for an industrial chemical company, a door-to-door salesman for cheap garden sprayers, a canvasser for advertising for a suburban freebie news sheet.

    I think about writing a book about my baby sister who received a penny a week pocket money and spent her days in the fig tree behind the house.

    So I start putting a novel together. Sometimes I am working seventy hours a week, forty at a poorly paid job and thirty writing. Everybody out there is having fun, but I write.

    It takes five years. I could use the money from its publication, but I have a young Zulu friend who wants to be a teacher. Unlike me, Themba matriculated with distinction. So I use the proceeds from the book to send Themba to teachers training college.

    He graduates, becomes a high school teacher, adopts me as his father and uses his salary to put himself through Unisa, majoring in maths and science.
    So my writing is helping to educate children.

    Time moves on. Two other works on the go. One of them sold but not yet published. The other being tweaked day after day in spite of having been rewritten four times.

    After my second thirty five years on this earth, maybe I’m getting somewhere.

  11. 35 was a blur with a second baby just arrived, a new house as a work in progress, living in London but planning to move to SA some time, when our business would support the move (eventually we just moved anyway whether it would or not). Had no idea of ever writing, never heard of blogging, and life went by in a fog of nappies, breastfeeding and baking rusks, in between trips to the park and toddler group to keep me from going insane.

  12. Thanks for sharing, I love reading your articles.

  13. I love how you look back and see what you have done in the 7 years since. 7 years only……or when I was 35. I have to say you are my inspiration for this year, Charlotte. Since you blogged about sending your book in for the competition (and finding an agent and publisher) it has inspired me to keep on writing, with a firmer plan in mind. I have a 10 year plan. So with this in mind, if I look back to when I was 35, that was 12 years ago. I was a single parent, raising my son, and working two part-time jobs while I figured out where to go from there. I was happy with myself for the first time, and writing too. I did not know that just around the horizon was my second husband, a move to England and back again to Canada, and two more wonderful children, and a full-time job with the government. It’s amazing how much can change – life is not over when you are 35, it is only just beginning. Fun and thoughtful post, Charlotte! Thanks. 🙂

    Oh, and I can’t forget that I had no idea about blogging when I was 35, I had an ancient computer that only allowed email. Only email existed!! No wonder we need to catch our breaths and take stock once in a while, so much has changed in 12 years.

  14. I don’t quite have the perspective on this that others might as it was only eighteen months ago!

    At 35 I celebrated twelve years of marriage, and truly began to realise how young I had been when I married.

    At 35 I decided that a balance between motherhood and sanity was possible, but only if I made time for the things I really needed to do – like write.

    At 35, I finished the first draft of my first ever completed novel manuscript, polished and revised it, and submitted it to agents.

    Actually, come to think of it, it was a pretty busy year. And I didn’t sleep much.


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