By Kay Hannaford
My mother recently celebrated her 100th Christmas and, two weeks later, her 100th birthday. (It took me a while to work out that she did have her first Christmas two weeks before her first birthday and that makes us all a year older than our actual age suggests).
When I say she celebrated this milestone, I should add that she was a reluctant guest of honour. The thought of almost all of her 28 direct descendents gathering for her milestone Christmas left her feeling “like a specimen in a bottle”, she grumbled. And she was more resigned than excited about the low-key afternoon tea we arranged to mark her actual birthday. Yet, she enjoyed herself immensely on both occasions and confessed, when it was all over, that she didn’t know why she was always inclined to say no to celebrations.
What do you do with your milestones? Celebrate them, ignore them, hide or avoid them, or relish the opportunity to plan something special to mark them?
It depends, of course, on the milestone. Some are more appealing (and marketable) than others but all are opportunities to at least observe, if not proclaim, honour and celebrate a significant event, progress toward or attainment of a milestone.
Personal milestones occur all the time and those who love a party have plenty of opportunities with birthdays, weddings, rites of passage and anniversaries of all kinds. Reaching financial, weight or fitness goals, or ticking off bucket list items are all good excuses to celebrate.
Last year my husband and I both had big birthdays. He was predictably reluctant to do anything about his and I felt the opposite way about mine, so we eventually compromised. We agreed to have a combined ‘season’ of birthday celebrations with different groups of friends all around Australia over the course of the year. It took a lot of arranging but I enjoyed hunting out old photographs and designing invitations, choosing caterers, introducing special friends who didn’t know each other and especially the opportunities each event provided to publicly acknowledge our families and friends. The decision to mark these milestones resulted in 2017 being a year we’ll never forget. In the process, we made a deliberate effort to catch up with and express our gratitude to the people who, when all’s said and done, have long been there for us and continue to share and bear witness to our lives.
Professional milestones also occur all the time, if we’re alert to them. Simply achieving goals or kpis often goes undetected or unannounced but are always a cause to celebrate, in my book. And acknowledging the milestones of others can be heartwarming and gratifying for all.
Milestones can be focal points for counting your blessings, acknowledgement and even mutual admiration. They don’t need to be just about you. It’s an opportunity for genuine humility and to review and consider the purpose of everything you do, who supports you in being successful or happy and contented. They can be occasions to consider and address some of the big questions. Seen as a bridge or transition between one stage and another, be it in life or work, acknowledging milestones can become an important philosophical and psychological turning point and allow acceptance and smooth progress to the next phase or project.
We only have one life and that life has many milestones, if you care to consider them and use them for reflection, reassessing priorities, reviewing what you’ve achieved and who you’ve become. This can allow you to go forward with a clarity of purpose and confidence as result.
I’m always very touched when people take the trouble to send a card or to mark my birthdays and important anniversaries in some personal way. It’s a gesture of love and respect for what’s important not only in my life but in our friendship or kinship; an opportunity to deepen and really appreciate relationships.
My mother had a nasty fall ten days after her 100th birthday. She’s okay, recovering, but it could have been much worse. If we hadn’t celebrated her big milestone, even in the face of no agreement from her, we’d all have missed the richness of this grand occasion and been much the poorer for it.