Today’s my birthday. At 23.11 – or 11.11 pm, which somehow sounds more magical :-) – I turn 45.

My birthday falls in the middle of the year and at 45, I’ve reached midlife. As I get older, I feel incredibly grateful for each and every year. I want to celebrate life, say yes to myself and finally be more ME!

To honour this new stage of life, I thought it would be fitting, and fun, to look back at the last 45 years of my life so far, and to look forward to the next 45, to make a bucket list of everything I’d still like to do and experience.

This is my midlife review.

Here are 45 things I’ve experienced, year by year, and some facts you may not yet know about me:

1. I was born in 1976 in the East of England in the middle of a heat wave and drought during the driest summer in England since 1772. Water was rationed and an emergency bill was announced. My mum remembers fetching water from communal taps set up in the street or going without tap water during the day.

This is me with my mum, my gran and my great-grandmother.

2. When I was 22 months old, my brother was born and I became a big sister for the first time.

3. As a toddler, I loved Kermit the Frog. On my 3rd birthday, my mum baked me a Kermit cake, with green icing and arms and legs made of green marzipan.

This is the Kermit cake my mum made for my 3rd birthday.

4. I used to be afraid of cows. I’m no longer afraid of them today and recently heard about a Dutch family advocating the benefits of contact with cows, or hugging cows, for mental health. The other day I was writing about the benefits of hugging. I hadn’t thought about cows!

5. A few months before my 5th birthday, I started school. In England, it’s typical for children to start school early. At the time I went to school, primary school wasn’t so much about curricula and SATs and everything about play.

6. In 1981, I painted a picture of Charles and Diana on their wedding day and sent it to Buckingham Palace. I was so excited when I received a thank you letter back from the Palace.

7. I loved visiting my grandparents in London, climbing the apple tree, eating rice pudding and drinking Scotch whisky with ginger ale with my grandad (I assume it was a tiny sip of whisky, if any at all!) and playing chess or cards.

This is me, 5 years old in the winter of 1981 at my grandparents in London.

8. My youngest brother was born and I became a big sister for the second time.

9. A year later my father left and my parents divorced. The rest of my childhood was spent without my father. My mum did the very best she could as a single mum of three. We hardly had any money and yet it never felt as though we lacked anything either. She always surprised us with treasure hunts, fun adventures, great birthdays, nice Christmases and holidays. It’s only since I’ve been a mum of three myself that I’ve come anywhere close to understanding everything she did during that time and how hard it must have been. I will forever be grateful for my mum.

10. I was teased at school because of my surname at the time and got into a physical fight for the first and last time in my life.

11. My mum and I loved to play Scrabble. For many years, our Scrabble game was a Christmas and New Year’s Eve tradition. Now we have an app that allows us to carry on playing long-distance too.

Here I am about 10 years old in the 80s.

12. I got a place at the all girls’ grammar school, which I attended from year 7 through to A-levels. In the sixth form, we even had two boys in our class.

13. I started to learn German as a second foreign language in year 8.

14. As a teenager, I loved doing sport of any kind, especially athletics and field hockey. I used to throw the javelin and in hockey, I was the goalie.

15. In year 9, I went on a school exchange to Paris for a week. Shortly before, I’d decided to stop eating meat, so I learned “I’m a vegetarian” in French.

Me, 15 years old in the early 90s (can you tell?!).

16. I earned my first money delivering newspapers, then later babysitting. When I was 16, I got a weekend job working on the tills at a Tesco superstore.

17. I took my GCSE exams (middle school certificate). After the exams were over, we went on a school trip to Eurodisney and the South of France for water sports.

18. I went to a Lenny Kravitz concert at Wembley Stadium and flew on a plane for the first time to Germany for a school exchange in Kiel.

19. After my A-Levels (high school graduation), I started my degree at Cambridge, Emmanuel College. During the holidays, I had a number of jobs to earn money to finance my studies, e.g. as a postwoman, summer camp leader and on the CD and perfume counter in Boots the Chemist.

20. At uni, I was still passionate about athletics, hockey and then rowing too. I was elected president of CUAC (Cambridge University Athletics Club) – and had the privilege of hosting the varsity match, the annual, traditional and fiercely contested competition between Oxford and Cambridge.

21. My Grandad, who I loved dearly, passed away. It was a great loss for me. Shortly after, I packed my rucksack and got on an overnight coach from London to Mannheim for my year abroad. It was the first time I stepped foot in Baden-Württemberg, with no inkling that this would later become my home and where I would start a family.

My mum and I, 21 years old, in 1997 on the Königstuhl in Heidelberg, when she visited me during my year abroad.

22. I was invited to fly to the U.S. for three weeks with Achilles, the joint Oxford and Cambridge athletics team, to compete against teams from Harvard and Yale, Dartmouth and Brown, and Penn and Cornell. During the trip, we also visited Niagara Falls, Boston, and New York. In New York, we were invited to watch a New York Yankees baseball game from the owners’ box.

23. After sitting my finals and finishing my degree, I lived in London for three months to do work placements at three big law firms. I was offered a training contract from a top law firm but turned it down and went back to Germany to work as a translator instead. I celebrated Year 2000 and the turn of the century at Hogmanay in Edinburgh.

24. I got my driver’s license and shortly after bought my first car – a Fiat Panda – for 750 Deutschmarks – and my first mobile phone – a Motorola with an antenna :-D  In Winter 2000, I backpacked around Australia.

I’ve travelled a lot and seen the sunset in different places across the world.

25. A year later, I met my husband. Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve 2001-2002 we went to the ATM and withdrew our first Euros together.

26. At that time, I was also playing a lot of floorball, locally and around Germany. One season we played in the women’s Bundesliga and we once played through the night at an all-night unihockey festival in Switzerland.

27. I absolutely love to travel. My husband, then boyfriend, was my travel partner and we travelled a lot during those first years together. In 2002 we were in Mexico where we went diving for the first time. After that we decided to train for our diving licenses.

This is me at 29, just arrived on New Zealand’s South Island.

28. A year later we travelled mainly in Europe, to Greece and the Greek islands, among other places. I also got to travel a lot professionally and held training workshops in many different cities in Europe.

29. In 2005 – 16 years ago! :-O – we got married in England with family and friends who had travelled from Germany and Sweden and celebrated with a ceilidh. After the wedding we travelled to Singapore and Bali on our honeymoon.

30. We both really wanted to travel down under again, so in the spring of 2006, we went to New Zealand. With sun, sea and whales, as well as glaciers and jungle, the New Zealand landscape and climate is incredibly diverse. I’d love to go back there again one day.

2006 with my husband on the Franz Josef glacier, New Zealand.

31 As part of my company’s talent program, I got to travel to the U.S. again. I flew to New York and thought it was pretty cool to walk to work in the morning like a real New Yorker, smoothie in hand and wearing trainers (sneakers ;-)) amongst the bustle on the street. I felt like Miranda from Sex and the City.

32. Our son and first child was born and I became a mother!

33. During some joint parental leave, we carried on travelling, now with our son, and took a round trip through Sweden, Denmark, the East coast of England and Cornwall. 

34. Shortly after, our twin daughters were born and I was suddenly a mum of three under twos. It was the most intensive time of my parenthood. I learned a lot about myself. I became more invested in attachment and needs-based parenting, in particular what it can look like with twins and three very small children.

Life with three small children was a wonderful, big adventure!

35. We travelled to England with the kids as much as possible to visit my family and their grandparents. Luckily everyone usually found the long car journey and ferry crossing to be an adventure rather than a trial.

36. Our children are growing up bilingually and it’s an incredible privilege to experience. Now I get to live my linguist-self’s dream, see my kids grow up bilingually and be a part of the adventure that is family life across two languages, countries and cultures.

37. When the time came for our son to start school, I’d becoming interested in exploring alternative education, unschooling and self-directed learning. We enrolled him in a self-directed school and a new adventure began!

38. For three years, I volunteered and worked part-time at the school as a learning facilitator for English.

39. Our daughters also started school and we said goodbye to forest kindergarten. During the summer holidays, we took an overnight ferry to a friend’s wedding in Scotland. Luckily, our kids love to travel as much as we do!

40. I left my job and started making plans for the future that would allow me to have more time and freedom in organising the days with my children and give myself more freedom to pursue my passions and goals. One of the first steps I took was my relationship-oriented parent and family coaching certification.

Me & the kiddos on the beach at Morro Bay

Me at 41 with the kids in 2017, Morro Bay, California.

41 After our good friends moved back from Heidelberg to California, we got the travel bug again and flew over to visit them. We rented an RV and took a road trip from San Francisco to LA and San Diego, with a side trip to Sequoia National Park. I celebrated my 41st birthday on the road from Visalia in 40C+ heat to Morro Bay back on the coast, where the ocean air was very welcome!

42. I drove to England on my own with my kids for three weeks to go to HEFF, the Home Educating Families’ Festival, and to go camping.

43. In 2019, I did B-School and took my first steps into the wonderful world of online business. I met some really great people and learned a lot for my own personal development. My first website was built and I started my business as a parent and family coach. That summer we travelled to Poland.

44. The Corona pandemic meant that we had to cancel, postpone or change our personal and my business plans for 2020. At the same time, the five of us were all at home enjoying the time together! I now do most of my coaching and courses online and am working more internationally. We weren’t able to travel England to see my family but we did manage to go to Denmark and the sea for a change of scenery during the summer. My children and I all celebrated our first Corona birthdays.

The Corona year 2020 to 2021.

45. During this last year, Corona life has continued at home. My husband has now also celebrated a Corona birthday. The kids and I are celebrating our second. A few days before my birthday, I was able to get my first Covid shot, for which I am so grateful, happy and relieved. I’m making new plans for my business and starting to blog again. I joined Judith „Sympatexter” Peters‘ blogging programme and community, The Content Society, for inspiration and accountability. I’ve also been thinking about new personal goals for the years to come.

That was my review of 45 years of life lived!

If you’re interested to see what I have in mind for the next 45, I’ve compiled a bucket list here: My bucket list: 45 things I still want to see and do in my life.

Have you ever taken your birthday as an opportunity to look back and reflect on the past year or years? What do you think of the idea? Let’s chat down in the comments!