Still living in a flat at 50 felt like failing. But Natalie has learnt to make the most of now.


A few months ago, I was heading towards my 49th birthday and found that I was starting to re-evaluate my life. I wasn’t sleeping well and felt unsettled, unhappy even, but for no particular reason. People kept telling me that I was probably peri menopausal and I’m sure they were right. As I’ve discovered, with that comes all sorts of unexpected thoughts and feelings.


It’s amazing how different you can feel in just a few months though. Today I am officially in my 50th year and counting down to the big celebration. I’m not counting too quickly, mind. If anything I am feeling really relaxed and far from unsettled.


I have seen many friends reach their 50th birthday. Some have found it harder than others. Some have been surprised by how much it has hit them. For all of them it has been a time to reflect.


But for me, having been diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 38, my outlook on life is a bit different. I am not scared of getting older, in fact it is something I feel positive about. The fact that I have recently received my official 10-year all clear is a great reason to celebrate.


So, what was causing me to feel unsettled a few months ago? Was it just hormonal changes or was there more to it? It took me some time out to figure out how I was feeling and what was the underlying cause. And I came up with the reason.


It is my home.


I live in a lovely flat in Hove, next to Brighton, on the south coast. I open my shutters every morning to see the sea. I walk out of my flat, cross the road and I am on Hove beach. Everything’s on my doorstep, the whole glittering Brighton life. I know I am living the dream of many. It was my dream when I moved in 13 years ago.


But emotionally I’ve outgrown it.


“Still living in a flat at 50 felt like failing.”


Prior to this I had never lived in a flat before, never had people living above and beneath me, so living like this I often feel completely boxed in. What’s more I have never lived anywhere for this long, never got bored of a home. But I’ve outgrown this one.


As a child we always lived in houses, as did my childhood friends, so I guess I expected my adult life to include a house and garden. And, although embarrassing to admit, I get serious envy when I visit the homes of my friends. They all seem to have so much space, something I long for.


In fact having outdoor space means more than the actual property itself. To me it represents freedom, peace and quiet and an outdoor lifestyle. A glass of wine in the garden. Success even. Most of all it means that I can have the dog I want so much.


What’s more, while I know things have changed in the past few decades when it comes to home ownership, for me, living in a flat at the age of 50 has sometimes felt like failing. Realistically I will still be living in my flat when I celebrate my 50th. Still failing.


But of course I’m not failing at all. I now realise I have been putting far too much pressure on myself, setting too many expectations. I need to enjoy each day. It’s still my dream to move, but that doesn’t mean my current life is a failure.


This realisation came to me while out walking. Health and happiness to me involves being outdoors and it dawned on me that I’ve become too closed in. The reality is that I have been spending more and more time locked away indoors cooped up in front of my computer all day. I know that I am not alone in this, but it’s a relief to realise how it’s been affecting me.


The fact is, I have so many things to be grateful for. I have fantastic friends and family, love what I do for a living and have a great life. I just hadn’t been making the most of it all. Since figuring this out, I’ve changed my outlook and now feel like a completely different person.


“I can’t wait to open the back door and see the sky”


Having outgrown my home is fine. It isn’t my forever home. I want my own front door and garden and one day soon I will have them, but for now I’m not going to waste my days pining for what I can’t have. I’m going to enjoy myself.


As I evaluate my life in my 50th year I suppose I’ve not done any of the traditional things people have normally done by my age, but I don’t feel like I’m a failure. I don’t regret not having married any of my ex partners, they are exes for a reason. I don’t regret not having had children.


As the decades turn it is easy to reflect on things we regret or don’t have, rather than the positives. I am now thinking positively. I have embraced my amazing life again. I have gone back to old habits that work for me, like starting and ending the day with a walk along the seafront. I am bringing fresh air and the outdoors back into my life.


I can’t wait to open my own back door and see the sky. But, in the meantime, the pressure is off.