As the dust settles on yet another year of my life, it has begun to dawn on me just how momentous the past twelve months or so have been.
Having finished university way back in 2006, I quickly got myself a job and moved into a pretty sweet flat with three of the best people in the world. Life was good. In some ways, I think it was too good. I got comfortable. And for six long years nothing changed.
Then, before I knew it, it was the year 2012, and not only was the world facing a very serious threat of Apocalypse, I had my thirtieth winter bearing down on me.
When faced with such a daunting milestone, some people are tempted to quit their job and buy a new car. But for me, the life changing event was even more significant.
One morning I looked into the bathroom mirror and knew it was time to shave. I had reached the end of my two day cycle and the fluff on my chin and upper lip was on the verge of becoming an embarrassment. It was time to shave. If I left it any longer, the rest of the world would start laughing at me. I had to shave…
But then the voice in my head stepped in. You’re almost thirty years old, he said. How can you be thirty years old and never have felt the warmth of facial hair? What kind of a man are you?
With that haunting question ringing in my head, I left the Mach 3 and the shaving foam where they lay and stepped from the bathroom. That day I left the flat looking like a dishevelled, teenage hobo. It wasn’t an easy choice to make, I can tell you that. I had just forked out a fortune on shaving foam and razor blades not two days earlier, yet here I was about to make the decision to possibly never use them again. It was agonizing.
Those first couple of weeks were some of the most difficult days of my life. I could feel people looking at my face and judging me. I would walk into bars and hear men laughing behind my back. When I went home my Mum would tell me I needed a shave, while my Grandad looked at me in disappointment, quick to point out that I would never have gotten away with it in the Navy.
Yet somehow I survived all of that, and within a couple of months I had gathered enough facial hair for it to be considered (by some) a beard.
Looking back now, not shaving that stubble was the best decision I ever made. My life has been on an upwards spiral ever since.
I met an incredible woman who seems to see things in me that I’m pretty sure aren’t there. We’ve been camping together, visited castles and cathedrals, spent a weekend in Ireland, watched an orchestra play in a park, shared a million good moments and a handful of bad.
After a few months I somehow managed to convince her that it was a good idea to live with me. We have since moved into a fantastic house together and now she spends her days cooking me delicious meals and cleaning up after me. Just today she made me a sausage and egg muffin, let me put off painting the bedroom so that we could go for a walk and get ice cream, and then she made me a hot chocolate and let me watch Lord of the Rings while she threw together some delicious spaghetti and meat balls. She seems to think she does all this because she enjoys it, but I know it’s just the beard. If I shaved it off, she’d be gone in a second; a fact she has admitted herself.
So I don’t shave.
…I mean, I trim. It can get a bit unruly. Cereal, soup, and ice cream can be problematic. But even when I trim I feel the magic diminish a little, so I do it sparingly.
After all, the beard is a life choice. When you grow yours, you should mean to keep it.
That’s the main lesson I can pass onto you from what has been a pretty special twelve months…
A lot can happen in a year.
Especially with a beard.