And then my world was turned upside down...
Now is not the time and definitely not the place to go into detail; suffice to say that I began to question the reality of almost every aspect of my life.
Ten years later, so much has changed. I met Elaine, moved to be with her in 2006, and we married in 2008. Starting again in our forties was so difficult, but despite my introspective nature, I don't look back at how things were before Elaine and I got together. Why would I? I now have a life filled with love, laughter, trust and contentment. Yes, a few extra pounds (money not weight) wouldn't go amiss, but we're healthy, we're happy, and I feel incredibly blessed.
That said I can feel the anxiety growing as my fiftieth birthday draws ever closer. I don't want to be fifty.
When I was much younger, I would have expected fifty to be the age of financial stability, and a leisurely stroll towards retirement, but sadly as job disestablishment is now just over six months away, that is hardly the case.
When I joined the NHS, I gave up a steady job because I wanted a career that was both meaningful and hopefully secure. Notwithstanding I was wrong about the latter (although I remain proud to work within the health service), I am well aware that I need to overcome my worries and channel my efforts into finding a job where I can make the best use of the skills I have, make a positive difference to my employer - and give Elaine the best life that I possibly can.
The fact remains that I share every day with the most special person I have ever met, and whatever the future holds, I know I don't have to face it alone. I couldn't say either of those things at forty... nor do I take them for granted. Fifty will come... fifty will go; there's nothing I can do about it. What I can do is gather my strength for what lies ahead, and do everything I can for those who mean the most to me.
Then, and only then, will I start saving for my Saga cruise...