How you mark milestones can largely be defined by whether you fall into the introvert or extrovert camps, but it won't always be that clear cut. Family traditions, cultural differences, social norms and financial considerations could all play their part. In jewish tradition the first time you'll be the centre of attention would be a bar (or bat) mitzvah; in many US states you can gain a driving licence at 16, so a sweet sixteen celebration together with the keys to your own car (and associated independence) will be a major celebratory focus. In the UK, we tend to celebrate turning 18 - when we can vote and drink legally (I'm not entirely sure what that combination says about us as a nation); previous generations have celebrated turning 21. Thereafter, there's graduation, getting engaged, married, having children, turning 30, or 40, or 50, or 60 ... all the way up to receiving a telegram from the Queen.
But maybe you don't look at milestones as celebratory. Maybe you look at them as markers when you judge your life, what you've achieved, whether you're content with that life, whether you want to make changes. Milestones can be symptomatic of negative changes too - children leaving home, elderly parents becoming dependent, the death of peers.
Milestones can also be different depending upon your gender. I remember approaching my 30th birthday with the words of single female friends ringing in my ears of how awful their experience had been, how they'd wanted to hide away, pretend it wasn't happening, yadda yadda yadda. No man feels the same pressure at that particular milestone as biology is on their side in the procreation game. But negative age-related milestones aren't simply a female issue. New studies are suggesting there's a loneliness epidemic among men aged 35, and statistics from the Samaritans state that the highest suicide rate in the UK is for men aged 40–44.
As much as we're willing to join in with the celebrations, are we prepared to support the tough milestones? As a society, we're very good at expecting people to "get over" the negative stuff, to cope, to put it behind them, but what about some practical help? Are you a willing ear when someone just needs to talk, or does the fact that you can't offer a fix mean you avoid that encounter? If so, you not alone, it's a pretty human reaction. But if you can offer your kindness and your time, that simple act will mean more and do more than you'd imagine.
My milestones? Well, they're at opposing ends of the spectrum. At the negative end, I lost my father just before Christmas to dementia, after a long decline. At the positive end, my daughter got married last summer and has just given birth to my granddaughter. Somewhere in the middle is the fact that I turn 60 this month. I'm especially fortunate in the reaction of those in my life: a dear friend made me promise that I would call her any time I feel a Dad-sized hole in my life and my friends and family are letting me celebrate my birthday in small get togethers, accepting that I'm surprisingly introverted in my extroversion.
Whether you're of the face 'em, embrace 'em or ignore 'em type, mark the milestones of your loved ones in a way that will mean the most to them - whether that be dancing on the tables with them, listening quietly, or anything and everything in between.