Adulthood is similar to standing on a tennis court and having balls fired at you. You catch as many as you can but some hit you, you miss some and drop some. You’re running around like a madman (or woman in my case) trying to juggle as many balls as you can, while trying to dodge the ones you know will leave a bruise. I feel as though we are all just big toddlers- tottering off to our various different jobs but instead of carrying a backpacks full of books and warm jam sandwiches, we are carting around responsibility, a cup of cold coffee and a couple of M&S’s bourgeois two for £4 salads- the one with the edamame in and the quinoa with the almonds.
I often feel twenty six, twenty one and eighteen simultaneously. I find it strange to imagine that I was any different then to how I am now, and it takes certain situations to show me how now, with age, I have adapted to things and overcome certain obstacles. I sometimes find myself faced with things that I know in the past would have stressed me out; I’d have been unable to cope or would have needed to be rescued. I find myself desiring different things, things that are so polar opposite to what I so badly craved as a teenager. I have never been much of a drinker and even less of a partier so I can’t say that I find myself wanting to own nice kitchenware as opposed to trashy dresses for nights out; because fancy kitchenware has always turned me on. But I find myself wanting to buy nice towels from John Lewis with the intention of wrapping myself up in them as I step out of the freestanding bathtub I’ve recently installed in MY bathroom in MY flat that I bought with MY hard earned money.
I laugh at myself when I catch thoughts in my head that state loud and clear that ‘I’m too old for this shit’ and I’m sure a of people would roll their eyes at my twenty one year old naivety. However may I point out that I reckon I’ve already lived through three lifetimes worth of situations, mishaps and lessons therefore to me my brain feels like a nice piece of Christmas cheddar- only comes out on special occasions, goes with everything and has spent a long time maturing. I see clothing in the shops and I think, I’m a wee bit old for that sort of thing now, the thought of clubbing makes my hip give out a little bit.
But what is an interesting new experience for me is seeing, all around me, the lives that we are discussed in school slowly coming to fruition. When I’d sit with my girlfriends and we’d talk about our weddings, our future husbands, what would happen if one of us were to get pregnant, what we’d do- how we’d address it. Always seeming like a scary occurrence we were all far too young for at the tender age of fifteen, sixteen but now as young adult women starting a family in our twenties like our parents did and their parents before them- the sense of taboo that shrowded such events at school is now simply just the soothing inevitability of our already pre-planned futures- the blossoming of the flowers from the seeds that were planted long before we came along to water them.
Engagements become real, proposals are more than just your school boyfriend who you’ve been seeing for three months telling you he’s going to love you till the day he dies then snogs your best mate behind the bike sheds two days later. Haribo rings replaced by diamond ones and people actually meaning business when dates are set and the buffet is booked. But to me it feels like we’re all fresh out the classroom, shoving my huge diamante earrings back in my earlobes after being told to take them out for the thirteenth time that day and asking my mates what lesson we had next so I’d know whether to just fob it off and go home early or whether it was worth attending for the ‘shits and gigs’. Dreadful.
The ‘year above’ who we idolised so much, two years, three years-we have all bled into one huge millennial category and my voice at ‘gatherings’ which at one time went as unnoticed as the chomp in a Christmas selection box is now worth as much of an audience as anyone else’s, the guys who smoked rollies and wore winkle pickers to school and who seemed like such ‘men’ to me and who still do in my mind when I picture them- were no older than sixteen. My mind has always been one step ahead than me. Always wanting something that as a young girl I just wasn’t ready for. At fourteen I wanted a serious boyfriend. At sixteen I wanted to go clubbing, at seventeen I wanted to be taken seriously. At nineteen I wanted to be anything BUT teen, and at twenty one I want the next series of Game Of Thrones to hurry up and come out and a decent nights’ kip where I don’t wake up three times in the night needing a wee.
This may be why I am a ‘Gerbil’ (Urban Dictionary’s hilarious title for a woman who prefers the company of older men, the opposite of a cougar)- because I feel like the age range is more on par. When I meet men in their early twenties I am overcome with a strong sense of maternal instinct, one of which fills me with the urge to spit on my thumb and rub away upper lip bum fluff and tell them to bin those silly little bum bags that boys these days have decided to strap around their chests like those toothless men at car boot sales who sell bags of pick and mix sweets and quavers four years out of date. Not a fan of the pulled up sports socks and spindly knee combo either but we’ll let that one slide on account of not reaching full manhood yet- I’m aware I still have the breasts of a ten year old schoolboy and I’m still waiting for womanhood to ‘kick in’ and quickly sort that situ out. Tragically, it’s not looking so good.
I guess you’ll get the same answer when you talk to a lot of people. You hear phrases bouncing off the walls in pubs between groups of people whose ages vary, the older ones feeling the exact same as the younger ones, laughing at the same jokes, playing the same games, having the same troubles with the opposite sex and the same money issues. Because I think that once we hit our twenties certain aspects of our personas always remain juvenile.
Sometimes I catch myself looking at my mum and dad and feel a sudden urge to protect them; I get an overwhelming feeling they are so young. A sense of what they were like at my age, at my age they were expecting my brother. I visualise this image and of course in it they look the same as they do now, a little bit grey, skin a little tougher etc. But of course they would have been no wiser and no better prepared for life than I am currently. Two young adults messily stepping forward, like millions of others, into a sense of grown-up-ness that nothing and nobody can ever fully prepare you for. We can stuff ourselves into suits and dresses and attend the weddings of our childhood friends, we can smear lipstick on and polish our shoes and attend meetings and talk about adult things in adult tone of voices, we can become parents, we can pay mortgages, we can complete more of the Sunday crossword- but we are all still young. We will always be ‘kids’ in one way or another.
We are always going to want to be with someone who makes us feel special, who gives us butterflies and that ‘childish’ excitement feeling. We are always going to want to put our comfy clothes on after a day of ‘adulting’ and eat monster munch and have our hair played with (boys don’t you deny I know you all love it). We are always going to want to hear our mums’ voice when we’re upset and want a cuddle after a shit day at work. We’re always going to wonder if we’re ready to take big steps in life, whether we’re going to be any good in a new position (me atm) or whether we are ready to start a new adventure. But like every person living through something for the first time nerves will be completely obliterated by the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that is felt when we find ourselves present in situations we spent our whole childhood hearing about, these so very ‘adult’ milestones that in the eyes of a ten year old are like Everests, impossible, but are now just stones that we skim across the lakes that we encounter on the path to our next destination.