One minute you're 21, living in some grotty student house with all your best pals, with your Friday nights still consisting of you getting stuck to the Jagermeister ridden dancefloor in a shitty Lloyd's bar with your biggest commitment in life being that £68 library fine you've been ignoring for the past 6 months and the next, you're suddenly 23, your student status is robbed from you before you've even thrown your mortarboard in the air, you have a real-life adult job now and all of a sudden your best friends who you've been glued to for the past 3 years are scattered around the UK in what feels like a million miles away from you and you're back living at home in your childhood bedroom feeling like your life has just taken 5 massive steps backwards. How in hell did this happen? The day you graduate you're suddenly thrown out into the big scary working world with no guidebook and certainly no sat nav to save your ass. Everybody (especially your Nan) is suddenly obsessed with your career path and that ongoing quest for a boyfriend and all sympathy for that dwindling bank balance thanks to years of student debt is long-gone.
So you get yourself a big-girl adult job after months of selling your soul to Reed and you buy yourself a new adult handbag because that Primark one you used for your lectures just isn't gonna cut it no more and you pay your £216 a month for the privilege that is the London underground, to become one of them. The miserable commuter who spends their day tweeting angrily to TFL (they really don't give a shit btw) and eating their shitty, overpriced £7.50 quinoa and chicken lunch when they'd much rather be tucking into that £3 Tesco meal deal without judgement from Annabelle the designated office health freak who has taken it upon herself to offer you nutritional advice everytime you're in the staff kitchen...piss off Annabelle, aren't you late for your Bikram Yoga class?
You suddenly find yourself budgeting (I mean, what even is that?) and planning your cocktail nights around that ever-growing list of direct debits. Hanging out with your friends requires at least a 2 week notice period in the group chat and spontaneity is suddenly a thing of the past, with things having to be run past that dam Filo-Fax before you can even begin to think about RSVP'ing. And honey, don't even think about splurging all your money in Topshop in one go like you used to just a few years ago, because this isn't University and your Mum ain't gonna bail you out when you can't afford food for the rest of the month because dam Phillip Green is parading round the Bahamas on his super yacht with all your pennies you've fed into his pockets over the years. Can I go back to the days of the student grant and 2 lectures a week now please? I'm not enjoying this one bit.
So is this really what being 23 is about? Shouldn't I be parading around in a crochet bikini in the Phi Phi Islands with all my fellow free spirits? Shouldn't I be spending my evenings sleeping in a bunkbed in a hostel in Melbourne like the other 72% of people on my Facebook are doing right now, rather than laying awake in my single bed in my Mum's house anxiously checking my work phone? Should I be living with a boyfriend and spending my evenings cooking an obnoxious risotto I don't even like before a night of binge watching Breaking Bad in bed together? Or should I be preparing for my solo round-the-world trip right now because hell, I need to "find myself" pronto before turning the big 25? Or should I be slaving away doing internship after internship and selling my soul to the taxman to set myself up with some kind of career? What exactly should I be doing? Please could somebody tell me, because I'm seriously struggling to figure it out right now.
At 23, you're sort of stuck in this awkward my-adult-life-hasn't-quite-begun-yet-but-I'm-no-longer-a-student-so-have-no-excuse-to-faff-around-anymore-limbo. You're too young to own a house (well by London standards anyway, that's for bloody sure.) You're too young to be married, yet not quite young enough to be wasting time dating people you don't see some kind of future with. You're too young to even think about having children, but at the same time are suddenly wildly conscious of the fact that you've only got a few years to go until you hit the age your Mum had you. You're craving independence again, yet really, really dislike the idea of sharing a damp London pad with a bunch of randomers which you most definitely will despise by the time you reach the end of your contract, yet definitely don't feel adult enough to live completely alone yet. Month after month fly by with not a penny saved and you're just plodding along living each day at a time, desperately wishing the week away to get to Friday, so you can spend the weekend doing shit that makes you feel a little more like yourself with people who make you feel a little more like yourself than your 9-5 Monday-Friday alter-ego you have been dumped with. You live each day without a serious thought for your future, because what the hell is your future? Although you're half a decade older than your 18 year-old self, you in some ways feel absolutely no different to that same young girl with her whole life ahead of her, just naively plodding along and figuring it out one step at a time. Yes, this older version has a wage now. She pays rent, budgets and even owns a credit card. She is rapidly approaching the end of that 18-25 category on forms and is way too old for it to be socially acceptable to rock up to a doctors appointment with her Mum by her side, but is she really any different to her 18 year-old self? She still lives at home, still lives in her home town, still hangs out with the friends she went to secondary school with and is still so far away from engagement, marriage, starting a family and becoming a home-owner, it is almost comical.
At 18 years old, if somebody had sat me down and asked me where I'd like my life to be at age 23 I probably would have answered something like this...
I'd like to be excited for the future. I'd like to be living in a flat with my friends somewhere in North London. I'd like to be in a stable job; something which channels both my love for fashion and writing. And I'd like to be in a comfortable and happy relationship with a partner.The reality: I'm living in a flat with my Mum. My job channels neither my love for fashion or writing and I actually have zero idea what job I'd like to feel 'stable' in. I'm completely and utterly single. Like Bridget Jones single...Tinder is no longer even installed on my iPhone and instead of excitement for my 'future', I feel fear. I have no idea where my life is heading and that kinda scares me a little...well a lot to be entirely honest with you. I really did (perhaps a little naively) think that my life would be pretty stable by the time I was 25, and as I turn 24 in less than 5 months, I'm rapidly begging to realise that that really isn't so. But perhaps that's okay? I mean, does anybody really ever have their life truly figured out? It's so easy for me to sit on Instagram day after day and compare to myself to other 23 year old women out there who are hugely successful in so many different aspects of their lives and to feel overwhelming feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety and jealousy. There are people my age that I went to University with that now own a home. There are people my age that are engaged to their childhood sweetheart. There are people my age that are pregnant and there people my age that already have a family. There are people my age that own a Range Rover and there are people my age that own a salary 3 x what I earn. But, there are also people my age who are still living at home. There are people my age that are going through heartbreak and there are people my age that are single parents. There are people my age battling depression and there are people my age battling anxiety. It's so easy to feel unsuccessful and dissatisfied with your own life and own progress when someone else's life highlights are thrust in your face day after day, thanks to social media. People my age may even look at my social media and envy my life and believe that I'm more successful than them. Who knows? But all I know is, that it's unhealthy to compare your life so dangerously to others. Everybody's life has a different timing and everybody is riding their own wave. You can admire and respect those your age who are succeeding and (appear to) have their shit together, but the minute you start to compare their success to your own, is where it all goes wrong.
So no, maybe I don't know where my life is heading and I'm freaking out a little bit about it, but that's okay. 23 is an awkward age and although it's a year where I truly feel I'm struggling to find my feet in this world, in the midst of figuring it all out, it's important to focus on what you do have in life, rather than focusing on what your life doesn't have. Trust the timing in your life and it'll all figure itself out...hopefully...