I found a blog from when I was 17 this morning. I won’t share it with you because it’s really not fit for human consumption. Teenage ramblings, a complete lack of understanding and self-awareness around depression: I just seemed so young back then. I suppose that I was. At seventeen I was obsessed, maybe unsurprisingly, with the song At Seventeen by Janis Ian (yes, the Mean Girls character is named after her). It speaks of being an ugly duckling teenager realising that it’s the beautiful people in this world who get the boys. This holds much less significance to me now, but when I was 17 it was practically gospel. I always held 17 as being a pivotal time in my life, it was the year I broke out, gained some independence. Now I look back on it, I hadn’t even begun to learn the lessons that would truly shape my life.
At 25 I’m hitting yet another chapter of my life, or maybe it’s one of those sections in a chapter after a set of stars. I’m going back to uni to do a Masters, something I never thought I’d be able to do, and I’m moving to Bristol. When I was 17 I was also preparing for university, the first time around. I dreamed of life away from home. I never imagined I’d go into teaching. In fact there’s a lot of things I probably assumed would be different about being 25 all those years ago, and I should try to make sure those assumptions don’t shape my thinking too much in the present.
I think I assumed, at 25, that I would be in a stable job. As it is I’ve gone from fixed term contract to temp job to fixed term contract, and this is just the way of the world now. Part of this is my fault, giving up my dream of working in environmental science (because it so much wasn’t my dream any more) has meant throwing myself into an even more underfunded and uncertain profession. Having just completed a teaching qualification in a year, half the time it usually takes, it feels like a step backwards in a way to be going into learning support work. At the same time, however, you can’t teach students with additional needs without experience, and experience is the most important thing now. I’ve settled myself down at the bottom again, and I’m working my way up. The next 2 years of my life will be spent studying and working with living in a city I love as a sweetener. Getting into Bristol University was huge for me. That’s certainly something my 17 year old self wouldn’t have believed.
Another area that feels a little like a step backwards is going back into shared housing, but since I’m moving in with two of my best friends it actually feels nicer than living alone. I have no idea what I thought my living situation would have been like at 17, but I probably assumed that once I lived alone I would stay living alone. I’ve loved having my own places, but right now living with friends, having company and a social life is so much more important. Something that struck me from reading the blog is that I was so lonely as a teenager. My friends seemed to be constantly drifting away and I spent all my weekends with my mum or in coffee shops. I’m still partial to reading a book over a chai latte, but I have the option now. And I’m so pleased.
At seventeen I wrote “I need to get used to casual relationships, because I think that’s how things are going to be”. The funniest thing about this is that at that time I hadn’t really had any relationships at all. At twenty five I’ve finally sworn off ever getting into a casual relationship at all. I’m too old for people who don’t want to commit to me now, too old to be messed around. Around me people my age are getting married, having children and buying houses. This is so far outside of my experience I find it hard to fathom it at all. When I was 17 I think I assumed I’d have been in more than relationship when I hit 25, but this is something I am coming to accept as I get older. I don’t especially want to get married and I certainly don’t want children yet. I guess what I crave is stability, and that’s a thing I’ve always craved. I know it will happen, I will meet somebody and settle down. It worked out for Bridget Jones after all, but then she is a fictional character. I’m not quite on the shelf yet.
Things are always up in the air, things are never settled, but this is partly my doing. This all makes for an interesting life if nothing else. Something that feels like a marker of adulthood is buying my first ever bed and mattress, one that is new and belongs only to me. Its things like this that tell me I’m slowly getting there. I know you never truly feel “grown up” but sometimes I have flashes of it. I feel like I’ve nearly grown into myself. And part of that probably is Janis Ian’s words having less meaning for me now.
There isn’t a song called At Twenty Five. But Wake Up Boo! by The Boo Radleys is actually one of my earliest memories and has the line “25, don’t recall a time I felt this alive”. Well, here’s hoping hey.