When I turned 24, I had the lamest birthday party at a bowling alley. My sister booked it, but she only booked for one game, and everybody turned up late. By the time everybody turned up, our game was almost over, and the subsequent games were booked to other people. We sat in the bowling restaurant and ate a cake my sister made that was shaped like a poodle because we thought it would be funny, but nobody got the joke, and the cake was dry as hell. Basically, it was not my fault at all, and I can blame my sister for all of it. One of my best friends flew over from Switzerland for my party, because he thought I was turning 25. The reason I had this lame birthday at 24 (not expecting it to be quite so lame), was because I was saving up for my 25th, for which I wanted to have a snazzy party at a restaurant, and reflect on the way my life was not turning out as I planned over very expensive bottles of wine.
When I turned 25 years old, worldwide pandemic raging outside, having had a birthday at home with my mum and sister where I ate pizza and drank a whole bottle of excellent red wine by myself, I decided to reflect on my life, and to come out with the statement that even if people look like they have their life together, they probably don’t. Most people don’t know what the fuck they’re doing with their life, and I stand by that. Most of life is chance, and though making things happen for yourself is a tangible way of altering your life course, it’s extremely hard, and your goals change with the seasons. In 5 year’s time, you will not have the same goals and top-of-the-mountain ideal life dream that you do now. You may be thinking, ‘That’s pretty easy for you to say, considering you’re single and a struggling freelancer who still gets help from her parents,’ which, I admit, is fair. (Also, fuck you, because that sounds like an absolutely terrible time.) But I’m not kidding. I came to this conclusion when I had a job, a steady boyfriend, and had to pay income tax. So, there.
I used to look at adults and think, ‘Shit, that’s a lot of responsibility right there. Always having to be on top of it all, looking after people, making money in your dream job so you don’t live on the street, while trying to find the love of your life to marry.’ How naïve. People don’t always end up doing what they dreamed they would do. Yes, I studied creative writing at university, but here I am, probably not as great of a writer as I think, and still not published in the New York Times. My high school English teacher (who didn’t even have an English degree) told me I was so bad at the subject (in my defence at the time I really didn’t enjoy Seamus Heaney), that he hoped I would never do English literature at university for I would surely fail. Well, here I am, an English lit graduate (suck it), but by no means an established writer. But I digress, the point was, that most people who study something, don’t end up doing that for the rest of their lives. Sure, some people follow the same career path their whole life, but most people get a job where they can get one, and hope it’s within their circle of things they’re passionate about. You can count me in that group.
The point was, I always thought adults had some grand plan of their life. So when I graduated university at 21, lost, and thinking, ‘What the hell am I supposed to do now?’ I felt that I wasn’t truly an adult because I didn’t have a grand plan of how my life would play out. Obviously being an idiot, having watched multiple rom-coms, I should know that life never works out according to plan, and that even if you do have a 5-year strategy, you should just throw it out the window now, because probably definitely might not turn out the way you envisioned. And that’s okay! That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have goals to reach for, but saying that a year from now you’ll be the editor-in-chief at the Evening Standard might not come to be, and you’re going to end up being working at some PR company instead. But you should still apply for that editor job anyway, whether you think you’re qualified or not. There are a lot of idiots in the world doing high-up jobs that you could do better. Trust me on this.
Now at 26, I’m still lost. I am however being published in print (any writer knows how much of a big deal that is – any idiot can get published digitally. Look at me, I’m doing it myself) this month. I’m still single but dating, and I still suffer from the occasional bout of existential anxiety. Things have changed for the better, and I’m slowly but surely making my way in the world. However, I am more at ease realising that there is no grand plan, we are all just doing our best with what we have, and we are all running our own race. Do not compare yourselves to others – you are not living their lives. You have different dreams and strengths and weaknesses and passions. Quoting the wise words of Baz Luhrmann, “Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind / The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”
Image via The 1975