fair warning! growing up and ~figuring it out~ angst ahead and rather a lot of it so maybe make yourself a cup of tea. Do not proceed if you are squeamish about self indulgent epiphanies, emotional coddling or incessant praise of Lorde’s new album. Especially do not proceed if you do indeed have it all ~figured out~, we are not your people here.
When I was 18 I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the world. I knew that potentially big decisions lay ahead but I wasn’t scared of them or what they might mean for my future. Somewhat naively, without any real idea of what I was actually going to bring to the table, I thought the world was lucky to have an upstanding citizen like myself knocking at its gates. I confidently assumed that the fabled ‘big’ decisions would make themselves at some point. I sashayed my way through the scariness and didn’t let it touch me.
Oh boy, how little I knew.
These days I certainly feel less like an adult and more like a newborn baby, freshly pumped from the womb and with absolutely no idea of what is going on around me or how anyone is making it through the veritable tornado that is adulthood.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all chaos all the time. Sometimes I can be lulled into a false sense of feeling comfortable and stable. I pick up a swagger that only comes with thinking that I’ve got it all figured out. It comes slowly as you start to feel more comfortable with yourself, at home with your choices, the life you are carving and the people you’ve surrounded yourself with. There is no greater feeling than being convinced you’ve cracked the code, it’s like a secret I wish people would ask me about so I could answer with ‘oh this ethereal halo surrounding my head? that’s just the glow that comes with uncovering the all secrets of the universe, no biggie, what’s for lunch?’
Then it seems that the more I learn the more I realise that life, real life, is actually this big scary ‘over there’ thing and the less it feels like something I can really contribute to. Life feels more like an abstract concept that happens to other people and less like it might be something that could happen to me. Thoughts like these loooove to spiral, I look at other people and see what they are achieving and think ‘NO WAY’ could I ever achieve that. It’s so easy to think that the success I see around me just magically happens to people, that they don’t work for it, or if they do that I could never work that hard or have their talents.
However, I’m starting to ask more questions and really get to know people who I admire outside of their perceived successes. Less of the oggle in wonderment from afar and more of the ‘woah cool stuff is happening for you, TELL ME ALL UR SECRETS AND FEELINGS’ (I swear it’s way more chill than that *sometimes*).
Of course, these conversations generally reveal that no matter how much it looks like people breeze effortlessly through life on clouds of spun gold, everyone has challenges and insecurities that they are overcoming everyday. It seems too obvious written down like this, and don’t worry I KNOW I’m not the first person or even the second to have this revelation, it’s just that it is surprisingly easy to forget/ignore and right now it feels important to remember. Especially as we become increasingly preoccupied with presenting the best or most curated version of ourselves online, it becomes like a drug when someone reveals a flaw. We can cling to it knowing that they too are like us and not just flowing manes of beautiful hair or continent hopping life wizards yes that is a real term. It seems ridiculous to will someone to have a flaw just to prove that they are human. Everyone is complicated and flawed and no matter how happy or sad any one presents themselves online (or in real life) we are all capable of experiencing many and varied emotions at the same time, in my case often in the same minute. We (I) need to chill out on taking every photo as a complete representation of people and their lives, when its one shot, one moment in someone’s crazy, motley day. We shouldn’t need a backstory, it should be implied in every flatlay, every mountaintop drone shot, every godamn effortlessly casual street-style photoshoot, we are seeing what people want us to see (and fyi that’s totally cool too).
Moral of the story? Be kind to everyone for you never know what secret battles they may be facing. I’ve mentioned that on the blog before but I’m mentioning it again because to me it will never not be true. There is something to be said for giving everyone the benefit of the doubt to begin with and letting them show you their whole selves.
I’ve learned that when these crazy and quite frankly unreasonable thoughts threaten to overtake me and leave me completely apathetic about the future I have to go inside my head and remember the things that make me unique *see – unparalleled ability to put away a family size block of Turkish Delight*. Instead of feeling like the world has enough people and talents and go getters, realise that no one gets anywhere overnight (no matter how much it might seem that way). I have to believe that there is something out there that will combine who I am with some kind of meaningful contribution to the world.
Outside of ‘get out of bed before 10’ and ‘aim to not let hair get absolutely feral’ I’m not an amazing goal setter, I’ve always associated goals with failure and I’m not failure’s biggest fan either. Sometimes I’d prefer not to take the chance on something because avoiding failure is easier than putting your hand up to say ‘yep I tried that thing, I really put myself on the line and it absolutely did not work out, in fact it did the opposite of work out, I totally bombed and now I’m taking myself to bed for a year. Ok thanks. Bye.’
But I look back at my life so far and think of all the chances I HAVE taken and how amazing it is to know you’ve tried something even if it doesn’t actually work out. You always learn something from the experience, maybe meet someone new or maybe realise that what you were trying out wasn’t for you anyway (aka me with Crossfit, quite happy to have failed at that one, I have the scars to prove it).
Enter the Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Those goals that seem enormous and
potentially definitely unreachable and it’s a little scary to think that your mind could be so bold to even dream them up. But they sit there in the corners of your mind and surface in the quiet moments and give you tingles of excitement when you think about what life could be like if you made them happen.
It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I realised I had a weird mentality that I was too young to even tentatively start to make those goals a reality. I still had the mindset that I had when I was 18 that achieving your dreams would always happen ‘later. But I’ve realised that ‘later’ is NOW and oh lord that literally took my breath away. NO ONE TOLD ME THAT LATER CREEPS UP ON YOU. NO ONE TOLD ME THAT LATER NEEDS TO BE DEALT WITH. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to succeed. It’s not just something that is only reserved for the so called older and wiser. If not now, when?
If Lorde’s new album has taught me anything (and trust me IT HAS) it is that’s there actually a beauty in being young and feeling like you are having these massive epiphanies every other day. I had always resented never being old enough yet to be taken seriously. I’m not sure what age I thought was the right one to be taken seriously but I have always felt governed and by my age and hyperaware people treating me like I’m young. It’s nice now for my age to feel like something that is liberating and empowering. *gets up and dances on tables in the name of life experience*
This might seem a like more of a self indulgent post and in many ways it is. I’m quite happy if you don’t connect to any of this angst. What has propelled me to share is the fact that I seem to have this conversation with so many people. The discovery and acceptance that there is actually no rhyme or reason to this complete fuckery of a time is exhilarating, terrifying and confusing in equal measures. Surely it’s worth spreading my brain on a proverbial internet plate, if at least one person nods their heads furiously at this?
The takeaway? For what feels like the hundredth millionth time I have discovered that there is in fact no road map or even a shred of a rule book for making it through your early adulthood. Everyone, no matter what it may seem like, is figuring it out one piece of avocado toast at a time and I mean that’s pretty encouraging.
Cover image: Taken by me in Nice, 2014