The strangest thing about being a grown-up isn’t so much the new-found fascination with rugs, or the fully stocked cupboard under the sink, or even the fact that no-one thinks to ID you whilst you’re buying a posh bottle of red to compliment your cottage pie.
Nope, the strangest thing about being a grown-up is this weird ability to remember two versions of yourself.
Two adult versions of yourself.
When I look back to 18 year-old me, when I read her diary entries, her Facebook statuses and messages she sent, she doesn’t feel like she was me.
Like she was ever me.
She feels like a girl I made up. A girl that only ever existed within my own head and not in reality.
Like maybe she was just another part of my inner monologue, and not someone who lived and breathed the same air I do now.
Her memories are there, but they are not vivid and clear. They feel watered down and distant. And I feel like maybe I’m the only person who remembers them.
And that scares me. Because some days I so desperately need to believe that 2017 Hannah Gale is the same person as 2007 Hannah Gale.
Not because I want to be the same as her, but because I need to know that my memories, my relationships, my experiences, well… that they all really happened.
And that the person I’ve grown into today really came from the person I used to be.
If any of that even makes any sense.
The thing with hitting your late twenties is that it’s suddenly been a decade since a lot of firsts.
A decade since you got your driving licence. A decade since your GCSEs and A-levels. A decade since your first serious relationship. A decade since you lost your virginity. A decade since you first got wasted and vommed straight Malibu down yourself. A decade since you first attempted to navigate this whole other world that is adulthood.
And I find it weird that memories I have of myself over ten years ago aren’t memories of me as a kid in the summer holidays, they are memories of me as an adult. Going to work, driving my car, having sex.
And here’s something weird to admit. Every now and then, maybe twice a year, I lose myself for hours. I lose myself to a mission to prove I existed before now.
I devour old diaries and Facebook messages and try and get into my Bebo and Myspace accounts. I throw myself into rediscovering this other version of me.
Of consuming everything I can learn about her, and the people she surrounded herself with. Of convincing myself that she was real.
That she existed just as much as this version of me exists now.
So much has changed in that decade. I’ve lost the grandparents who were such strong figures in my life. I’ve moved to a new part of the country. Most of the friends I see on a weekly basis are people Ive known for less than a year. I work for myself. I have cats. I have a house and a boyfriend.
It feels like there are very few ties that bind old me and new me and because of that it sometimes leaves me seeking reassurance that we were ever the same person.
That I ever existed before now.
That there was ever a version of me before Hannah Gale, the blogger, clothes-wearer, Ipswich-dweller, cat-mother who loses hours to scrolling on her iPad for a new bookcase.
And I don’t know why that’s so important to me, or why it matters. Or why I can’t just accept that life changes and grows, and that the person we are changes and grows too.
I don’t know why it’ll suddenly consume me out of nowhere to search for my identity in words and sentences and ideas long forgotten, but it does.
And I think that’s OK.
Life flies by at such an alarming rate, that sometimes it can feel as though you blinked and became someone who pays into a pension fund, and you’ve not had a chance to say your final goodbyes to old you.
To become content with being her. To thank her. To acknowledge her place in the world. To appreciate her. To enjoy her. To take every part of her in.
And then she’s gone. Documented in images uploaded to social media and fleeting memories in other people’s minds that you don’t have access to.
And I think that it’s human, or at least I hope that it’s human to think about the old versions of yourself. Perhaps mourn is the wrong word, but to sometimes want to have a last experience or grasp on a different time in your life.
To want to know the old you and the current you.
So 2007 Hannah, don’t think I never think about you, because you mean so, so much to me.