Somehow – and I don’t want to shock anyone here, so you might want to sit down – I have managed to become a twenty eight-year-old.
DUN DUN DUN.
I mean OK, as I’m writing this I’m technically still twenty-seven for a few more days, but guys, it’s happening. IT IS HAPPENING. TWENTY EIGHT. That’s an entire decade of legally being an adult.
I dunno how it’s happened tbh.
But I wanted to write about it – about what I’ve learned, about my growth and about my personal ~journey~ into the deeper realms of y’know, being a grown-up. So here goes.
It’s Friday 21st September 2007 – the closest Friday to my 18th birthday. I’ve just started my second year at sixth form, and, being one of the oldest in the year, my party is the first in the social calendar.
I’ve booked out our local rugby club and a DJ, but because it’s come in at a few hundred quid and lol we ain’t rolling in money, I’ve had to charge my 100 guests £3 each for a ticket.
Which, in hindsight seems a bit weird, but everyone goes along with it, so whatever.
My mum does a buffet, my dad and step mum panic buy some helium balloons to jazz up the place, and my grandad wears his navy blazer, beige chinos and burgundy cravate that he saves for special occasions.
My friends get mad that I haven’t charged my boyfriend for a ticket. My boyfriend gets mad that I invited the boy I’d maybe accidentally got with over the summer whilst we were on a break.
But I am happy, lost in the birthday buzz of being surrounded by people I genuinely like, and of feeling like the centre of attention.
I make a mental note not to drink too much, not to overdo it, because my dad and step mum are watching and I’m keen not to disappoint them, not to worry them, not to make them think there is something wrong with me.
My boyfriend doesn’t like me drinking either, or the person I become when I am drinking – this flirty, gimme-all-the-cigarettes, confident version of myself without inhibitions – and I don’t want to piss him off either.
And so I am restrained. A toned down version of myself. I am well behaved and sensible and calm and – get this guys – I am in bed before midnight. And I wake with no hangover before my 9am shift at JJB Sports the following day.
And it’s hard to believe this girl existed so long ago, that an entire decade has passed since I was ordering Archers and lemonade in my silver embellished dress and now I am sat here with tea and maternity dungarees on.
It’s hard to acknowledge how fast time has gone and yet how many lifetimes ago that chapter in my life was.
By far my biggest challenge in this first decade of adulthood has been attempting to accept that my self-worth is not determined by how others treat me or value me. That actually, regardless of whether I can see it or not, I’m pretty great.
That I am enough just as I am.
I struggled a lot with my relationships, my mental health and my self-esteem as a teenager and that followed me into my early twenties, like a dark shadow that I couldn’t escape no matter how hard I worked or how much I drank or how hard I desperately tried to distract myself.
I guess I just hoped it would slowly disappear without needing to be acknowledged or faced, that as I got older and felt more in control of my life, my personal struggles would fade away like teenage acne or something.
But they didn’t.
I’d have weeks and even months where I felt on top of the world, where life was starting to look more like the life I’d always imagined it would, but inevitably I would always crumble.
I would break clean through my centre.
I wouldn’t be able to hold up the wall any longer and I would sob until I was struggling to breathe.
And then I would be left with this incredible black numbness that spread throughout my entire body and I would feel nothing but emptiness. I wouldn’t feel any emotions or any hope or any longing to continue on. It was isolating and lonely and whenever I was trapped in one of those bleak episodes I couldn’t ever imagine climbing out of it again.
But somehow I always did.
And I know this sounds hideously twee, but I count my biggest savior during those dark times as the belief I had in myself. Despite the fact I always doubted my worth and my value to other people, I never doubted myself, not for a second.
It’s a hard thing to describe but I always had this knowing in the pit of my stomach that things would get better so long as I could ride out the hard times.
I always knew I had to take my future and my own happiness into my hands, that the older I got, and the more I was able to live self-sufficiently, the better I would feel.
I guess I learned to trust in that age old idea that it’d be worth it in the end, even if at times it felt like it never would.
I’ve written countless times about my battle with depression – including this recent post about my life in the five years since my official diagnosis – but seeking help and accepting that my roller-coaster moods weren’t just a normal part of ‘growing up’ was one of the biggest game changers in becoming who I am today.
That, and finding life security and stability.
I don’t agree that that has to necessarily mean a relationship, but it does have to mean a home that feels comforting and safe. A place you’re not constantly thinking about fleeing from. A place that feels like a good, long hug at the end of the day. A place you look forward to retreating in. A place where you can be 100% yourself, y’know?
I’m proud of my first decade of adulthood. It hasn’t been perfect and it hasn’t been neat, but it’s been a learning curve and full of personal successes, moments of indescribable joy and ~finding myself~.
I’ve lost people, some who meant the world to me and others I’ve walked away from. But I’ve welcomed new people and new opportunities into my life, and I am incredibly proud of this place I have climbed to.
And, If there’s one single thing I want to take with me into the next decade it’s the idea that I have no idea what life has in store for me, that I have no idea of the challenges, struggles or joys up ahead, and yet, regardless of what the world throws at me, I will be OK.
I often think of the worst case scenarios of things and allow myself to settle on that idea, to take in what the repercussions would be for me, and then to accept that no matter how hard it would be, I would still come out the other side.
I think we often forget how strong we are. How awesome and brave and brilliant. And I want to remember that although we don’t always feel those things, it doesn’t mean that they’re not there.
Here’s to continuing to learn and continuing to grow and to continuing to ride out the bad times like the bad ass bitches we are.