There comes a certain age when you stop complaining about being too young and start to complain about getting older.
I have definitely started doing the latter. I realise that, in the grand scheme of things, I am actually still pretty young but having a lot of responsibility at work coupled with friends partaking in grown up activities like baby making and married life makes me feel older than I am.
Whilst getting older means more responsibility (sucks balls, right?), thinking about it, I am actually enjoying getting older. I am more confident in myself, and who I am. Those who knew me at school would meet a very different person now. I have set my limits of what I expect of others and myself. I’m no longer interested in being popular; I’d rather have a few close friends than hundreds of fake ones. I know what I look for in the people I surround myself with. I have no time for the pettiness and dramatics that I had time for at 18.
Thinking about it, being 18 is quite possibly one of the worst ages in the world. You leave school and BAM. You’re an adult. Now, you’ve been preparing for this your whole life, you know its coming (that’s generally how ageing works), but, you’re a little bit in denial. You think it will be all drinking in pubs with your friends instead of on fields, dancing in clubs instead of your friends’ living room. Making big steps towards being a real adult, no one can tell you what to do, or how to live your life. You don’t need any advice; you’re an adult now!
You laugh at all those year 11’s who are distraught (at least according to their social media) that they are leaving ‘the best friends a girl can ask for’ ‘I’ll never forget you guys’ ‘I’m gonna miss you guys sooooo much (insert heart emoji here). You laugh at them for thinking that leaving year 11 is the worst thing in the world because you know different. Leaving sixth form is the worst. All those year 11 friends you promised to stay in touch with no longer exist in your real life; you’ve realised you didn’t like them anyway. You’ve seen the inside of the sixth form Centre; you know you’re the real adult now. And you’ve been so caught up in all of this that you forgot at the end of it you need to make real decisions, and you will actually be an adult. Who has to have a job, or move away from home to go to university – you are regretting all those times you hormonally shouted at your parents that you couldn’t ‘wait to move out to be away from you!” because you suddenly realise you’ve had it pretty easy for the last 18 years. You are realising the incredible weight that comes with actually being an adult, a real adult in the real world. You’ve heard so much about this ‘real world’ and thought that it was a place filled with all the best things. But now, as you are about to step into it you realise, it’s actually a bit scary. You won’t have people to make tough decisions for you, who will fix everything for you. You’re an adult; you are expected to do it for yourself now. Not an adult that still goes to school and is still being told what to do, still being guided by teachers and your parents. You realise you’re going to have to make real decisions for yourself. You realise that actually, you’d quite like to stay where you are, and not be an adult in the real world. But that’s not an option.
So what do you do? Do you have a plan? Do you curl up in a ball and cry, hoping it will make the decisions of these next steps any less real? Do you just trundle along hoping that somewhere along the way you’ll stumble into a career and be vaguely happy? Do you get pregnant and get a free council flat? Do you go travelling? Go to university to spend three or four years in, what can only be described as limbo. You’re technically an adult who is old enough to move away from home and drink in the pub, but you also still have the option of returning home once in a while to see your mum who will quite happily cook for you and do your laundry (because truth be told she’s missed your stinky socks).
Whatever you decide to do, make sure it is what you want to do. It doesn’t matter what university your mum wants you to go to, or if your teacher thinks a gap year travelling is a waste of an opportunity. Ultimately you will be living with the consequences of whatever you do, so you need to decide.
When it was ‘applying for university’ time, I will admit that I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do next. I applied for university because it was another option for me. I got in to all the universities I applied for; something I am still surprised at because I did minimal revision for any exam. When the time came to responding to offers I was too, being completely honest, scared and nervous to go. Anyone who knew me then would probably agree. I was a bit scared of everything and everyone.
I decided to take a gap year to work, and thank the little baby Jesus I did that. In that year I progressed within the business I was (and still am) working for, I saved some money, I made some great friends and business contacts but, better than all that, I grew in myself. I started to learn about the kind of person I wanted to be, what I enjoyed, what I didn’t. I learnt to handle responsibility; I learnt to handle myself.
A year later I felt ready to be a big girl and went to Kingston University to study Primary Education and I had some of the best and worst times of my life in those 3 years. Now, clearly, I am not in the teaching profession although I did pass, graduate and qualify with a 2:1; again not sure how that happened. I was the girl who started the essays the night before they were due. Shout out to Sedg for keeping me company all those looong nights in the library. Thankfully my teaching placement grades were high. As the end of the course came nearer I was in a bad place personally, and I knew that I didn’t want to teach anymore, having fallen out of love with it. Like a roll of toilet paper, the closer to the end it got, the quicker it went (time, not toilet paper). I was feeling the pressure to make a decision on life when, I got a message. Not from God, but from an old colleague about a management opportunity in my old store. It all worked out, and I went home. I went home in more ways than one.
Do I regret spending all that time, energy and money studying for a qualification I don’t use? It’s something I’ve been asked more than once.
The honest answer is no. It wasn’t the right thing for me at the time. I didn’t have the passion to go into a teaching role and give it my all. Going into a profession such a teaching isn’t something you can go into half-heartedly. It’s not fair on the children. They deserve someone who wants to be there with them, someone who has the want to be the best teacher in the world for them; and that wasn’t me. People look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them that, but it’s the truth. I try not to live with regrets; sure there are things that I wish had played out differently but, everything that has happened to me over the last 7 years since I left school has happened for a reason and led me to where I am now (does anyone have a cracker to put with my cheese?), and I actually like where I’m at.
Life has been surprising these last 7 years, and of course, I’m not where I thought I’d be, but I don’t mind. In fact, I’m pleased. You can spend so much time planning your life and what you want it to look like and doing what you think you should be doing because it’s what everyone else is doing but that is no way to be. Life’s meant to be lived. You can’t control every part of it, if you try to you’ll spend your life disappointed and annoyed. Sure, work towards a goal or passion of yours (I always have my next move/goal planned.) but you need to be flexible about how you get there. Be nice, be brave but stop bloody worrying so much. It’ll all work out. It kind of has to. If it doesn’t though, I’ll meet you at the bar. Tequila’s on me!