When I was little I used to wonder how everyone did it. How they became ‘Grown Ups’. In maths class I used to duck down in my seat, bury my head in my textbook, for sheer embarrassment of being asked a question I just couldn’t understand how to answer. I used to wonder how on earth I would ever get clever enough to go to university or have a job like an adult.
But it turned out growing up wasn’t something I had to focus on doing. It was a sneaky thing that just sort of happened to me.
I was turning 25, an age I had always supposed meant that I would be an adult. I would understand and have a place on this earth. When I was younger I suspected I would indeed be married with a career on the side, a London town house of my own and, the thought of children wouldn’t be a terrifying monthly gasp of fear.
Well at 25 my perspective’s changed, a lot, although some expectations are a little harder to shift.
That night I heaved myself off the sofa, defiantly closing down twitter and instagram for the last time that evening. I tip toed quickly, through the dim light of the lounge to my bedroom. Turning on a second light there, before scurrying back to switch off the first. I’m still afraid of the dark.
As it always is the night before my birthday, it was hot and sticky. I push off all my covers, wriggling my fidgeting legs about, ‘10 minutes left’, I think. 10 more minutes of 24, an age where it felt ok to take risks, screw up and say, “well, I’ve just not met the right person yet”. Would tomorrow feel the same?
24 was the year of working in right part of TV; sitcom. It was also the year I quit working in TV. It turns out you don’t just get to write a sitcom… I quit being an assistant. Quit using other people’s brains and quit making coffee. I moved in with my best friend south of the river. Then quickly found myself making coffee again. But I was writing. I was using my brain.
This blog was begun and I went to my first dating event as a ‘Dating Blogger’. I sat in my first VIP area and sipped on what it would taste like to actually belong there. I had my first professional photos taken, which weren’t snapped at graduation.
With change, change for the better, comes pressure. You can’t lie there at night and count up the things you’ve achieved. There’s an endless slog and a slog of endless pressure. God, it makes you miss the days when the hardest question you ever needed to answer was, ‘Blackcurrant or Orange?’
Laying there sleepless, I reached for my phone again, rolling my eyes at myself, giving into the blue glow. It’s a Monday in July so of course the hangover of weddings, engagements, holidays away with long-term boyfriends, weddings… are just now being uploaded to Facebook; a part of the net quickly becoming a torture devise to those who are single and sleeping alone.
This is what I have to look forward to and what I will undoubtedly begin to measure my own personal or romantic achievements by. Sigh.
I know I shouldn’t, I know its dramatic and, self indulgent and plain stupid, but that night I felt as though life was over. I texted an old thing, not quite a boyfriend, not quite comfortable with the title friend.
“I’m going to die alone”
“Happy Birthday ” He responded.
“It’s summer and wedding season in my mid twenties, and I’m going to die alone” I tried again.
“Better to die alone than settle for someone you’re not compatible with” Annoyingly he had a point.
“But I’m an optimist! Which is why I’m even sadder about the fact that I will die alone!”
I giggled at my own joke for far too long. I missed midnight.
“Happy Birthday” He replied. “I don’t get it?”
Just as well he was just a thing. I turned off the light and squeezed my eyes shut beckoning sleep. I hate the dark.
It was sunny like it always is on July 21st.
There’s a knock at my door. My flat mate, best friend from Uni, she usually wakes me up but I thought she’d give me a lie in on my birthday. My day was mapped out into a series of mundane tasks and sleeping until at least 9am was the first on the list!
Knock Knock and then singing. Oh crap.
My two brilliant flat mates walk in ladened with breakfast, a candle a top my bagel and party poppers next to my tea. And presents (both book shaped - perfect) and flowers.
They sit with me while I open everything, all the cards from my family and, it’s the best birthday morning in a very long time.
I’m out of the house by 10am and ready to spend the rest of the day alone before starting work at 5pm.
I decided that if I’m alone wine is surely in order. I head to a cute little restaurant down in Tooting, walking distance from my flat. I wait it out until midday before ordering wine but am drunk before 1pm.
I take a swing at writing and researching for a couple of upcoming features but I’m inundated with birthday admin from well-wishers. rather a lot of them. Isn’t that nice?
At the hilarious time of 2:30pm I find myself at my dentist appointment. I’m still tipsy so the whole ordeal is rather more bearable than usual.
After that little blip I head to my favourite café and continue writing.
When I finally power down my laptop, on which, I’ve mostly been distracted by hilarious emails, Facebook posts (not containing wedding photos) and the odd inappropriate tweet I head to work, thinking, ‘well it could have been worse’.
Arriving at the bar, which pays my rent, I’m greeted with three of my colleagues, who I now realise stupidly are my friends. Each thrusting gin, chocolates or flowers at me and I’m engulfed in a series of barely awkward hugs. Even the miserable old chef makes us a round of birthday steaks and when my best friend turns up to keep me company the place feels like it’s my own private party.
I don’t mind working in the bar. It gets me out of the house and showered every morning, as opposed to eating cereal until 4pm and contemplating the next thing I may or may not write. It’s turned me into a cliché but made me see the reasons for why that cliché exists.
I like serving customers and chit chatting so I don’t mind pulling pints in between sipping my birthday gin. Even if the gang are all giggling at me. Just as I’m beginning to feel self-conscious and, wonder what trick is being played, my parents walk in.
They’re holding a lit cake and the bar all begin singing ‘Happy Birthday’. I flush red and swear loudly. It’s the nicest and most embarrassing birthday surprise I could have wished for!
They’ve driven two hours to the wrong side of London just to have dinner in my shabby little south London bar. Because it’s my birthday.
Twenty Five might not look the way I expected, I might be nowhere near a marriage proposal and, for as long as I live in my beloved capital, I doubt I’ll ever have a place of ‘my own’. I might still work in a bar and writing full time might be a dream but it’s happening. I’m living it. Living the things I want to do. It looks like I’m growing up, even if I’m not posting wedding photos, ultra sound scans (actually I’d never do that!) on Facebook or sharing the bills with the man of my dreams. I’m not even sure I’ve dreamt about him yet, hell I’m afraid of the dark! At 24 nothing went to plan, but I made the most of it. I have no idea where I’ll be this time next year, but looking at Twenty Five, I see that I won’t be far from love.
Thank you xox