What Is It About Growing Up?

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What is it about being freshly 30 that makes it feel like you just turned 90 instead? I swear, my knees are creaking and judging by my 9:30pm bedtimes I’m only a hop, skip and a jump away from the old folks home. I even have the slipper supply ready to go.

10-year-old me would look at 30-year-old me in awe, and say ‘look! A grown-up!’ And I’d probably turn to look over my shoulder and wonder who she’s pointing at. Oh, I’m the grown-up. Right, gotcha. It was a bit unclear for a second there because I don’t exactly feel like the grown up. Yes, I drink coffee and wine and am a damn good cook and drive a nice car and other grown-up things that as I child I assumed I would be doing very confidently at my ripe old age, but getting older and feeling like an adult aren’t exactly the same thing. I wonder what 10-year-old me would think if I confided in her that I don’t always feel like the adult and could I help with her jigsaw instead of paying my electricity bill?

I tend to frequent writers’ groups online, and one prompt that comes up fairly regularly is to offer some advice to your younger, child-like self. I’ve always avoided these prompts because I’ve generally come up with zero advice to give to 10-year-old me (or I’ve come up with too much and depressed myself). Yet here we are. And, to be honest, half this advice can apply to my 15, 20, 25 and 29-year-old self as well.

Here goes: Don’t stop the dance classes. They were fun and you’ll enjoy them when you’re older. Don’t stop seeing the good in people, because the world is a sad and scary place as an adult in 2017 and we need all the love we can get. Share your writing and don’t be embarrassed. You were pretty good as a kid, and you’re damn good as an adult. Recognise from an early age that anxiety is a thing, because then you won’t spend years beating yourself up for reasons beyond your control. Start doing yoga at a much younger age. Backbends are tougher when you’re 30, take it from me. Do go to university, but do a different course. Or do the same one but apply yourself better and go out partying more often. You’ll regret not doing it in the years to come when your hangovers last two days and midnight seems like a late finish. Date the bad guys, but don’t date them for as long. They make you appreciate the good ones. Actively study feminism and politics in your free time, because thinking and talking about them take up a lot of your time when you’re older. Don’t get that tattoo. Just don’t. Those things are permanent, you know? Oh, you got it. Well, at least you can cover it up. Don’t worry about trying to be cool, it isn’t worth it in the end. Like what you like and befriend similar people. You’ll still be into Star Trek in your 30s and Tolkien will never get old.

I could go on. These are all relatively simple things, but ultimately I’d tell my yonger self that it doesn’t matter how many boxes you’ve ticked. You can have the house, the car, the good job, the disposable income, the pets, the husband, but it still won’t feel like it’s all come together. And I think it never truly does, because we’re human and we all strive for the next thing. Which is only a bad thing if you allow yourself to become disenchanted with what you have, because the things you have are worthwhile and worth having. What I want is different to what you want, and that’s OK. Adulthood tries to teach us that we should all be carbon copies of each other who want the job and the family and the pension, but that’s just wrong. Our differences make us amazing, and what you enjoy and the life you love is a perfect fit for you.

Ultimately, I’m much more secure in myself as a 30-year-old than I ever was in my 20s. And with that security comes the ability to acknowledge the parts of myself that others still probably see as immature. I love cheesy TV shows, I’m heavily into certain fandoms (looking at you, Supernatural), I have an incomparable love for Harry Potter (I’m wearing my Ravenclaw scarf as I write this), a row of Jellycat animals sit proudly on my bed during the day, and I own a lot of clothing with cats on. But those things generally balance out with my love of jigsaws and crosswords, my increasing knowledge of different wines, and other things that will serve me well when I’m in my 90s and need to keep my brain active. Particularly the wine.

There’s no such thing as growing up. Growing up implies that the things we enjoy that might appear child-like should be avoided lest you be thought immature. Don’t stop doing the things you love or liking the things you like. There’s growing into yourself and there’s getting older. But growing up is a myth and something we think of as an accomplishment as children.

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PS. Don’t get used to daily posting. Or do, perhaps I’ll do another grown-up thing and surprise myself.

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