Tag Archives: mid-twenties

Growing Pains

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Happy Friday, lovely reader!  How are you?  Shall I stick the kettle on?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that we don’t know what we’re doing.  This applies to all aspects of life, including Zumba classes (left step right step turn step jump step trip over your own shoelace step) and the bigger questions like “where is my life going?”, “how do I find happiness?” and “will I ever achieve my goals?”

I had a small meltdown this week about those questions – although it turns out that Zumba is actually a lot of fun, and it’s ok to fudge your way through the trickier moves – and turned to a friend of mine who is in a similar position, i.e. in his mid-twenties with a passionate desire to succeed but no clear idea of how to do so.  When we boiled the issue down to its essentials, we decided that no one knows what they’re doing at our age, and that we’re not really supposed to.  This made me ask another scary question: “when are we supposed to know what we’re doing?”

We have all been brought up to believe that the older, wiser and taller people around us know what is going on: teachers, parents and older siblings have all made it clear to us that they can be trusted to know what they’re doing.  This led us to believe that one day we will know what we’re doing, too.  But when is this elusive day of understanding?  At what age should we be waking up and saying to ourselves, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got the hang of this ‘life’ thing now”?

I have friends my age (or thereabouts) who are teachers, home-owners, paramedics, married, producers, in possession of a pension plan, and even parents.  They are, as far as the world is concerned, sorted.  But internally they worry just as much as people who are unattached, students, renting flats, between jobs or between life ambitions.  In many cases, their external lives have little or no relevance to their internal persona.  My own mother, who has five grown-up children and a life-long teaching career, admits that she doesn’t feel like an adult most of the time.  (I can believe that.  For starters, her ridiculous sense of humour completely belies her actual age.)

So what hope do we have, if our apparently grown-up friends and actually grown-up parents do not think of themselves as sorted, respectable adults?  Are we doomed to feel a bit lost and uncertain for the rest of our lives?

The short answer is: yes.  The long answer is: yes, but that is actually a very, very good thing.  When we have everything that we want in life, we stop looking for anything else.  We stop pursuing new ambitions, pushing ourselves to achieve and chasing after our goals.  Not knowing what we’re doing is scary, but it also motivates us to keep looking, and to keep finding things to learn about and enjoy in the world around us.  Essentially, happiness and feeling ‘sorted’ is fine, but it doesn’t open your mind or make you grow.  Uncertainty, ambition and passion make you keep going.

It almost doesn’t matter whether we find the elusive feeling of knowing what we’re doing.  As long as we keep looking for it, we will be learning new skills, travelling to new places, meeting new people and trying to be the best possible versions of ourselves.  Pursuing that feeling is what shapes your attitudes and makes you a fascinating person, and if you really think about it, being interesting is much more important than being a ‘proper grown-up’.

Right, kettle’s boiled now.  Could you grab the milk out of the fridge, please?

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Cheesy Conversations

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Happy Tuesday!  Did you have a nice breakfast?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I have brilliant friends.  Last night one of my nearest and dearest friends came to visit me at the new flat, and if seeing her were not enough of a treat, she brought three different types of cheese with her.  What a legend.

Over said cheese and a lot of diet coke, we discussed the whys and wherefores of our current life situations.  These are somewhat complicated to say the least.

Where are we going?  What are we doing?  Where on earth has my phone charger gone?  Being in your mid-twenties is characterised by asking a lot of futile questions, and even though we can postulate and theorise and debate, it’s no big secret that none of us have any answers.

That’s ok.  It really is.  We are not supposed to know what we’re doing: we’re supposed to know by now what we want to be doing.  By that I don’t mean that we need to have planned out the next five, ten or twenty years of our lives.  I mean that we need to know what we want to be doing right now, and be working towards it.  We need to know ourselves well enough to be honest about who we are and what really motivates us, whether or not we think that it’s financially viable or approved of by our parents.

I have no idea what my thirty-year-old self will want from life.  I haven’t the foggiest idea what my forty or fifty-year-old selves will be gunning for, either (although an educated guess tells me that it will probably be “more cheese” on all three counts).  What I do know is that I have ambitions and hopes and vague aspirations, and that all of these are achievable if I am willing to have (literally) cheesy conversations with the people who know me best and love me the most.

For example, last night was the first time that I admitted out loud how freaked out I am about writing my next play.  Chris is Dead went down so well at Edinburgh and got such an amazing response from audiences that I am genuinely terrified of writing another script.  Have I peaked already?  Do I have anything else worthwhile to say?  What if from now on everything I write is utter drivel and doesn’t resonate with anyone at all?

No one can say for certain that that won’t turn out to be the case, mostly because I haven’t started writing another play yet.  But my cheese-bearing friend knew that, even though she can’t foresee the future, her opinion of me matters and her optimism on my behalf is a very valuable piece of encouragement.

I can’t tell you not to worry about the future.  We are living in an age when we are made to feel like 25 is (professionally speaking) the new 40, and that if you don’t know what you’re doing by now then you have already failed.  That isn’t true, by the way.  But we all feel that way from time to time, and the key to getting through it is to be worried, feel nervous, and get stressed: the vital second half of that plan is to let someone who loves you allay your fears.  They know you well enough to make you feel better about it, and that is what will keep you going.

Have a stupendous day.  If your breakfast wasn’t all that, have an extra delicious lunch.

Twenty-Four Going on Sixteen

Hello and welcome to Wednesday!  I hope your week is treating you extremely well so far.

Last night two actor friends of mine came round for the first rehearsal of a short play that we’re performing in Camden in April.  The piece is about two people whose friendship is on the rocks, because they’re no longer sure what they want from each other.  The rehearsal went really well and we had a lot of fun (especially a certain unnamed actor who got a very serious case of the giggles), but we also had a very interesting discussion about relationships, friendships and how our feelings make us behave.

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As you can see, we took the rehearsal very seriously.  Anyway, as those of you who read yesterday’s blog will already know, my friends and I are not fond of fancying people.  It’s difficult and stressful and it makes us feel unnecessarily girly (and yes, that includes my male friends).  Apart from the obvious vulnerability that goes with having feelings for someone, I think that one of the problems my generation has with the entire dating thing is that it makes us feel like we’re still sixteen.  Even in our mid-twenties, when we have  a fair amount of emotional experience under our belts, we’re still not entirely sure what we’re doing or what the other person is thinking.  That’s hard to process.  How can we not have conquered this in a decade?

We as a generation have been programmed to aim high: we’re fighting against a tidal wave of economic uncertainty, we have to fight hard to get jobs (and even interviews) in a way that not many generations have had to do before, and we are annually told that our excellent A Level grades don’t mean anything.  Of course the exams are getting easier; why would we be getting cleverer or more conscientious?  It’s not like we’re trying to succeed at life or anything.  OH NO WAIT.

If we are so good at working hard for professional success, why are we so bad at coping with our personal lives?  When we were discussing this last night, one of my actors made a very good point: to a certain extent, we have control over our professional progress.  We might not always get the jobs or the opportunities that we want or think we deserve, but to a degree fate favours the people who put the hours in.  When it comes to relationships, friendships and other people in general, we have absolutely no control over how they feel about us.  Sure, we can dress nicely, smile a lot and be the best possible version of ourselves, but there’s no equity involved: being as awesome as you can be doesn’t guarantee that someone will like you.  Unfair, but true.

The bizarrely reassuring thing about this whole situation is that it gives us all a level playing field: nobody feels completely sorted when it comes to this stuff, and even the highest-flying executive can be baffled by a crush.  We have learned a lot since we were teenagers, but no one has yet conclusively proved how feelings work, so at least we’re not alone in our confusion.

Have a wonderful day, and make sure you have something delicious for dinner.