It is a truth universally acknowledged that there’s pressure around people — I mean, women — to have achieved a certain amount of things by the time they reach a certain age. And, as much as I try not to abide by the rules a one-size society has set up for us, I still find myself worried about not doing the right thing and, most importantly, not doing it in a timely fashion. The reasonable time frame, if I believe and follow the way that’s most common to our occidental society, would entail having a stable situation by now, i.e. a permanent position in a respected job, a marriage or at least a solid relationship, a house that I can call my own and potentially even children. In fact, the first question I get asked at family reunions by relatives I see every once in a blue moon is the infamous ‘are you still single?’ Why, yes dear. I am, indeed, still single.
Nonetheless, I feel like it’s too easy to blame family, friends or society only for the expectations. Didn’t I, 10 years ago, set goals to have secured a good job and built a beautiful home for myself, my loving husband and our adorable toddler by the time I reached 27-28? I didn’t even question the implication of it all, didn’t question the possibility that it could all go wrong — or, as I’ve come to realise now, go a different way.
I graduated university with honours but by the time I got my degree, it was useless. Publishing had turned my love for books to mush. All the time & money I’d invested into making sure I stood out from my peers as well as the experience I’d worked so hard to get, it just became irrelevant. I’m paying off a student loan for a semester at NYU that was neither valuable nor conclusive for my future. The way I see it, it was a very expensive holiday. I don’t regret it; it was the most incredible adventure. However, I do associate it with the bittersweet realisation that I am now indebted to a bank for something that was merely a luxury. And, two years later, I still have no idea what to do career-wise. In my wildest dreams, I would live off of writing and creating and helping people who, like me, feel like they don’t belong. But that’s just fantasy. One day, a friend of mine asked me why I couldn’t be content with what I had. She told me I didn’t have to love a job, I simply had to do it. I guess that’s the curse of having the soul of a dreamer, because I thought that was the saddest thing I’d ever heard. I’m going to be spending 70% of my life working, so I might as well enjoy it, right?
My first serious relationship ended when I was 23, and the break-up kinda messed me up. I mean, it wasn’t the only reason I was damaged, but it gave weapons to the voices in my head and fuelled the self-hatred bullshit. Sometimes I feel like I willingly went down the rabbit hole, where I’m now trapped for eternity… OK, that was a bit melodramatic. For real, though. As much as I’d love to share my life with somebody, because I do remember what it feels like to curl up in bed with your ‘other half’ (*WE ARE ALL COMPLETE ON OUR OWN*), it wouldn’t be right. I’ve tried the whole dating app experience but I just can’t be bothered. The bottom line is, I’m not interested in looking for a partner and the reason for that is I simply am not ready. I hate to say this because it probably makes me sound like a feminazi but the reality is that I don’t trust men, at best. I know they’re not all bad so don’t give me the whole ‘not all men are trash’ speech, it’s not the point. I just haven’t had the best role models when it comes to penis bearers and, as far I’m concerned, I’ve already got enough on my plate not to add on the drama that comes with having a love life. Plus, if I’m being completely honest, I can’t see myself being intimate with anyone in the foreseeable future, which also eliminates the option of one-night stands (as my brother jokingly suggested). I have far too many insecurities to deal with, so sex with another individual is off the table.
So, here I am, 27 years-old and nowhere near having accomplished any of the things I probably ‘should’ have accomplished by now, and nowhere near having the social situation I probably ‘should’ have by now. I’ve been very much single for the past 3 1/2 years, I’m emotionally unavailable for any kind of relationship that’s not friendship (and even that is bloody hard sometimes), I live in a flat-share, I don’t have a clue where my life choices are taking me, I’m currently hunting for a job with no lead whatsoever and the clock is ticking because my contract ends in 7 weeks, I worry about money on a daily basis, I struggle to keep up with the most basic duties of adulthood (i.e. feeding myself properly) and I’m constantly working on my mental health not to end up six-feet-under by the time I’m 30. There you go, that’s my turning-27-freak-out right here for y’all. I did manage to move to London though, which I’d been dreaming about since I was 15, so… yay!
The truth is, shit happens and as much as you try to plan the next 10 years of your life, it doesn’t always pan out. And I’ve learnt that it’s OK. Because what’s also true is that I’m no longer the person I was at 17. Things change, and you have to roll with the punches. I was hit by the most obvious reminder that you’re never in full control when my mum suddenly passed away. Never did I imagine I would have to figure it all out without her.
In the end, I don’t think I can blame 17 year-old me for idealising a future that’s actually still the norm, that’s still considered successful on so many levels. Maybe there’s a part of me that wishes she had been right on the mark, that wishes her dreams could have been my reality. But I don’t want my dreams to be made of what could have been. My reality is that I’ve been through a lot in the past few years, from heartbreak and loss to disillusion and confusion. I’ve had to rebel against the most terrifying thoughts, not knowing how long I would last in a battle where I clearly didn’t have the advantage. I lost my way and tried to start over multiple times, in vain. I’m still on the path to finding myself, and maybe I’m really far behind and maybe I’m not at the stage where I’m supposed to be, but I’m not afraid anymore. I’m done planning, expecting, comparing. I’ll just keep going at my own pace.
I stepped into the 27th year of my life freaking out, and that was a waste of my energy. I may not have done everything by the book and my life may not be perfect, but I’m as happy as I could be. And that’s the only question people should really be asking.