When is Life Supposed to Start?


I turned 22 at the end of July.

Last year, my birthday was all fancy trips and cocktails. This year it felt different.

This was partly due to our current living situation. I’m back from university whilst my parents are still finishing off building their new home. It’s essentially camping with an insulated roof. No signal (country life for you). No TV. No internet. Hell, we only got electricity a couple of days ago. It isn’t great, to be honest.

But that’s not the reason I’ve felt so down. On my Birthday, whilst my mum and I were eating cake by torch light (see, I told you its like camping!), she casually pointed out that we always move after 10 years.

‘…So if we stay in this house for 10 years, you’ll be 32 by the time we leave again’.

As soon as she said it, it was like a timer had begun.

I was 11 when we moved into our last house. I finished school, I finished college, I lived abroad, I chose a career, I moved away, I went travelling, I worked, I moved back, I attended university, all based in a home that played a predominant role in my childhood. It feels like hardly any time has passed between moving in and moving out, yet an 11 year old and a 21 year old are very different creatures.

Recently, I feel like I’ve hit a fork in the road. Heading into my final year at University has made me realise that I’m actually supposed to have a plan for afterwards. It’s no longer going to be acceptable to wake at noon and eat pizza for breakfast (Publically, anyway). In 10 months time I’m supposed to have all of the answers. Go travelling again or save for a house. Drive my career forward or stick to the company I know. Have fun or settle down. I’ve spent a lot of time, money and effort on studying something I love, and yet sometimes I get the urge to just run away, avoiding the responsibilities that will be inevitably be expected of me. At this stage in life, it’s like we are all looking to each other, comparing our abilities and accomplishments,  and trying to guess the next appropriate move. But is there an appropriate move?

A recent study compiled a list of the 25 milestones everyone should achieve in their lifetime – and at what age they should have reached them. Apparently, by the age of 22, everyone should of; had their first kiss (I hope so!), first full-time job (unlikely), Pass their driving test, been on a holiday with friends (Magaluf, anyone?), and move out *insert cartoon laugh here*. The study also suggested that you should get engaged at 25 (well, shit), marry at 27 (huh?) an have 2 children by 31. The rate I’m going, I might as well sign up to geriatric dating sites now. Why publish something like this though? why make people like myself question how their lives will plan out, as if there is some algorithm to guarantee success and fulfilment.

My mum attended university for the first time at 37, as a mother of two. My auntie and uncle had twins at 24. They married at 38. My dad, convinced he would die at 28 (don’t ask), didn’t make any plans. He’s now in his 50’s, and co-owns a successful engineering company, inspiring my brother and I in our careers. They are all happy and successful.

The reason this conversation struck me was because I realised that 10 years isn’t actually very long. Sure, it feels like it is when you are at the beginning, dragging boxes into a new (if a little derelict) building. But soon you blink and you are at a different stage in your life. These next 10 years could be the most eventful and life changing, or just a blip, a dull chapter that is often forgotten, but lays the foundations to push the rest of the story forward. I guess what I’m really scared of, is settling. In this house, in my job, in relationships, in life.

So will this house always have a bedroom for me? Is that good or bad? Will this be the house I take my future partner too? Will this be the house my children will recognise?

When am I supposed to feel like i’ve got the hang of this?

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