Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Living an Adult Half-life

Checking wholegrain speciality bread for superficial signs of age before ramming it in the toaster. Rinsing out yesterday's mug for another cup of ridiculously overpriced assam. Gazing at the aftermath of yesterday's potato dauphinoise non-event all over the kitchen. I'm living somewhere in the middle of grown-up civilisation and squatter's squalor, and what's worse is that I've only just realised it. It took scraping a kilo of potatoes-worth of peelings from the breadboard in the kitchen before covering my toast in golden syrup to discover that I've got one foot in my thirties, and one foot in my teens. Lying next to full ashtrays and empty Desperados bottles are pizza boxes, the remnants of home made Guinness stew, scatter cushions and ornamental elephants. As we speak I'm occasionally drawn to my reflection as shown in the Southern Comfort branded mirror, next to a floral address book and Nigella Lawson's "How to be a Domestic Goddess" (I was taking notes for Christmas dinner). My home is filled with the sort of awful juxtapositions you'd see in a final year media student's film about adulthood. As with nearly all the situations I find myself in, I feel like a pretend person, a character used in the background to portray the disintegration of society or some other such bollocks. Read the media student's report on the film project, it's probably got the words "cliché" and "paradox" scattered recklessly across it. If I was a dramatic person, I would now claim this was "JUST LIKE MY LIFE". But I'm not. So I won't. I will say, however, that I need to sort something out, even if it's just the washing up.

When you're a kid, being a grown up seems like something that happens once you have your 21st birthday. You suddenly wake up in sensible clothes - possibly a chiffon scarf or a Hobbs trouser suit - and go to your jobs, knowing everything and able to deal with any and all situations in your path. After all, as every child knows, mums and dads know everything. If they didn't, how would they be able to answer every question that popped into your head? Being an adult must be brilliant. All that knowledge. All that power. It doesn't quite work like that though, does it?

I've been having a few "oh my god, sort it out" epiphanies lately. One occurred to me late one night as I sat on my bathroom floor, sick from actual illness rather than alcohol imbibement, which I hadn't experienced since I was at least 12 years old. Reeling and upset, all I could think about was being looked after. Who would clean up? Who would get me a drink of water? I didn't want to wake Andy up, and the last time this had happened my mum had used her sixth sense to wake up and rush to the rescue. These aren't the thoughts of a 21 year old. I'm a child. So aside from feeling sick and generally disgusting, I felt a big wave of Fail wash over me - I still wanted my mum when I was poorly. I moved out nearly five years ago.

Another such epiphany cracked me on the back of the head while I was shopping last week. I needed a new winter coat, and I was agonising over spending £40 on one item of clothing. "That's how much coat's cost" I told myself. "It's actually quite cheap, feel the quality". Still, in the back of my head I could hear a disapproving voice chiding me for my choice in outerwear. "You'll have to wear it all year," it warned me. "Will you still like it next November?" Total bumwash, I'm sure you'll agree, because after I had the necessary panic attack at the cash desk and got it home, I realised what a stupid thought process that was. I have a job. It's my money. If I want a new coat next year, just because I own one doesn't mean I can't just get another. People own more than one coat. I'm no longer 7 and being dragged around town for my annual back to school Clarks and BHS supplies mission. If it doesn't last me, I only have myself to blame. Fuck it. Spend your money on what you want. Stupid motherly conscience. Why can't I have one of those passive ones that only show up if you're about to charge round the centre of town with a machete?

Being a final year student places you in all sorts of strange situations, so really its no wonder that most feel neither here nor there. After three or four years at your chosen university, even the most hardened independent soul begins to feel somewhat homesick. Meal times become more childish as fish fingers, chips and beans have to suffice due to enormous workloads. Huge responsibilities at work at uni pile up, and rather than rising to the challenge as you assume you will do in your formative studying years, you realise it's a struggle, and all you want is your old bedroom and your mum's mashed potato. Duvets and pyjamas become your best friends. Every day off is spent mainly in bed or in front of increasingly psychopathic daytime TV, making it seem slightly surreal, much like being off school with a minor illness. You feel distinctly adult and can no doubt cope with the pressures, but every so often you take a step back and realise you're wearing a jumper with a cat on it and are making plans to spend your friend's birthday dressed up as Gromit or Postman Pat or Myra Hindley and you suddenly feel tiny again. The worrying feeling is that once you leave university, things will stay the way they are; that you'll remain a perpetual child, forever putting off that Winter Skincare Dos and Don'ts article, going down the pub instead of washing your clothes, and piling up work under DVD cases instead of actually getting on with it.

I don't want to know if that's real life yet. I'm trying to escape it as much as possible for the time being.


coffeebucks said...

I am glad it's not just me who feels this way. And I moved out of my parents' place eight years ago.

Katie said...

And I'm glad somebody else feels this way, and it's not me just speculating to make myself feel better!

chestymorgan said...

I've been playing grown up for almost 5 years and still have many moments where folk somehow seem to be much more so because they've more stuff.

Remove jnr from the house for a few days&I sit in my own filth drinking vodka & daydreaming.
I think if you care then you always feel a bit of an imposter.I dont know what an adult is really.Someone politically clever enough to glide through modern life? That's what I tell what THEY want in order to make life easier when your time is not your own.

ZenArcade said...

I'm so utterly depressed now. THANKS. (just started my first year of uni)

Katie said...

Don'tbe depressed, for all you know you could be a capable human being.

Jamrock said...


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but it seems to stay the same forever. I have two little kids so I *must* be a grown up, right?

However if I try and do something really basic like buy a shoerack. for example, I still get it wrong and then phone my Mum who knows exactly where to get it from.

So my parents still know everything and I still have all the same problems as you do and yet...I am a parent...I presumed the skills would be hereditary or SOMETHING.

There, I am sure I have cheered you up lots!

Jamrock said...

btw I love this post :)

TheUnwashedMass said...

This kind of reminds me of the bit in "Leon" when Matilda asks if life is always hard, or just when you're a kid. Leon replies "Always like this."

Mind you, he was a semi-autistic, socially dysfunctional man-child assassin. Which we can all relate to, right?

Katie said...

Ooh, I see what you mean. I do love Leon though. Pigs ARE better than humans.

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