Tuesday, 1 April 2014

On being 26.

Being just past my mid-twenties has hit me hard and I'm not sure why.

Perhaps it's to do with the fact that I'm edging ever-closer to the doomsday figure of "30". Perhaps it's because I still don't really know what I want my life to be yet. Perhaps it's because I'm suspended between my incredibly immature self and my ready-to-retire self. Perhaps it might even be because I'm older than a lot of my friends. No matter what it is, something is up with me, and it's becoming irritating.

I have two types of friends.

Type 1 says of my continued and increasingly tiresome life crisis: "You're only 26 Katie. You're still very young. You're like Leonardo DiCaprio on the Titanic - you've got a whole world ahead of you. The iceberg is your forties, it's still a way off yet."

Type 2 says: "You're 26? I thought you were our age? Or maybe younger? Wow. You just don't seem...no offense, you just seem a lot younger."

I'm not sure which is worse, to be quite honest. On the one hand I could be happy that I'm not yet old enough to consider my age to be a real problem (therefore negating my concerns as needless anxiety and silly worrying), on the other I could be concerned that people in their early twenties recognise me as a somewhat immature member of their club - young enough to get away with finding fart jokes funny and having no idea what to do with my life.

The past couple of years have seen be do a lot of different things in the name of finding out "who I am"; I'm only just realising that this isn't what I've been doing at all. I've been trying to feel like an adult and have tried nearly everything in order to do so.

Turning 26 was unreasonably traumatic for me. I have no idea why. It's not a milestone age - not culturally or personally. It's not a particularly old age to be, nor is it that frustratingly young (I remember being frustrated at how being young never gave me any credibility). It's just an age. It just feels bad.

On my birthday somebody jokingly wrote "Happy 30th!" on my card and I didn't expect my reaction to be so explosive. I imagined that I had skipped forward four years and it freaked me out. This wasn't what my 30th year was supposed to be sitting on top of! I was supposed to be live via satellite somewhere on another continent for the 6 O'Clock News. Imagining sitting at my desk living another day of emails was almost too much to cope with.

It was just a joke though. So let's move on.

Currently going through another unexpected life change, I've realised that the reason my career hasn't gone the way I planned is because my life hasn't been like other peoples. Rather than taking time to mature and flourish, my career has always been a series of brightly interesting explosions, patches in the sky, and as soon as they arrive they vanish, leaving me trying to find something else to inspire and amuse me. I'm always at a crossroads, turning left and right, going to interesting places, but never in a straight line for long.

I've run my own business, I've been a writer, I've worked in social media (a dying career - get out while you can), I've sold medical software technology to NHS trusts (which was my golden ticket to hell, if any of you see me there in a few years and wonder why); I've been a barmaid, a waitress, a baker's assistant, a pot washer and a cook. I've worked in a record shop, a cinema, two different snooty-ass department stores and for a local 'entrepreneur'. I've worked in twelve different cities and been to uni one and a half times.

Sometimes it's better to remind yourself that sometimes it's impossible to set yourself against normal expectations. How would I have had the time in 26 years to do all of that and build a solid career in global journalism at the same time?

I wouldn't. So crack on. On to the next adventure. Let's get it done.
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