This year, I turned 24 – and with it came a startling realization.
Oh my god. I’m 24. What the hell?!
Now I know that sounds stupid. “You’re only 24,” my colleagues tell me – in fact, somebody said this to me today. “You’ve got your whole life ahead of you!” my older friends preach (if you reckon you’re one of these older friends, I’m sorry for calling you old and appreciate your endless wisdom. You look extra dashing today).
And yeah, I suppose I still am quite young. I haven’t had to start using Just For Men quite yet. Sure, I’m just getting started with things like my career and other adulty stuff that I’m too scared to even write because they’re so daunting. Because if I write words like rent or mortgage or bills, then that makes them true. It makes them applicable to me.
But at the same time, a tiny (and by tiny I mean huuuuuuuge) part of me is screaming that everything just needs to slow down. Because how am I 24 already? How have I not achieved THIS LIFE GOAL yet, and not accomplished THIS DREAM by now? How am I not the person I wanted to be? How are so many of my Facebook friends doing better than me? Look, they’ve just bought their first house. And how nice, he’s moving to America. And her job probably pays her a shit-ton of money. When you’ve got people like Zara Larsson making millions at 18, and you’ve got young people making entrepreneurs out of themselves through social media, it can be crippling to realize that you’ve done none of these things. As though it’s expected of you. As though that’s the norm.
It all gets a bit much sometimes. You realize that the months are blurring into years and that today you’re 24, but one day you will be 30, then one day you’ll be 40, and then it might just be too late to do all the stuff you always wanted to do. We all give ourselves a sort of itinerary for life, don’t we? We’re in the age of the bucket list. When the future is one enormous, foggy tunnel that you’re racing towards and you can’t stop, it’s all you can do to stop yourself from diving into bed with a multipack of Reese’s peanut buttercups and hiding away from the world with your favourite memes. Because let’s face it, we’ve all got ‘em (quite fond of the latest Kermit craze, tbh).
Stop. Breathe. Just freakin’ calm down and stop overthinking for a second, alright? Have a cup of tea and pet something fluffy. Sometimes I literally just grab my half-pug and bury my face in his abundance of rolls and instantly feel better.
My problem is that I’m quite self-critical. And if there’s one thing that my boyfriends asks me all the time, it’s this: why do I keep comparing myself?
And he’s right. I do constantly measure my own life up against that of other people. Mostly in terms of career success. I sometimes look at other authors, others who have literary agents or who have even been published by my age, and I wonder – how come they’ve managed to do that, but I haven’t?
The thing is, we’re living in an age of instant gratification. Our internet is faster than ever. You can take a picture, upload it to Instagram, and rake in the likes in just a few seconds. Everything is happening now, and as a result our attention spans have taken a real hit. Hell, my attention has wandered several times just writing this blog post. Oh, let me just check Facebook real quick…
So it just makes sense that we’ve accidentally conditioned ourselves to expect the same from life. From our long-term goals and aspirations. They need to happen right now, and then we need to tell everyone about it.
No. No more. Social media can be great. I couldn’t live without it now. But it’s also toxic. We poison ourselves into thinking we need to be something, when all we really need to be is happy. Happy and in the moment. And what makes me happy? Well, Tom makes me happier than anything. So does our dog, Buzz. And travelling. And going out. And reading. And writing. And good food.
And I get to do those things a lot. On a weekly basis. Daily, for some of them. I get to go to work and come home to cwtches (Welsh word for cuddle, which I will use unsparingly… you would do well to integrate it into your own vocabulary) from my amazing boyfriend and our sausagey little pupper. We have travelled to, and will be travelling to, some amazing places and I don’t think we’ll ever tire of it. We’ll always be jetting off to somewhere in search of adventures. We have some amazing friends, and we go out pretty much every weekend. I get to read books I love and write books I love whenever I want.
And don’t get me started on the food. I will hoover up anything and everything you set before me (I have been known to eat dog biscuits, but that was completely an accident and I probably need a whole other blog post just to explain myself).
Those are the things that make me happy right now (okay, so maybe not dog biscuits). Within instant reach. My real life instant gratification. Not the faux kind that comes from a little red bubble on Instagram telling you how many likes you’ve had. Or the artificial validation you get when you boast about something on Facebook. Because that doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m surrounded by people and things that I love.
As for the other things? The long-term stuff? They will come. Keep hacking away at things in your own time, and things will start to happen. It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Life isn’t a race. JK Rowling was in her thirties before her first book was published – and look where she is now. Maybe instead of reading about people’s successes, read about their failures. Normalise it. Accept it. Know that failure isn’t actually real – it’s only an internal measure of yourself. It’s fictional.
So if you’re like me and you’re in your 20’s, feeling like you should have amounted to something by now, please stop. You’re doing just fine. Go at your own pace. Stop comparing yourself to others, because it’s dangerous. It rots your mind. It makes you lose sight of what’s important. Make a list of the things that give you that real life gratification and focus on them. Because they’re what matter the most.
And next time those slimy thoughts start creeping their way back in, come read this blog post. I’ll be here, probably experiencing exactly the same thing.