I’ve turned 24 and I’m bloody terrified

From the Editors’ Desk

I leant over to tie up my shoes at the gym the other day and immediately forgot how to do it.  Fumbling over my laces, I became my six-year old self once more – able to read the Hobbit but unable to perform a simple motor function. 

It’s a worrying thing to happen to someone who is getting to the stage when they really should have graduated many years ago.  As each passing birthday comes by, I think I should begin to feel more like an adult.  If anything, the reverse is true.

At University, I often feel like I’m in a strange state of quasi-adulthood, quasi-childhood.  Having worked full-time and paid tax in the past, the comparatively responsibility free world of the student is a return to an easier past, those precocious teenage years that seemed so difficult at the time but seem so easy now.  Instead of your parents, you now have the Government providing for your financial needs: it’s not so much standing on your own two feet as swinging from the public purse.

I can understand those my age who, having been at work for a couple of years, feel mentally a lot older than those still in education and maintain a sense of superiority over them as a result.  At the same time, I understand the students who don’t want to graduate just yet, who want to postpone the real world for a bit and stay in the safe confines of the classroom for a little longer.  In a way, I find I’m both and neither of these at the same time.

It’s difficult to know when you really lose your sense of childhood.  Arguably, many people never do.  When it comes to playtime, many ‘adults’ simply swap their Lego bricks for PlayStations and their orange squash for beers.  There are plenty of city workers who still behave like bawdy teenagers and students who act older than their professors.  We all age at different rates and in different ways depending on the circumstances.

Measuring yourself against your physical age is a pointless task: after all, you’re only as young as the life you live. Personally, I might go back to twenty-one again this year. At least until I graduate.

Ben McCabe

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4 Comments on this post.
  • Elena
    26 February 2013 at 21:29
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    I never completely got that ‘real world’ argument people dosh around when moaning about students. It’s like glossy magazines claiming that ‘real’ women have a BMI of 45 and a double chin you could use as extra storage. The real world: You’re only part of it if you pay your taxes, have curves and cellulite.

  • Ben McCabe
    27 February 2013 at 08:12
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    @Elena – I get your point there. I’m not trying to say that paying taxes and having a full-time job make you more grown-up; it’s just a different type of responsibility, but one that popular conception has, as you point out, designated as more ‘real’.

    The problem for students is that to some, the lecture hall will always resemble the nursery classroom. It doesn’t matter that learning institutions are vital to our progression as a country – it’s a popular misconception that we’re not ‘useful members of society’ because we don’t work from 9-5 Monday to Friday (if my experience of final year is anything to go by, we actually work more than that, but that’s another column for another time).

  • Dave J
    27 February 2013 at 09:57
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    You are pretty old. There are plenty of adult children and childish adults, and neither is much better than the other necessarily. The only advice I can share is what my brother said to me just before I graduated university:

    “Enjoy university Dave, because real life is shit”.

  • Sammy B
    27 February 2013 at 14:02
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    Having been to university straight from school, then leaving and working in ‘the real world’, then coming back to uni, then leaving again to go into ‘the real world’ once again, I have to say that on both sets of occasions it felt different.

    First time round, uni felt like being a proper adult, taking responsibility for the first time, paying ‘bills’, realising that the fridge didn’t stock itself and loo rolls didn’t magically appear when the old one was done. Then when I left uni and got a job, it felt very much the same.

    Second time round, uni felt more like school. I felt like a 6th former surrounded by GCSE students who had ‘no clue’ as to the realities of their situation. I agree with Ben that uni seemed a lot easier now (second time round) because I was older, ‘wiser’ and could see through all the bullshit.

    And when I left uni for the second time I realised that actually, being a student and being in the real world weren’t that different until you make the big jumps.

    Getting a flat of your own, moving in with someone, getting a pet, owning a house. The changes from the student life style for me came when I realised that I cannot just pick up my bag on a whim and go away on holiday for a week, because I know I have to put the bins out, I have to earn money to pay the mortgage, I have to feed the damned cat otherwise I’ll come back to a thinner raggedy animal that will likely try eat my face as soon as I get close.

    But then I realise, I’m 28, I don’t want to be a young 21 year old (apart from in physical fitness) still in uni with no money bumming around. Now, it means more when I get the time to do what I really want to do.

    And weekends once again have meaning!

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