When the clock struck the midnight of my eighteenth birthday, instead of knocking back a jager-bomb in celebration that I could finally buy alcohol legally, I spent the hour streaming tears into my bathroom sink pleading rather dramatically to my mum for her to not let me grow up. Why?
I was terrified. Of everything.
The last month of the 2010s was in full swing and I was scared of how futuristic the year 2020 sounded. I knew that entering adulthood meant taxes, house insurance, car insurance, mortgages that my generation are never going to be able to afford – the list went on, an endless list of stuff so boring that as a kid I shrugged them off as things I’d never have to deal with, as growing up was “far, far away”. I knew that adulthood meant leaving the safe arms of secondary school where people could tell me what to do and how to be.
I knew that it meant losing friendships, leaving home and not hearing the sound of my dog’s paws padding down the stairs to greet me whenever I came through the door. Add a hot, steaming pile of eco-anxiety and Black Mirror-esque doomsday panic to that and you get eighteen-year-old me sobbing in a bathroom, crippled by a fear of change and an even worse fear of not knowing what I was going to do in the face of it.
I not only carry my past worries on my back but also fresh ones that have manifested since
I’ve suffered with nostalgia my whole life. I’ve kept diaries since I was twelve and pressed everything from train tickets to flower petals to shopping receipts within the pages – just to ensure that I never forget who I was or what happened. Taylor Swift has been my most-listened-to artist since I was eleven, partly because I love her music and partly because I’m so used to and comforted by her sound that I’m too stuck in my ways to branch out and listen to someone else!
I’d like to say that despite all these anxieties, I entered my first year of adulthood with grace, and have since walked into my twenties with my head held high.
Newsflash! I haven’t.
As I near my 21st birthday I not only carry my past worries on my back but also fresh ones that have manifested since coming to university, where I now feel stuck-between. I am too sombre to hold the identity of the free-spirited girl that I was in my teens, but not confident enough to call myself a woman in her twenties.
I wonder to myself if the only thing we’ve got in common now are the past memories that we share
I’m not sure if home now is waking up in my childhood bed to my old One Direction poster peeling off of the wall or if it’s become the sound of my housemates laughing in the kitchen as we’re about to have dinner together. When I go out with the friends I grew up with, I’ve got new inside jokes that they don’t understand and I wonder to myself if the only thing we’ve got in common now are the past memories that we share.
It’s this tendency to see the past in rose-coloured glasses that has meant I often fail to be mindful of the wonderful things that I have in my life in the present. I struggle to have confidence in the person that I am now as I think my younger selves would have wanted more from me, despite how much I am trying.
I’m learning to loosen my grip on the old to welcome in the new
I know that the key to growing up is learning to let go. To take my foot out of the door of the past and hold both feet firmly on the ground of the present. To look around me and realise how lucky I am to be studying something I love while living with the people I’m closest to and the rest only a text message away.
I have my health and a heart that’s still young and an empty bookshelf to be filled with future diaries in which new memories and experiences are going to line the pages.
While I don’t think that the aches and pains of growing up are ever going to go away for me, I’m thankful to have had a teenagehood that was something special, so much so that it’s become too hard to let go of. I’m learning to loosen my grip on the old to welcome in the new as much as I can. And I’m going to work on listening to new music!
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