I am 24. I am jobless. I still live at home with my loving, albeit growingly disgruntled, parents. I can’t cook for shit. My culinary skills stretch as far as scones (of the cheese variety, FYI) and I’m somewhat of a dab-hand at Super Noodles and hot dogs; a self-explanatory affair that involves the joyous matrimony of Super Noodles and lovingly sliced frankfurters. It’s a carborific, calorific combo – the aroma of which will be deeply infused into the fibres of all your worldly possessions for weeks after – but it’s totally worth it. In short: I am a living hashtag, and that hashtag is #fail. I’ve been involved in a deep, dark and, frankly, disastrous relationship with depression for a good few months now, whilst simultaneously holding down an affair with a Quarter-Life Crisis and indulging in the occasional flirt with anxiety. My head feels like it’s about to both explode and implode at any given moment. I can’t tell whether I’m coming or going, although I’m 98% sure I’m headed in the wrong direction and therefore may never come nor go. Life, as I imagined it, is now how I imagined it. Not at all. Not in the slightest. I was never someone in possession of a ‘plan’, but I was in possession of, what turned out to be, a hysterical notion that I wouldn’t be failing right now. At 18 years of age, I couldn’t even imagine being 24, less imagine where I’d *be* at 24; so it surprises and perturbs me immensely that I’m still basically in my infancy. I am a botty-wipe away from total regression. I half pine for retrogradation of my selfhood, because then at least I’d have an excuse for my incunabulum. Alas, it’s my knowledge of words such as ‘incunabulum’ that serve as a gentle reminder that I’m not in a gleefully-unaware state of babyhood.
It was over recent drinks with friends that shit really hit the fan and the stark contrast of our lives came crashing into focus. Whilst I am one step away from madness, they are one step down the hypothetical aisle closer to matrimony. Whilst I am a hop, skip and a long-jump away from financial stability (or, indeed, from finances full stop), they are merely a baby-step away from, well, babies. Whilst I am on the sea-bed, searching for employment life-forms, they are treading the water, supposedly fulfilled or, at the very least, pleased with their professional feats. Don’t get me wrong: I crave neither of the former things (I would be a terrible wife and an only marginally better mother, largely due to the fact that I want to be neither); but the prevalence of these glorious growths (because they are glorious, and I’m abundantly happy for each and every one of ’em) in my friends lives knocked me for six. Has life really moved *that* quickly? Have I been achieving fuck-all for *that* long? When did everyone grow-up? When did the goalposts shift? When did everyone get their shit together, and when did mine unceremoniously hit that fucking fan? I feel like I’m walking down a yellow brick road, paved with the enriching accolades and life-defining moments of my peers, and I’m going to arrive in Emerald Shitty only to be greeted by a brick wall. The saying goes: ‘different strokes for different folks’, and it’s a proverb that I drop on the regs (usually when someone is berating something that I don’t have the energy to combat), but this meet-up with gal-pals sent that sentiment whizzing around my cranium. Am I far behind, or are they far ahead? Or are we all exactly where we’re meant to be? In 20 years time will I rue the days I spent debating the relevance and meaning of my existence? Will I kick myself for making so many goddamn comparisons? Does this paranoid inadequacy and feeling of hopelessness just drop off eventually? We always hear of people getting their Big Break, but what happens to the people who don’t? Do they disappear into irrelevance? Similarly, hard work pays off… But what if it doesn’t? Part of me recognises my hyper-insanity, but a bigger part of me is hellbent on bulldozing rationality altogether. There are so many questions whizzing through my implosive, explosive mind but, annoyingly, only time can tell. And time, so far, has been a motherfucker.
Realistic mantra: Life *can* change in the blink of an eye, but we blink up to 28,000 times a day, so a solitary blink is a little optimistic. It’s also far easier to see the change happening around us than it is to see the change happening to us or within us; what with our eyeballs not being inwards.