My whole life, I’ve felt like I knew what to do next. I knew I was going to go to school, then college, then university. But what I’m realising now, a little too late, is I never filled in the plan after graduation. I knew I’d get a job, but I never coloured in the picture of how that would look – what work I’d do, where I’d live, who my friends would be and what I’d do outside of work. I know that I want to work to live rather than live to work, but I don’t really know what ‘living’ involves. Is it enough to watch Netflix and go for walks and meet friends for coffee, or is that a waste of my days off? Am I meant to be going on extravagant weekends away and out every night, drinking and partying and crawling into bed at 3am via McNuggets and a desperately chugged litre of water?
I’ve always struggled with lack of structure, right back to when I finished my school exams and didn’t know what to do with myself without hours of revision to fill my time. Now I don’t have societies or the inbuilt social network of university housemates and nights out, it’s hard to know what’s expected of me. I feel like I’ve aged before my time, rarely wanting to stay out late and instead preferring a quiet Friday night in with a homecooked dinner and a glass of wine, mirroring the patterns of the 30-somethings I work with. As much as this is an active choice, I can still feel like I’m missing out on some rite of passage of being in my early twenties, especially with half of my uni years lost to lockdown. At least back in uni, I knew what I was “meant” to be doing and could compare myself to my friends – now, even though I feel like I should be grateful your twenties isn’t idealised in the same way as undergrad years are, I miss having the template to follow. There was a swarm of students around me I could compare myself to and choose to differentiate myself from, but now I feel like I’m floating aimlessly with few friends in a similar stage of their life to me and a lack of examples to measure myself against.
This lack of structure, combined with being financially independent with my own car for the first time, has made me realise just how much I don’t know about what I’m doing. I don’t know what I want my life to look like as an adult, what hobbies I want to have or where I want to visit most often. I don’t know which coffee shops I want to recognise the regulars in, or where I should take myself when I want a day out and nobody else is around. The multitude of opportunities is thrilling and exciting, but also overwhelming – when I could do anything, how do I pick one thing? Realising that I truly do have the ability to sculpt my life into the shape I want is terrifying, but I think I’m starting to tackle it little by little, chipping away at the marble block of possibilities to reveal the contours and textures of everyday life underneath. I’m finding classes to learn Spanish and printmaking, I’m exploring new coffee shops and countryside walks, and I’m forcing myself into being comfortable in my own company by buying solo concert tickets and spending evenings alone. I still don’t feel in control of my life though, and I have no idea what lies just around the corner. For someone who doesn’t like change and struggles with the unknown, this is an uncomfortable realisation – but I’m determined to keep tackling it until I’m comfortable enough to enjoy it.