I am very young. Rationally, I know this. I am 21. I (hopefully) have a good 50 or 60 years of life left ahead of me. Unfortunately, however, I have a bad habit of thinking and feeling like I’m much older than I am.
As a small child my mum always joked (read: despaired) that I 7 going on 17. Growing up with two older brothers, I always wanted to do what they were doing; experience the milestones they were experiencing; live the life they were leading. Combine that with the fact that I’ve always struggled to make friends, and have seemed to get on better with my brothers’ and mother’s friends than people my own age, and I’ve always felt like I’m much older than I am.
Even now, at 21, I keep thinking I’m older than I am. My other half is five years older than me; and my life is pretty much split between work, where most people are a good 5 years older than more, or on the internet, where the people I watch and interact with are at least two or three years older than me. All of which leaves me feeling like I should be about 25.
25 might not sound old – or even sound much older than 21 – but the difference between 21 year old me and 25 year old me will be massive. I know this, because the difference between 16 year old me and 21 year old me in unbelievable. For a start, 21 year old me knows how to contour, when 16 year old me had barely mastered eyeliner (okay, spoiler alert: 21 year old me hasn’t mastered eyeliner yet either. Maybe that’s a milestone for 25).
There are two big problems with constantly feeling like I’m older than I am. Firstly, it means I put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel like I should have done more with my life, and (most notably) achieved more with my career (even though my career only officially began 6 months ago). I look at people who I perceive to be my age (but who are, in actual fact, at least 2 or 3 years older than me), and I look at what they achieve and I think ‘Great. They’re so much further ahead than me. I can never catch up.’
Which is ludicrous. Because I am 21. Twenty. One. If I were American, I would have only just been allowed to buy alcohol. I literally only graduated from university a few months ago. There is literally no pressure on me to have figured everything out. And yet here I am, despairing because I’ve not yet published a book or been on telly or done any of the things I want to achieve in life.
The other problem with feeling older than I am is that I feel like I already know everything. It’s a trait we tend associate with teenagers. We tend to think of 16 year olds walking around, thinking they know everything, and then reaching the grand old age of 20 and realising that actually, they were young and naïve and of course their opinions have changed.
What I hadn’t realised, however, was that 21 year old me would be as naïve as 16 year old me.
It only hit me the other day at work, where a co-worker of mine was offering me some much-needed (although I didn’t realise it at the time) career advice. I realised then that I had been so convinced I knew exactly where I wanted to go in life, and how I was going to get there. After receiving the advice, I started questioning everything I thought I had known.
It was then I realised how very young I actually am, and how much I still have to learn.
So yes, I’m growing up and I’m growing old (although not as old as I think) – but I am still very, very young. And that’s okay.