Um, hello? PSA: Life Doesn’t Have To Have Direction

by Maddie

Howdy. How are things? If you’re reading this and you’re at the early stage of your twenties, like myself, then apparently things are supposed to be rather shite. Wanna know why?

When researching for this piece, I literally typed the words: ‘life in twenties’ into trusty Google. And what came up shocked me. Every single search result on the first few pages was some combination of the words: ‘How to Ruin Your Life in Your Twenties’; ‘How to Survive Your Twenties’; ‘How to be Successful in Your Twenties’, or ‘Why Navigating Your Twenties is Hard’. And there was my personal, rather promising favourite: ‘Why Your Twenties are the Worst Years of Your Life’. Looks like we should all be sobbing and shaking in a corner, then.

My face if someone else asks me what I’m doing with my life next year

To be completely, jaw-droppingly honest, I’ve had my fair share of shaking and sobbing in a corner in recent weeks. But that’s before I bloody well got my act together and realised a corker of a concept: it’s absolutely, totally, utterly fine for your life to currently have not one ounce of direction. Isn’t that a bloody well liberating thought?!

Anecdote time: that last few weeks have especially hit me like a brick to the stomach because my third year at university is going by quicker than you can say ‘BA English and Creative frickin’ Writing’. Grad schemes have opened and, mostly, shut, my dissertation is now terrifyingly in full swing, and assignment after assignment is rolling around. Not to mention the fact that it is going to be December THIS WEEK. This is just all not okay.

Therefore, the last few weeks have found lil ol’ Maddie in a full-blown quarter-life crisis. Everything I thought I was and knew I stood for seemed to have disappeared into the rather blustery, disgustingly chill, winter air. Throw me back to first year, and I could have told you that as soon as I was to graduate I’d be living it up in LDN, a trainee journo with high hopes to enter the glossy world of fashion magazines, but now the premise of such a possibility has actually arrived, I don’t feel ready. This is in part due to confidence (I still feel 17 inside and therefore cannot imagine I am emotionally or physically capable of holding down a real job like the professional people I look up towards) but it’s also because I’m just well and truly flippin’ worn OUT. Rushing through some of the most challenging years (academically and personally) from A Levels right through my degree has meant I haven’t really had a chance to take a bladdy breather. And I really need a breather.

But this is the very point, though. We’ve always known what’s expected of us: primary school, secondary school, A Levels or college, then an apprenticeship or university. Along comes third year, and it feels as if every single possibility, with a million different routes you can take to said possibility, has suddenly opened up like a complex map of a country you’ve never before visited, yet are expected to navigate. It’s like when I’m driving my lil Volkswagen Up someplace I’ve never been before. I need my Satnav. And to understand said Satnav, I need the map zoomed in, so I can see the direct route I’m to be taking. If the irritating woman starts barking a change of route to you, or God forbid the map zooms out to show you the nearby roadways, you’re stuffed. We like being given a set path to follow, and we don’t like change.

I’m fortunate in that I have somewhat of an end goal I’d like to achieve: I’d love to be a magazine or digital journalist. I’d like to carry my little blog on, on the side, and take on other creative pursuits, such as other forms of writing, or starting a podcast. I know that every job I ever have has got to have a creative element in it, because that’s what I thrive on. However, how exactly I’ll get to that point seems to have a million and one routes, and I have no bladdy idea which route to take. Do I want to do a Master’s in Journalism? Would be pretty swaggy to say I have a Master’s, yet I’m the gal who’s been found lamenting over how she’s ‘soooo done with education’ approx. 365 times a day for the last three years of my degree. Do I want to apply for an internship in London, to get my foot in the door? Sounds like a bloody wonderful idea, before you factor in that I’ll have to live down there, with no pennies to my name once my landlord has swallowed the rent each month. Do I just get a ‘normal’ job, as my sensible family like to call it, to save up for a couple of years before taking the plunge in London town? Sounds about the right path and all, but I’m not a fan of sensible. Sensible is boring.

This is before I even factor in where I’d like to spend my next year, doing whatever I choose to do. Do I want to risk poverty to live in the bright lights of the city of London? Should I move in with my boyfriend in Bristol, cutting down costs for the pair of us and in turn gifting him with my irritating presence 24/7? Or do I head back home, entering a life I left three years ago, fitting right comfortably in, and potentially never wanting to leave or progress with my life ever again because comfort is enough? Tell me, pals, because I for one do not have the answer.

It’s these kind of worries that have plagued my lil pea-sized brain for the last few weeks, turning my thoughts to mush and stopping me from thinking about much else. But it’s only as I was lying on my boyfriend’s bed this last weekend, attempting to have a cosy cuddle as we made our way through The Princess Switch on Netflix (absolute corker of a film by the way- it’s so awful it’s wonderful and Vanessa Hudgens is the OG BABE) that I realised I was missing out on the present moment. I’d been sending my brain into such a tizz worrying about my career options and potential life choices, that I’d barely taken in the film, enjoyed the cuddle (something that I don’t get to do often with me being in Brum and Sam being in Brizzle) or lived in the moment. And as Vanessa switched from princess to pauper (mahoosive, yet blatantly obvious, spoiler) on the screen in front of me, I bladdy well forced my brain to snap out of panic mode. Why waste precious moments worrying about something that will inevitably have to happen, and will ultimately work out in the end, one way or another?

And why worry about something that is actually incredibly exciting and liberating, when you boil down to it? Never before in our lives have we been at such a pivotal moment when things could go either way, myriad routes could be taken, and twists and bends could be round just another corner. To refer to something a wise old woman, I’m sure, once said: the world is our oyster. Stop mappin’ out your life- start LIVING it.

So to Google search results, I say: ‘you’ve got it all wrong, kiddo’. I detest the narrative society thrusts upon us twenties: that we should have everything figured out, that we must be successful by 24, that we need to be settled with marriage, kids, a house sans mortgage and a comprehensive will written detailing who will get what fortunes when we inevitably pop our clogs. To that I shout, with vigour: ‘NO!’. Life can have no direction, and it’s the lack of direction that should feel positively revitalising. A new chapter is to be written; time for a new page to turn. Get yo pen and start writing, gal- and remember, a good few drafts, crumpled sheets of paper and many a fresh biro are what makes a perfect, polished story. Aka the story of your life- you get my analogy? No? Okay bye- I’m off to enjoy the freedom of not knowing.

To society we say…

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