Twenty-five, on the face of it, didn’t start out all that well for me. After a Big Relationship Breakdown, moving back in with my parents, and realising I was more than two years out of university but still relying on a day job for my income, things were looking bleaker than a British beach in January.
I spent some time careering wildly between holiday hotspots such as the Swamp of Sadness, the Fallow Field of Fear and the Wold of Weeping, all places where it‘s impossible to get a good tan. I dealt with this in the most sensible way I know. That is, I got blind drunk for two months and danced with terrifying hip thrusts around local bars. And weirdly, I started having a lot of fun. Snippets of optimism have begun to open their little eyes and breed inside my brain. Which is perhaps kind of gross, but as long as this optimism doesn’t choose to invite parasitic worms to the party, it can procreate as loudly and disgustingly as it wants, in my opinion.
The main heft of my new-found self worth is a dawning realisation that being 25 is brilliant. And if you don’t believe me, please imbibe the milk of truth directly from my mind udders by reading on.
1. Assuming that you live to one hundred, propped up by life-support machinery and excellent head gear like Darth Vader, you’ve already had roughly 25% of the bad and embarrassing stuff that’s going to happen, happen. By the time you are 25, you’ve faced challenges and overcome them, failed at things a few times, and succeeded at a couple more. Knowing that you’ve been soul-achingly sad before and got through is like a nice scarf for your brain and heart, one that’s comforting and secure and STRONG. You are an unstoppable tidal wave, if tidal waves were also sexy and a whiz on the dance floor.
2. Things may not have come together, but they are coming together. That stuff you’ve been doing in your early twenties, like getting a degree, producing work, making friends and contacts, all starts to add up. Those moments you had when you were 23 and felt like you were just throwing all your creative endeavours into an indifferent abyss begin to become worth it. There are your blogs, drawings, designs, out in the world, there to make you laugh, or shudder in embarrassment, or have a glow of pride. All of this matters, because it represents your personal development, and all of it makes you just that little bit more employable.
3. You can sort of cook now! That time you set the tea towel alight while trying to make rice edible is a distant memory. Also, the evening you singed all the hair off your hands. And when that recipe book unfortunately went up in flames. And the time when…. Perhaps it’s best not to remember all of them. The point is, you are much less likely to die in a moment of self-combustion than you were 5 years ago. And you can impress the people you fancy by not putting whole cloves of raw garlic into a pasta sauce, because you know now that this is horrible and possibly even dangerous.
4. Not caring quite as much what other people think is a liberating experience, and the more you reach into adulthood the more this “fuck ya’ll” attitude settles in. Obviously it’s important to have some understanding and appreciation of your impact on others so as not to become a sociopath, but that tortuous, all-encompassing self consciousness begins to abate a little. You realise that you are actually alright looking. Hell, you might not be Beyonce (unless you are, of course) but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing – imagine carrying a beautiful face around all day! It would be a nightmare! Literally no one would let you forget it. And you do have things to offer the world, a fair dose of talent and possibly even the capacity to be a success in the thing you love. Maybe the path to where you want to go isn’t running smoothly, but the fact you are working hard enough to make it run at all is the first step.
5. You are still really young. You can get a Youth InterRail pass around Europe. Or sign up to ‘young people international volunteering’ schemes. You may only have one year left to do these things, but if anything that adds to the urgency. Maybe you should take a train around Italy for a month. YOU MIGHT AS WELL, you are super young! Young enough to work hard and play hard (at least that’s what I’d say if I was an contestant on the Apprentice and general all-round knob). And you literally have YEARS of being young ahead of you, except this time you aren’t blindly feeling your way through life, falling down every bear pit that some sadist has dug in front of you. You have at least SOME experience, so you’ll only fall in maybe 40% of them. And even then you’ll fight that bear and carry on, because you are a superhero. It’s going to be amazing.