Over the hill? More like out of the valley

And hey, when the hill looks like this you’re sure as hell going to enjoy the ride down.

I am twenty-one years old, and closer to twenty-two these days, so usually when people find this out and have got over their initial jaw-droppage (I should explain: I look like I am about twelve, which is great for getting child discounts to things but not so good when I am trying to do an adult’s job and am approached by concerned parents who worry that their children have been put in the care of a pigtail-sucking schoolgirl) their eyes glaze over and they begin to make noises about how lucky I am to be right in the middle of my ‘glorious youth’. But unlike most people my age, or if Garnier will have us believe, unlike most people that have ever trod the earth, I am looking forward to being middle-aged like you wouldn’t believe. I dream of the menopause and varicose veins. By the end of this post, I hope at least one of you loyal readers will feel the same – if you are not already there, that is, in which case stop complaining, embrace your grey hairs and go and buy something from M&S.

You see, being young is hard, and not only is it hard but it is also a vicious circle of making itself ever more unpleasant. As a young adult I am constantly feeling the pressure to be doing young person things like partaying, splurging my money on booze and like, awesome gigs, staying up until 4am every night, committing wild and parent-disappointing acts like accidentally going on a plane to Edinburgh because I was dressed up as the Queen for a fancy-dress rave…however, like the majority of young adults, I don’t do these things but submit to the much more pleasant and sustainable ‘everything in moderation’ lifestyle where you drink sometimes and sleep sometimes and try to get your five-a-day. Thus the vicious circle begins, because like most young people I am crushingly disappointed in myself for wasting my youth being mundane when I should be being ker-ayzy, pretty miserable when I try the more impulsive and hardcore existence, and finally drawn back to my normal life where I am happy and healthy but unfortunately collecting no frenzied and animalistic experiences that I will most likely never have the chance to experience again. Thus I am once again disappointed…what a Teufelskreis.

Being young is work, a genuinely exhausting thing which requires a lot of attention and constant care to ensure that one does not suddenly send it all to hell in a handbasket. Think of the things we obsess about as our default settings which we have to tend to in order to be accepted by our peers and superiors, such as:
1. Being ambitious and having some sort of potential. The driven ones always have to be striving and straining for the next high-profile internship or university accolade, and the lazy ones are simply nagged so much that the sheer force of the wind caused by people’s scolding breaths gives them forward momentum.
2. Looking great. There seems to be some kind of ridiculous idea among humankind that if you are young you automatically look fantastic and if you don’t you simply haven’t yet found the right way to look fantastic. This is plainly untrue. Young people have just as much reason to look bad as old people: we are gangly or dumpy or greasy or over-made-up or plastic-looking or too-skinny or doughy or eczematastic or simply have the misfortune of having committed to a regrettable haircut. But to rectify all this we have to spend appalling amounts of time and money trying to conceal or make good of it all somehow.
3. Being ‘wild and young’. If among my relatives, they ask me with expectant glee what insane adventures I have been getting up to, how many blokes’ arses I have pinched, etc. When I give my disappointing reply their faces fall like they’d booked tickets to see a Monty Python reunion and been given seats to watch a tired-looking goat simply sighing in the middle of the stage.
4. Having a romantic interest. Let’s face it, if you are my age and not either with a significant other or embroiled in some fantastic dramatic tryst people always assume you have gayness issues. People will not allow young people to simply be boringly single. It doesn’t happen. My grandmother thinks (and I suspect hopes) that I am a lesbian.
5. This is the last of my non-exhaustive list: having ‘the best years of your life’. It is assumed that these years (from about fifteen to thirty) are the ‘best years’, the time when you look and feel your best and the world is your proverbial mollusc. 

This is WRONG.

Puberty? Exams? Essays? Boy/Girlfriends? Having to decide upon your future? Having little to no money? Learning to drive? Homework? New rules of social politics? Sudden and all-consuming responsibilities like learning to look after yourself away from your parents? How can anyone be expected to forge through all of the above with a cheeky grin and a wink? The growing up process and the unpleasantness that comes directly after it as a result is a daily grind in itself and I have heart-bursting quantities of sympathy for all the pre-teens in the world who are just about to enter into this bit themselves. It is the universe’s biggest learning curve, and somehow you have to fit Chemistry revision into your day too.

So, middle age is going to be bliss, and let me paint you a picture of why. You wake up in the morning at a good time, feeling alright because you went to bed at a good time last night because it was completely acceptable at your age to do so without feeling like a ‘sad-arse’. You dress in the clothes you like rather than the clothes society likes because either you dress well by this age or you are old enough that people expect you to dress badly and so it doesn’t matter one shaving of a fig what you have on. You go to work which is either good or not so good but at least either way providing you with good old-fashioned money with which you can buy things. You have a croissant with your coffee at work because you don’t really feel the need to impress people with your looks anymore and it doesn’t matter that you are not sculpted like a cartoon drawing of Scarlett Johansson. You come home to the place you have lived for long enough that everything is already there, all the furniture and internet equipment and lamps and spices and bedclothes that you need to have a comfortable series of months without having to constantly figure out if you really need a wok or whether there’s any point in spending three quid on a tiny jar of turmeric. You DON’T do homework or an essay at this point but rather have a glass of wine, watch something amusing on television and perhaps even chat to someone, because you either have a long-term partner or at this point you have known all of your friends for over five years or more and don’t have to put on a front unless you can really be bothered. You have a pleasant evening relaxing and maybe enjoy one or two of the chocolates your friends brought round at your dinner party because for some reason when you get older people always give each other really good chocolates. Or olive oil, but that’s for another time.

Eventually you go to your comfortable bed which you chose yourself rather than being assigned it from a selection of student-accommodation beds which are all warped and hard like old toast. You sleep well, and as the next morning is a Saturday morning you stay in bed for an hour and a half reading the paper and then you still have time to have fun before lunchtime because you didn’t stay up until dawn and that means you can wake up at 9.30am without resenting it. Hey, I never said middle age would be a party, but I do rather think it would be swell.

Rose T