I’m sitting on a train contemplating adulthood. I never much felt like a teenager, but now it’s a fact. And I can’t help feeling like I got here too soon. Thinking back to the first time I got on a tube myself, or when my Mum trusted me to get the bus to school on my own, clutching a handful of 20p coins that I shakily gave the bus driver. Snatching my ticket and jerking my head back, I could see a smile on her face and watery eyes – I was growing up. Now sitting on a train, the thousandth time on my own, it makes me realise how such a scary notion has become second nature.
I started to look back at my old school photos, and wondered how I’ve managed to lose the dimple in my left cheek over the years. How the clothes started to get a bit tighter and the collar a bit sharper. And the final one in a suit, with hair slicked back, almost ready to take on the world too soon. Now wearing the same suit, with three others in the wardrobe, ready to take on job interviews and actually seeing the minus sign in my bank account disappearing (for a short while at least).
Being 20 comes with pressure. And it is all self-inflicted. The party that I turned up to seven years ago, when I didn’t really know anyone, has become all too familiar. It isn’t about video games but the Game, and the drinks are less fizzy and more fermented. Everyone is a little bit more blurry, and the morning after is starting to hit harder. Innocence was lost a long time ago, but Ignorance is starting to fade. As I read in a recent VICE article, the party doesn’t end until you wake up and walk home.
But I don’t want to. I was sitting with a few friends in the early hours of this morning, the obligatory “Happy Birthday” sung amidst some of the people that really matter at university. I wasn’t in a mass of people, there was no cake or formality – it was a relaxed smile and a cold drink…I much prefer that. The party that I am turning up to has changed, the world has changed, but I haven’t – not in myself. The real 13 year old that got onto the bus, handing in that change, is now looking to make a different sort of change at 20.
I am not a birthday person. I never have been, but I like the fact that I can reconnect with my past, and the people that hold up that mirror. This is the first time it felt different. When I woke up feeling like things are actually clearer. I am healthy, content, assured, smiling and loved. I couldn’t ask for much more when the daylight hit my face this morning.
This birthday isn’t for me. I never want it to be. I want it to be about the people that have supported me. That have loved and lost me. That have walked in and out, leaving the door open so I can see them waving in the distant. This day is my thank you to them – not the other way around. Because I wouldn’t be here to “celebrate” it without them. I would still be the shaky handed, slick haired kid with fear in his eyes as to what was coming.
My body is not shaking anymore, although my hair is a little rougher. And I definitely need a shave. I am not afraid of the future, I am embracing it. And this means embracing you. So if you see me, hold out for that hug and smile.
Because this is for you. Cheers.