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21 June 2019

Nobody Warned Me About 23


For some reason, turning 23 felt like a milestone way beyond that of 21.

I really felt like I was in my twenties. Or as I grew up hearing it be referred to, my prime.

This was the age I longed to be when I was an awkward 15-year-old.

To me, I just knew being in your twenties would be nothing but brunch-ing, a fashionable career (almost always pictured to be magazine journalism) and a loving 6ft2 boyfriend who is a doctor/lawyer/teacher [enter preferred profession here].

Yes, I watched a lot of romcoms.

But, in some ways, it really is what I imagined.

I spend FAR too much money on brunching, and I’ve even dated the 6ft-something professionals who are now nothing but a nickname in my phone notes.

However, what I wasn’t prepared for a year ago, was for 23 to be the age people start asking, “why?”.

Instead of supporting you, encouraging you to go off and travel and see and do things to expand your horizons, you’re forced into a box of questions on repeat.

 “But what about when you come home?” 
 "But how will that look on your CV?” 
 “But why not just take long holidays to see the world!” 

It feels as if the excuse of ‘it’s fine, you’re young', floated away at midnight on my 23rd birthday, and instead, the weight of expectation walked through the door.

I can’t blame anyone, friends or family, for asking these questions, because they’re genuinely concerned.

They’re questions which have been built in a world where we were brought up to believe the our twenties was our prime - but only if you fit the ‘great job, city life, lots of cocktail parties, sexy-tall-boyfriend’ box.

What wasn’t posed to us, was the reality that came alongside those brunches and dates and high-flying jobs.

Fighting tooth and nail for low-pay positions, sitting for hours on the underground with no air-con, choosing between the quality of an apartment, the cost of rent, and the length of your commute.

And, well, I’m here to say it’s basically a huge overestimation of real life.

Which is why I decided two weeks ago, when I turned 24, that I would be spending this year living the life I want to be living, rather than the one I think I should be living.

(According to romcoms/relatives/you name it).

I recently went for a 24th birthday dinner with some old school friends, and was sat at one end of a table with two mums, two home-owners, and another friend who drank copious amounts of wine with me.

We’re all the same age, we’re all from the same place, but our goals, our lives, they’re no longer the same. Our primes will be completely different.

We’ll peak at different ages and thank goodness for that, because wouldn’t life be so boring if we were all trundling along at the same pace?

Just a couple of months ago, I wrote a blog post on why I was staying put for a year in England.

I was doing what I thought I had to do to be successful.

I wanted to be living my ‘best’ life as it had always been posed to me. I was offered well-paid jobs, I traveled up to London every weekend. I went on ridiculous dates and brunched practically every Sunday.

I was on the brink of settling down and yet every week, every month, I looked forward and thought “Okay, this is the month I’ll feel fulfilled, this is the month I’ll stop wanting to get away.

And that feeling never came, because it was a feeling I saw in others and thought I’d find in myself.

But those people aren’t me.

So, where am I writing this blog post from?

The west coast of France.

To be frank about it, I just realised that my best life is whatever I decide I want it to be.

Success isn’t measured by the job you have or how much your life compares to a Ryan Gosling film. It's defined by how happy you are.

And if you’re not currently peak happiness, what are you doing in that moment to achieve said happiness.

Need to move back home for a bit to save up or get stable? That isn’t failure.

Not working in a 9-5 office job? Absolutely not failure.

Realised you want to quit the career you thought you really wanted? You’re not failing.

Thought you wanted to travel but decided two weeks in it wasn't for you? Still. Not. Failure.

Maybe your twenties will be your prime, or maybe it won't be. But don’t waste time trying fit the ‘best life’ other people built for you.

My friend messaged me when I landed and said, “I’m genuinely happy you’ve done this. It’s where you are best.”

And he was right, it’s just taken me a long old time to realise that.

Love, Alice x

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