Category Archives: Being a Grown-Up

Ode to the Quarter-Life Crisis

It was Summer. You were in an office. Unaffected by the record-breaking rain and the odd, hour-long sun spot, because the windows seemed to be posters of weather, teasing the senses – smugly projecting the illusion of the outdoors. The heat kicked out by the computer monitor is now fresh air. The tapping of keys replaces bird’s song. The birds are outside, swooping against the glass; ‘Corinne, don’t you love us anymore?‘ I don’t know how to love you, birds. That was the old days; the glory days. Must you taunt me so, oh birds? I’m trying to enjoy the Summer. This long, never-ending Summer of .doc.

Can I just say, before we get into this – if you’re younger than twenty – log out, go drink some vodka in the streets and do yourselves proud. What I’d give to be hanging off some concrete step wearing fairy wings again, concerned about whether a second trip to Chicken Licken would be excessive, rather than my dreaded office phone. There’s nothing wrong with my job, I just think freedom is nice and I’m still not used to its absence. The highlights come in someone making me tea. When it goes luke warm with a skin, that’s my life in beverage form. Of course you understand.

Or maybe not. A lot of people have said to me, ‘Six months! Try twenty-six years!’ or something along those lines. Nothing could be more terrifying to me. Or they’ve said, ‘Yeah, thanks; wish I had a job.’ Or, ‘God – First World Problems.’ A lot of my problems warrant that response, funnily enough. I get it, grass is always greener. A twenty-something is never happy.

To further dampen the mood, I’ve been reminded many times that I should use my newly-earned cash to save for a pension – old-age is for fun, apparently – not now. In your prime? Please. If you’ve not heard, zimmer-frame disco dancing is where all the struggles of your life condense into one beautiful moment of validation. Looking out across the Atlantic from the deck of the cruise ship – through your top-of-the-range bottle-cap lenses – you’ll know that the mashed potatoes for dinner won’t irritate your premium dentures, and that saving and missing out on your youth paid off big time.

Whilst I wait impatiently for this, I go a bit wild in private celebration. Purchasing salmon instead of tuna. Topshop instead of Primark. Heinz baked beans – y’know, classy stuff. Living the dream. But as I unpacked my middle-range produce from a Tesco carrier one day, I thought, ‘I appreciate living the high-life, but something’s not right. This urge to throw cash at things, it’s beyond my control.’ I felt most poignantly that I should throw it at a budget airline so that they would allow me to board one of their planes.

Like, to Italy.

But who would go with me? At the time I want to go, and do what I want to do, on the budget I can afford?

(I couldn’t be bothered to ask) NO ONE.

If I was to do this, it would be solo. So I did a lot of research, drummed my fingers on a lot of surfaces, stared at a lot of walls, held my breath – and booked it. Booked the time off work, booked the hostels, booked the flights. Booked. Hit myself round the face with a book. THE BOOK OF LIFE, PEOPLE.

Yeah stuff it in Julia, ‘cos soon I will be

BUY A TICKET (ok!) GET A TAN (burn) FALL IN LOVE (ha) NEVER RETURN (probs will) – I’m living out Pinterest!

Since then I have had to answer to the phrase, ‘ON YOUR OWN!?’ many times, including my sister’s – ‘You’re mental, but millions of people do it without dying and you might be fine’ – which was comforting – but actually it’s made me happier that I am doing it, to prove to myself that it’s no big deal. To prove that my dreams about hostels full of locusts are being over-dramatic. For some people it really is no big deal; just like I find travelling alone in the UK completely fine, whereas others hate it. I mean it’s not like there are slums and disease, just the cousins of Gino D’ACampo. They would find this post, and the fact that I wanted to puke this morning, a gross over-reaction. So?

Italians eat brains and hearts, wave their hands around, catcall in the streets and think spaghetti is a starter – I’m mildly shittin’ a brick.

If you’ve done this, especially in Rome, Pisa and Florence, please comment so that I feel less insane. I leave tomorrow. I’m counting on your support, and restaurant suggestions.

Sincerely,

Quarter-Life Crisis

‘I hope a this like tha Italy you see on Pinterest. Thass a hundred dollar each.’

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Wait – Is This a Place Where Grown-Ups Work?

Wikipedia – the source of all essential and fact-based knowledge – informed me that many people of my age are considered a PETER PAN GENERATION. Danaaaa. So, self-explanatory really; we play casual flute to a young Victorian audience, then frolic about with a couple mermaids wielding a knife the size of a chipolata, and we’re adorable.

Well… half true. Actually, for us of the Peter Pan generation, jobs are of minimal availability, housing costs mean we will forever rent or live with our parents, and serious life commitments are generally avoided like swine flu. This results in an embedded ‘Ah well, I’m too young anyway’ belief that can develop into a permanent mantra. Early marriage is a no, as are lots of children – and why invest too much of ourselves into a job we’re not happy in, winding up cynical and annoyed at where we’ve ended up? Nah, life is much more fun if you just… drift. No big decisions = no big mistakes. To Neverland!

Sigh. Ok, no then.

I’m going to precede this seemingly ungrateful spew by saying I survived unemployment hell , moved away and got a job – THANK GOD. It’s temporary but it is within the realms of existence: good thing. And it’s about time because, age-wise, I’m the oldest I’ve ever been.

So on the first day, I stepped onto my first commuter train and felt real life starting. It was good. I also heard my old duvet-based lifestyle of the Gods shrieking as it melted and steamed, like a cartoon in that goop stuff from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? It was terrible. It is now bound to an exquisite Heaven, where alcohol is the most Bargainy of Booze and microwaves ping for all eternity. Oh, how useful I felt as a student, attending a single afternoon seminar, or downing five Sambuca shots, poker-faced (well. Spraying… two); but alas (…Mickey Finns), those achievements are no longer the measure of my self-worth. This is the working world, and if, like me, you picked a degree without overly considering vocation because you thought ‘academia’ would be ‘versatile’ (LOL), you might find yourself in an office with a seventeen-year-old. A seventeen-year-old, spawnofLordSugar, motherf***ing business DON. Your value is no longer dictated by your age or your education, but by your professionalism, skills and experience. Yeah. EXPERIENCE.

It’s all EXPERIENCE up in here. Guys…EXPERIENCE.

'I'm here to make Balloon Penii, and your life.' - Experience*.

Back in the day, this was a magical word. It used to mean ‘Out of Body Experience’; ‘The Jimmy Hendrix Experience’. ‘Sexual Experience’.  It’s now a prick, and won’t show up to the party when needed. Qualification is done – it now sprawls out on the sofa feeling needlessly smug. Grammatical Skill, always life and soul of the party – duh. But when all-holy Experience arrives, schmoozing, squeezing shoulders, topping up the Babycham; that’s when everyone relaxes and performs at their best. Oh look – even ‘Owns a Car’ is here, shuffling in late as an afterthought, belching. Wow, it’s so happy in this made-up party, of like, stuff on a CV – it’s just really, really happy. Thanks, Experience.

So that was a forced analogy. But Experience is pretty forced, to the point where job advertisements often SHOUT IN CAPITALS HOW MUCH THEY WANT IT. I want to be work-savvy, and wise. But as the world makes growing up seem scarier, with its CAPITAL DEMANDS and exclusive access, the less I want to be a grown-up.

Not everyone my age feels like a kid, but in countless ways, I do. This ‘working world’ is a parallel universe – one that was continuously moving whilst I wrote essays and chewed my sleeve. A world in which I’m now squashed among suit-clad citizens pouring from the commuter trains and marching briskly to their allotted stations, like ants into tall, concrete picnic baskets. I find myself mulling over memories of building a snowboy (last year), or accidentally squeezing my Ribena carton (yesterday), and when the boss leaves the office I want to shout ‘WHOEVER DOESN’T STAND ON THEIR CHAIR EATS BOGEYS!’ because I’m starting from the bottom, and having to make something of myself from scratch. Just like from Primary to Secondary, Secondary to College, College to University; every time you master your surroundings it changes, and before you know it you’re the clueless child again.

Advise me, oh Great One?

But despite the probable life-long emotional scarring, it’s not all that bad. I’m quite content in the assumption that the happiest working people still feel like kids too, putting their Career Masks on and thinking ‘I don’t know what the hell I just said’ after a big meeting with the Chairman. Maybe it’s not a grown-up job that turns you into an old git, but settling for mediocrity. Child-like adrenaline drives you forward, towards better things – just like when kids push harder on the swings to get higher, and when they jump off and stack it, just do it again. So that makes me feel better. In fact, it’s kids that should be piling into offices – they have a better attitude and get spinny chairs and everything. And we can pay them raisins. So… I can leave now, right?

*And that guy’s real name is ‘Party Guy’. Filth.