Picture the scene. I’m writing this blog from Ibiza (or wherever the cool kids go these days). I’m so hungover I’ve started crying at the thought of a World War One poem I studied at school. There’s pizza on my face, a stranger in the bath, an overwhelming smell of spilt peach schnapps on my pillow case and a tight knot of regret in my stomach. This is all happening in the background while I’m trying to drink enough water to make it back out again tonight without being sick all over myself. Again.
These are my roaring twenties, full of people, parties and photo potential.
Except they’re definitely, definitely not my roaring twenties.
Because, alas, I’m not in Ibiza.
It turns out, when I hit 25 in September, instead of living life to the large, like Taylor Swift but with less money and more shame, I actually aged sixty years and am now, officially, my grandmother. Case in point: ‘alas’ has become part of my vocabulary.
Let’s face it, I’m not writing this in Ibiza today. I was in Ibiza, three years ago. I met a guy at a pool party there and as he watched the sun go down on the beach I watched his brand new tattoo melt off his arm and into the sea. Those days are long gone, just like his ink.
This post is actually coming to you from the heart of the Brecon Beacons. That’s Wales, guys, hollllla. To be precise, it’s Cwmdu, which has a population of about 13 sheep. I’d hesitate a guess that the only thing Cwmdu and Ibiza have in common is that they share the same sun and I’ve been to both of them.
The reason why I’m telling you all this, though, is basically my way of coming to terms with the fact that however much I want to hate escaping to the middle of nowhere with Ed, to wear no make up, drink tea, play board games and climb a mountain, it actually feels so good…
I’m pretty smug right now, not because I blagged a load of free drinks last night or found a cheeseburger on the side of the road, but because I just completed an exceptionally difficult part of a 1000-piece jigsaw. The very experience of using a teapot is filling me with so much pleasure, as are the free cakes in our airbnb and the thought of having my second bath in 24 hours.
So despite feeling positively ancient, a little concerned that I’ve done my back in hunching over to examine 250 shades of jigsaw cloud, and being one comment about the weather away from retirement, life is rather lovely and I could definitely get used to it.
And all this very non-cool, non-vibey, but positively glorious behaviour, it’s got me thinking about age. We live in a pretty damn confusing world that makes a big deal about age all the time. “Why don’t you act your age for a change?” We skip from wanting to look older, sneaking into 15 movies or staying up past midnight secretly watching American Pie, to trying desperately hard to wind the clock backwards as we cry at our first wrinkle, like me, last week, googling ‘if I eat enough jelly, will my frown line disappear?’
We set ourselves goals in line with our birthdays without even the remotest essence of logic (11-year old me would be very disappointed to see I’m not carrying my third child right now) and then freak out when we inevitably fail. I feel guilty, like now, when in my head I’m acting way older than I’m supposed to, but also when I feel like I’m not maturing quickly enough (getting excited by toys in cereal).
So where’s the line? Would all this behaviour be acceptable for twenty-somethings if Ed and I turned Scrabble into a drinking game right now and spiked the teapot with vodka? Whilst part of me would still be well up for that, I’d also be apprehensive at not being able to fully enjoy saying hello to the chickens tomorrow morning because I now get blinding hangovers.
I’m not limited to being old though, oh no. I often get told I look, sound, and act younger than I am (remember THIS?). Perhaps that’s a fear of growing up and not knowing where I want to be. A consequence of feeling so averse to heading down any kind of normal direction, I just sit on the floor eating gingerbread men and missing the days of having that bubble bath man whose head changed colour in the water.
What’s really dawning on me though is that either way I don’t seem to have an in-between – where I should be, aged 25, a quarter of a century. Feeling old-old, in my head, is very different to feeling like an adult. I don’t feel like a grown-up at all, more like I’ve skipped a generation.
On my commute, at work, at dinner with friends on a Friday night, proper twenty-something occurrences, I still sometimes feel like I’m playing pretend and at any moment the teacher will call me out the playground and I’ll go back inside to making things with pipe cleaners. Really, until I set foot in Whistles for the first time, stop biting my nails, or getting tempted by the kids menu, I’m as far away from adulthood as I am from Ibiza.
However…all this tea and bath time and sheep and country air has given me ample time to sit back and reassess all this and in doing so I think I’ve found the answer I’m looking for. This is what our twenties are all about, right? Way more than being able to afford to shop/go out/holiday where Time Out recommends, more than making progress in your career, earning all the money, finding a partner and having the perfect Instagram account. It’s about self-discovery and asking questions. The time to live life as you and discover who you are before you get pulled into a definite direction.
Whether that’s finding out how good you really are at Scrabble, to where you rank in pub golf, to deciding on a favourite tea once and for all, perfecting the healthy lunchbox or choosing to go back to Ibiza to get your own tattoo it’s about finding some answers. Wherever you damn well like and however you damn well please.
This weekend, despite feeling like I shouldn’t really be stepping into Wales until I’ve finished what I’ve started, I’ve brought the kid inside me along too just to even things out. I’ve eaten nothing but Babybel, Frubes and hot chocolate with marshmallows and for every jigsaw piece I complete I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll counteract it with Jagerbombs at some point in the near future.
There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now and that’s not because I’m running away from anything or pretending to be something I’m not. It’s because I know myself a little bit better. I know doing puzzles relaxes me even if it cricks my neck. It feels good to eat a box of Cadbury’s milk tray to myself on the sofa while Ed takes over the jigsaw because I’ve spent the last two weeks in London avoiding sugar to improve my skin and spots don’t matter in Wales because the sheep are too busy birthing lambs. It feels seriously good to be with Ed, because despite living together we don’t seem to ever spend time with each other in London. We both kinda busy, dudes, Ed trying to live a normal life and master the perfect poached egg, and me, trying to get famous and dragging him down with me.
Before you think I’ve gone insane though, don’t worry, it’s not romantic in the slightest. As is tradition, when IBS kicks in half way up a mountain and Scrabble nearly ends in divorce, romance is gobbled up by a nearby sheep and gone for good. Just how we like it.
Wales, it turns out, is as good for the soul as losing your mind to Tinie Tempah in the Baltics. It’s completely silent, the perfect antidote to life in the city and I’m a little sad to be coming home. But alas, I have a life to be living and there’s plenty more time for that.