A letter to 20-year old me on the last day of my twenties.

Hello,

It’s me. I mean you. We’re the same person – sort of. I get my eyebrows tinted now so I look less like an egg but you eat a lot of cheesy pasta bake without getting stomach cramps so it equals itself out.

Right now you’re about to head into your final year at university. Sorry to be a downer but it’ll be one of the hardest years of your life – one you’ll talk about a lot when you’ve had too much red wine (yeah – you’ll start liking red wine at some point) and get really existential. Basically, you’ll get involved with a grade A douche and it’ll leave a lot of scars. Then you’ll move into a flat that has bedbugs, have an allergic reaction to them, and get some extraordinarily sexy green blisters on your shins and your cheeks and your palms. And worst of all – you’ll forget to have dinner on your 21st birthday and you will throw up on yourself and a stranger’s shoes in a club.

Ten years later you’ll still focus on the negatives before you focus on the positives. Like in the first year of your twenties you’ll also – in spite of everything – get a first in your degree. You’ll get a job working on a show in the West End the day after you hand your dissertation in (your dissertation on the gendering of puppets in Jacobean theatre that has proven to have absolutely zero impact on your life ever since.). And Taylor Swift is about to release a banging album.

Just to warn you, you’ll spend a lot of your early twenties going on bad dates. One time you’ll get food poisoning in his bed but don’t worry; you’ll somehow get away with it, because while he’s in the shower you strip all his bedding, stick it in the washing machine, and he’ll think you’re wife material because of how hygienic you are, rather than what you actually are: broken by IBS and the most mortified you have ever been. And you’ll date a fairly famous actor, who you won’t realise is famous at the time, and he will play videos of himself to get hard and eat steak for breakfast. In the words of Nora Ephron though, everything is copy.

So you’ll finish uni and spend the next few years working yourself into the ground trying to forge a career in theatre, believing that being overworked and underpaid is the key to success. You will have five jobs at one point and still not earn enough money to do things your friends are doing – you will always be the person to ask to ‘split the bill’ and it never gets any easier soz. You will ignore the sensation of nausea you wake up to every morning telling you maybe work isn’t the answer to everything and you need to take better care of yourself. You will push on.

Then. When you’re 23 you will get a letter from your first love. You won’t read it for three days and then you will get drunk with your best friend and read it in bed. He’s leaving the country and wants to say goodbye. You will start talking again. A lot. He will encourage you to take a holiday and on the first night you will both get incredibly drunk and then he will throw up on your back and you will text all your friends smugly telling them obviously you were never going to get back together. But then you will get back together because your friends are always right and also he is the love of your life.   

You’ll go long-distance for three months and it will nearly kill you because all those trust issues you’ve been ignoring for a few years will surface. You will work work work all that summer and then you will have a minor breakdown and spend a lot of time at Monkey World and… you will start writing. A blog about how freaked out you are about turning 25 (BRB – just throwing up in my mouth), that not many people read (except Carrie Fisher that one time), and at some point it will start to feel a bit pointless because everyone moves on from Facebook (yeah it’s not a big deal in 2020 unless you’re over 50), but a few years later a TV company will buy the rights to develop it for screen.

Because you’re gonna be a screenwriter! You’ll stop pretending to be cool and start talking proudly about all the years you spent as a teenager writing Casualty and Holby City fan fiction. But before then between the years of 25 and 28 you will get a full-time job – just one job, imagine – at a theatre. You will meet one of your favourite actresses and she will be everything you ever imagined and then you’ll meet one of your favourite actors and he will be a dick. You will make friends for life and you’ll start writing plays. Later, one of those plays will get you onto a Channel 4 course for screenwriting and things will change. You will get a writing agent and meet the TV companies who made your favourite TV shows, you will go freelance, and you will write for a living.

You will still have bad skin. Sorry. It’s really shit but I’ve tried everything and given up. You will start tinting your eyelashes though and that will change your life in a really small but meaningful way. You will surprise yourself with how many facial expressions you have.

You’ll get married in 2018. To Ed. In his mum and dad’s back garden and it will be sunny. You won’t wear white and you’ll think about writing a really banging wedding speech, but in reality, you’ll forget until the night before, and then one of your bridesmaids will get norovirus and you’ll be so sad she can’t come that you forget to write it at all, and you’ll just make it up on the day, and mention the word virginity four times in front of the grandparents. At least you don’t mention that time when you were still teenagers and you had sex on his trampoline.

Your friends are the other loves of your life. Over the next decade you will watch them (almost always) succeed and (every now and then) fail – together with you – but think they are strong, and beautiful, and funny, and brainy, and god damn miraculous in every way no matter what. You’ll fall in love with women in general – you will become a raging feminist. Speaking of feminism, your boobs will grow. Not much, babe, but a little bit and it still feels important to recognise that. They’ll also start to hurt – a lot – and no one will be able to work out why and you’ll be really preoccupied by this for a long time.

You’ll become a vegetarian – desperately trying to be a vegan but sometimes still succumbing to a Wispa gold. You’ll worry about the climate constantly. You will feel confused about bringing children into a world that’s more than a bit fucked and this will really start to bug you because you love babies a LOT. You’ll run two half marathons but you still won’t be able to do a press up. You will develop a slightly strange rash around your jaw and when you go to the doctor he will tell you this is likely a sign that you drool in your sleep. You will beat up your body a lot. You will think it’s not enough. Then someone you love will die and you will realise bodies aren’t for hating. They are for moving, running, hugging, laughing, jumping, feeling, living. You will work very hard to feel more positive about your body and grateful for your life in every way but you will still cry sometimes.

You will begin to build a life with a man who makes you laugh every single day. You will get stuck in a house with him for a long time when a weird virus descends upon the world and you will celebrate a lot of 30ths on Skype. You don’t have any children yet. I know you thought you’d probably have five before you turned 30 – sorry I got a bit side-tracked. You do have a lot of house plants though and only one has died. BTW you will build a house. Not you personally – but you, and Ed, and Ollie, and Niamh. You’ll live in a building site for a year and then you’ll be neighbours. You will spend half your twenties as the four of you and will feel lucky every day – except when Ollie buys you PG Tips – and even luckier when your baby nephew joins the party. You will beam with pride as you watch your mum find a new career path and change people’s lives. You will watch your dad turn loss into something powerful (just like a superhero) and cycle a crazy amount of miles to raise money for charity. You will think your brothers are both the funniest and the most annoying people in the world (just kidding).  

This decade, you will do things that scare you. Things you regret. Things that make you laugh until your sides hurt. You will cry a lot. You will drink and dance and sing a lot. You will surprise yourself. Disappoint yourself. Hate yourself. Love yourself. And – on one unfortunate occasion – try to wax yourself, accidentally get it stuck in your crotch, and think about going into witness protection.

And then now. The week of your 30th birthday. You’ll feel… Lots of things. Weird. Tired. Nervous. Excited. Doubtful. Happy. Sad. Curious. Okay. You’ll ditch the long hair at last and feel better for it and Ed will say it’s sexy because it’s practical and doesn’t get caught in the plug. You’ll have a really bad headache all week and wonder if this is the end or if it’s because you cut your hair off and you’ve lost your powers. You’ll wonder what’s around the corner and try not to let your health anxiety get the better of you. And then, my younger self, you’ll do what you do best; order a shit ton of croissants to start your thirties in style and know you’ll figure the rest out later. Because some things never change.

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