Friday, 11 March 2016

You're having a baby and I'm still a baby myself (or why we should never compare ourselves to our peers when we're all completely different entities with diverse hopes and plans and timelines)

Me and my girlfriends send each other a LOT of screenshots. We have a Facebook group imaginatively called 'the love message' and it sees all kinds of action. It is relentless, arguably one of the most time consuming commitments in my life. You can have one evening away from your phone (you know, to live your life or whatever) and by the time you've checked it six hours later you have 256 delirious messages to catch up on: one of you's had a pregnancy scare, another one's struggling over what brand of biscuits to take into work and another's flirted with, and since abandoned, the idea of getting a bob (these examples are only very slightly exaggerated.) Amidst these dramatic declarations, often all in capitals, you will find dozens of the inescapable 'ugly baby pics'. Let me start by saying that no babies are ugly; they are all, of course, tiny miracles. BUT that doesn't mean that they are quite as cute as you think they are when you're uploading a picture of them taking a shit, smashing banana all over their heads or screaming. Your mum would love to see those pictures, your partner would probably want to frame them and scatter them artfully around his office, your very own 'love message' would coo over them endlessly, but me? I could live without them.
Don't get me wrong, I am beyond sure that there is an equivalent 'love message' out there somewhere that sends screenshots of my constant stream of book cover photos and oversharing Facebook statuses, declaring to their friends 'what a boring cunt!' But that's okay. I am well aware that my ramblings won't be to everyone's tastes, just as some people's statuses aren't to mine. Gemma (name changed. I know no Gemmas), who I haven't spoken to in real life since year 10, yes your 'other half' is a 'star' for running you a bath and making a shepherd's pie from scratch while you were working a late shift but tell him, don't tell me.
I'm getting sidetracked, and the real point I'm trying to make isn't really about Gemma and her bubble baths.
Everyone feel free to express yourselves! I certainly do.
The real issue is that we should never look at these posts and compare our own lives with everyone else's. THIS IS VERY, VERY DANGEROUS AND DESTRUCTIVE AND UNHEALTHY.
I just turned 25 and have next to nothing in place by traditional (and my nonna's) standards. I've almost definitely had something of a quarter life crisis (see previous post where I talk of drinking gallons of wine and crying a lot on the sofa). I am unexpectedly newly single (can I still say 'newly' six months on? I think I can), in a job I quite like but don't plan on doing for the rest of my life, and renting a place that drains around 80% of my income. I will be renting for a long time (possibly forever?) and that makes me sad for a number of reasons, but mainly because I really have my eye on so much stellar furniture and there are quite a few pictures that I'd actually like to hang on a wall with a nail one day. But that's fine too.
We are all different, my friends, and I am not panicked in the slightest about my situation. Why should I be? My great grandmother lived to 105, and that is an unspeakable amount of years to fill. If I tick everything off in the first quarter, what am I going to fill my time with for all the rest of the long years?
I don't eat quite as well as my great grandmother and the air I breathe is nowhere near as clean, so I might not still have 80 years in me, but I hope to have SOME, and I want to do everything in due course. I have reason to believe that I will never be this young again, and I'm often not very youthful in my chosen activities as it is. I already stay in 4-5 (sometimes 6) nights a week and if I were to have a young family I'd be far too tempted to just stay in all 7 nights. All I need is an excuse and I'm staying in. But I don't WANT to be old before my time. I want to be old when I'm old.
Some people do want to do it all now though and that. is. okay. If all you've ever dreamed of is being a homeowner and you can afford to be, do it! Prune your roses, hang your drapes, pay your council tax! Live your dream!
If you've been dreaming of having a baby since you were a baby yourself, stop taking the pill, put some spirulina in your smoothie, pop them out like there's no tomorrow!
Thankfully I'm surrounded by people with very diverse timelines and for that I am SO GRATEFUL. My mother had her first and only child (me) at the arguably mature age of 36. She is the best mum I've ever had or met. That is not necessarily an objective viewpoint but she just is.
My ex employer had her baby boy through IVF at 40 and once confided in me that she still thought she had him too early.
One of my 'love message' girls got married late last year. I would never have predicted that she'd be the first, her husband is quite a bit older, and yet I do not for a second doubt that both of them got married at precisely the right time for them. I was ecstatic for them, but I never wished it was me (I don't mean me marrying her husband, obviously, I just mean getting married in general.)
Maybe I'll get married, maybe I won't, but it's not on the horizon, and I'm glad about that.
I am definitely not having any babies for a while. Not on purpose anyway. Fuck. Touching wood everywhere as I type that. I want them, I want loads actually. But not yet. I'm still far too selfish to dedicate my life to another soul, and I still have many childless boxes I want to tick off my to-do list.
I'm toying with the idea of going back to school. I had a brief moment of panic where I thought, 'stop being ridiculous, you're too old to go back to education!' But then I got a hold of myself and realised that 'too old' is a made up concept. If I don't get in, it won't be because I'm too old. That's almost definitely against the law. If I don't get in, it'll be for one of two reasons:
1. I haven't applied
2. I'm not good enough
My cousin did her masters at 30, my dad got his at night school in his mid 30s. There's a cherished photo we have of him, balding, in his cap and gown and he looks as proud as punch. They weren't too old.
My housemate loves his job and will stay in it for as long as he can. I could not do his job. I'm yet to 'love' any job I've done. He thinks it's hilarious, but I can't help thinking that no matter what job I do I'd probably realistically always rather be doing something else, like reading or lying in bed or trying on clothes in Cos. You know, fun, non-work things.
Maybe that also comes with time. I'm waiting patiently.
One of my friends has just emigrated. Scratch that, two of my friends have emigrated. One of them really wanted to, one of them would much rather have stayed in London. Both sets of Facebook photos will be just as stunning; behind the lens the stories are very different. YOU CANNOT TELL WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN PEOPLE'S MINDS AND HOMES FROM WHAT THEY CHOOSE TO DISCLOSE ONLINE.
If I were to post about the minutiae of my real every day life, my statuses would look like this:

Sitting on the couch, staring into space, every now and then coming back to life to change the song. The playlist is Ciara and Amerie and Usher and I'm doing a bit of a dance but could similarly do a bit of a cry.

Wondering whether I can get away with not washing my hair for another day if I scrape my forelock out the way and use that last little bit of Batiste.

Feeling a bit anxious that my salmon's going to go off before I have a chance to eat it.

Scrolling through someone I used to go to nursery with's mum's cousin's Facebook profile with no real idea of what I'm looking for or why I care.

Scratching my elbow.

Having quite a mediocre day. Nothing to report.

You get the idea. Real life is often pretty boring. This is why we mustn't get caught up in checking what other people are doing. They're liars. They're truth stretchers, deceivers, cover-uppers. If they have a house and a kid and a live-in lover, they're probably looking at you with your nights out and disposable income and Zara spending sprees and thinking, 'fuck, that's the life.'
Meanwhile, you have freedom and travel and no roots, and you're probably looking at them, the settled souls, and thinking, 'eugh, if only.'
So stop scrolling and envying and calculating how long you've got left to get everything together, or the time you'll have to wait before you're free again, and enjoy the stage you're at right now. Right this second.
You'll be nostalgic about it one day when you've got a bun in the oven and a toddler tugging at your hand and a pot-bellied husband in your previously uncluttered bed. You know you will.
This weekend the 'love message' are coming en masse to my overpriced rented flat in London for an out of control drug fuelled party (read frozen pizzas, a tame night out, prosecco and topping and tailing on the sofa). One of us is a homeowner, one of us is a wife, one of us has recently graduated and got her first office job, and one of us is me. And in all our various life stages, every last one of us has our moments of panic and insecurity, and guess what? We're all completely fine!

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