The thing about time, about life, is it just keeps going. I had my ten year high school reunion on the weekend. Against all mythology and pop cultural rules, it was entirely uneventful. Social media ensures we all know precisely what we are all doing anyway (and what our offspring are doing) so that puts paid to any shocking reveals. But still; ten years since I finished school. Jesus. Time just keeps on going, doesn’t it. I think I thought I had it way more sorted at 17 than I do now, but that’s fine. I had it sorted because I knew then but a percentage of what I do now, which is a percentage of what I will in ten years and so on, so forth. If I ever get to my Pa’s age of 92, I expect I will find everyone with less than 85 year’s life experience exceptionally tedious. But I have made peace with my 17 year old self and her certainty about how things should go and how they will go because although she meant well, she didn’t have much of a clue. And the last thing she expected was to find herself, ten years on, preparing for a future in Germany. But that’s fine. My 27 year-old self is pretty adaptable.
My 17 year-old self probably saw twenty-seven as, if not ‘old’, then certainly an age at which life should be locked in. Or she was canny enough to know that by 27, you would be expected to have it all locked in, a pest-like notion I have spent the past seven years trying to swat away. My 27 year old self knows that being locked in, on track, not only isn’t the be all and end all, but being on track is something you always are, even when it doesn’t seem like it, because there is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one way to get somewhere. Even if you don’t know for sure where that somewhere is.
My 17 year-old self sat down with a group of friends one afternoon at a cafe, as Year 12 was coming to an end, and wrote ‘futures’, little biographies of ourselves ten years from that afternoon. ‘We’ll be 27!’ we all said, as if that was a big deal. These futures were based on what we knew then (not much) how easy we assumed it was all going to be and the fact it was at a time Carrie Bradshaw was the be all and end all. My future involved a ‘high powered’ job at a glossy magazine, shoes and an apartment with decor that 27 year-old me would be repelled by and call ‘soulless’. And I think a boyfriend with a name like Steven. Which is weird. Apparently Steven was the kind of name the guy I’d ‘end up with’ (because at 17 and looking a decade ahead, having ‘ended up with someone’ goes without saying). Thinking about how I thought things would ‘turn out’ as much as things can ‘turn out’ between the ages of 17 and 27, I can only assume I was going along with what I thought was the right thing to do. It looked good on paper, that future. It looked like the kind of future anyone would want. And ten years was plenty of time to become a character from a late nineties rom-com. And find a man called Steven. Lock me in.
None of my future ‘came true’, because once I left school, it was like a rock hitting glass and a million paths splintering off the point of impact. And while my 17 year old self thought my first decade out of school would be about choosing one path and doing what needed to be done in order to have it all sorted by now, my 27 year old self now knows the past decade has been about chasing down every one of those paths. About learning and fattening and readying for the next decade and the one after that. My 17 year old self thought it would all be a foregone conclusion by now. My 27 year old self knows the past ten years have been just the beginning.
And that things are never really ‘sorted.’