Slowly but surely, things are getting back to normal.
A few weeks ago, on the promise of mum’s roast dinner, chocolate and a good old fashioned session with some very dear friends, I went home for Easter. But I got a little more than I bargained for. I endured what will be entitled in my memoirs, The Worst Week of my Life, in which all deluded ideas of my own wonderful life were beaten to a pulp.
Bustling through day to day life in Liverpool, my beloved home from home, my thoughts never seem to dwell too long on the ‘big things’, those serious, long term goals that must be made and worked towards. Scary grown up things like getting on the career ladder and taking proper care of your health and fitness, learning how to do those very grown up things like how to drive, how to budget your finances, successfully operate a tin opener, walk in high heels without looking like a newly born Bambi – in the city, none of that nonsense matters.
You can walk anywhere worth going, and they all consider trainers acceptable footwear, living on the cheap is made easy by respectable outlets such as Aldi and Eurowines, and there is almost always a more dexterous flatmate within whinging distance to open your Aldi own brand baked beans for you.
Who needs the future? There is far too much going on in the present to concern yourself with, tomorrow can look after itself, Carpe Diem, YOLO, and other such cliches!
That’s what Liverpool cheers joyously.
But back in the homeland, twenty miles from the nearest bar, club or streetlight, in an area densely populated by parents and other such caring and good willing figures who ask the questions every twenty-something dreads… ‘So what are you doing with yourself these days?’, ‘Any job prospects?’ and the even more alarming ‘Any men on the scene?’ … None worth talking about, thanks Dad.
Suddenly my future (or lack off) was being rammed down my throat and I can tell you, it didn’t taste good.
I mean, yes, I think about the future, a great deal of my time is spent in serious contemplation of what I’m going to have for my next meal. But standing in my mother’s kitchen still shaking off the near-death experience of a Ryanair landing at Derry Airport, the kettle yet to reach the boil, I was already being forced to consider my future earnings and reproductive prospects before I’d even gotten a cup of tea. How can I provide you with an examined and studied opinion of where I am going to be financially and socially in ten years when just two and half hours ago I was throwing up a bellyful of rum in a bin at John Lennon Airport?
I understand that parents and the family who have watched over you and helped you reach the grand old age of twenty-four still in one piece, physically at least, naturally, these people want to see you succeed. They want to be reassured that you are happy, healthy, successful, not hooked on meth – and I am always delighted to reassure them on these concerns – I am indeed very happy, I am relatively healthy though please don’t ask me to do a bleep test to confirm this, by my own personal measures of success (blog hits, high profile Twitter followers, self restraint in not kissing boys with girlfriends) yes I am very successful, and as for meth, well I haven’t gotten around to watching Breaking Bad yet so I’m not going to rule it out entirely but it certainly isn’t on my To Do List as yet.
I know my parents, half of them at least, worry about what exactly I’m going to do with my life, as parents, it’s kind of their job after all, and it is one of my most effective methods of motivation in the almost daily practice of ‘Sorting my Life Out’.
Because the truth is I do know, generally, what I’m going to do with my life.
I have career plans A through to D, which, granted, heavily rely on my as yet unwritten first novel being a bestseller in at least thirty countries, but hell, it’s a plan!
I have plans! If history, and the growing collection of notebooks and journals accumulated since the age of fourteen, tell us anything it’s that I am most excellent at making plans. I could plan the shit out of anything, anytime, anywhere.
It’s implementing them where I begin to struggle.
I know, I know… I can hear my mother’s exasperated sigh from here.
Humorous deflections aside, I will reassure my mother, that will change. I will go forth and implement!
So since returning to Liverpool, to my hustley bustley city full of lovely, immediately gratifying distractions, I have been putting myself back together, tentatively taking my first steps in the next wave of ‘growing up’, making big, serious long term goals and implementing the actions which will achieve them.
I promise I have.
Incidentally, in the midst of all this ‘Sorting my Life Out’, I came across a scrap of paper folded into the back of a notebook full of important CV things, perhaps the last set of long term plans I wrote back in my third year of university when the future held such promise and potential. I had scribbled, no doubt sitting at the back of a lecture, a one, five and ten year plan, ranging from the really ‘big stuff’ to the more trivial (like Rescue a Donkey – this, I am proud to say, is still on my list of longer term goals, along with Read Finnegan’s Wake).
The items on the one year plan, to be completed in my twenty-first year, I am pleased to say I did complete and tick off with zeal. Of course, by the tender age of twenty-two my life plan had changed so dramatically that looking over the five year plan I wrote for myself only four years ago, now, the items on that list might as well have been written by a different person. The things that I was so sure about at the age of twenty seem utterly ridiculous now in hindsight. The list serves as a harrowing window through to the alternative universe in which all these goals might have been played out, where I would be living a very small, very disappointing life. Half a life.
The ten year plan, full of more generic life goals such as “Own my own home” are still bonafide aims, but are now regarded with the realistic skepticism that comes with age.
My point is, I think, that it doesn’t matter how many big plans you make for your life, they never go the way you’d hope. There is an advert promoting some savings scheme on telly at the minute which will tell you basically the same thing. You make your big life plan, shit happens, you change your plan.
But from what my measly twenty-four years on earth, and that sunscreen song, have taught me its that one, you should wear sunscreen, and two “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”