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#31 I'm mature// Immature
Growing up is not linear
I wake up in a cool sweat on Sunday. A gently pounding head, mascara under my eyes, a dry mouth.
I stretch my legs out and bathe in a familiar shame. I was shriek-talking a lot last night, I was dancing in a cringe-y, full bodied way, I was telling any of my friends that would listen that I love them. Would die for them. Couldn’t live without them.
On replay it’s giving desperate and unnervingly intense.
Liam and I didn’t serve any of the food we’d promised, we didn’t even turn on the BBQ. We just put out some bowls of thin cut Lays and a platter, carried almost entirely by some vegan sausage rolls my friend made. I wizzed up a hand full of cocktails that consisted only of vodka, calypsos and far too much wilted mint.
In this shame bath that I know all too well, I replay the movie of a drunken night with the meanest gaze. I am a caricature of inebriation and all my friends quietly surmise that I’m a mess. Especially the ones with kids, because they stay sober and watchful of their children in the pool. They are cool and calm. Changing nappies and dolling out snacks and asking thoughtful questions.
Meanwhile I’m making one of my dearest and oldest friends cry in my parent’s bedroom. And oh look, there I am playing for the third time, a song I keep hearing on TikTok.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the person I am describing is 23.
It’s me, hi.
Me being a bad host.
This particular Sunday morning, after attempting to rinse off the shame bath in a warm shower, I make avocado toast for Liam and Maddie. Two of my favourite people. Over the sink, rinsing a knife, I declare that I am “having some bad fucking hangxiety”. They roll their eyes in unison, “of course you are” they drawl, together. And then, “why?”
They have heard this before.
“I must have seemed so drunk! We didn’t serve any food, we didn’t even turn the BBQ on, I was running around like a rat in a bucket…” I continue rattling off a list of all the things that are making me feel swampy with regret.
They tell me I am being stupid.
Maddie stays until 4pm and we sit on the back porch talking. We talk about gut health, we talk about having kids, we talk about our jobs, and people we know, and our hopes for the new year. Maddie reads me her ins and outs for 2023 from the notes app in her phone. We eat 2 plates of avocado toast, and crackers with Mersey Valley cheese and hummus.
And in the slow weaving of our conversation I take note of something quietly profound Maddie says. Something about getting older being a trick, we think we’ll feel older, feel like adults, but we don’t.
I’ve heard versions of this before of course, that meme-ified refrain of, “tfw you were a kid and thought adults had it all worked out, but now you’re an adult and you have no clue what you’re doing”.
But in this moment, juxtaposed against the ebbing tide of my shame, I feel the truth of it in a new way.
All the things I retroactively castigated myself for; the decidedly adolescent cocktails, the loud talking, the silly dancing. It’s all stuff I feel I should have moved past now that I’m a real life adult.
And of course, this small and sharp realisation extends beyond bad hosting, it’s the truth that adults, inscrutable and composed and clear eyed, do not actually exist. Adulthood is a myth, like the tooth fairy and MSG being bad for you.
The only thing that really exists is slowly ageing bodies and brains that gather trauma and memories and learn how to parallel park (or not).
Are you really so much more together than your nine year old niece who politely passes on a second serving of cake, while you lick the knife that’s just cut your third?
When I was a little girl, Adulthood was a shimmering mirage. Somehow intangible and yet absolutely guaranteed. I would turn eighteen (so old) and all the world’s knowledge would download itself onto my brain. Like most kids, I fantasised about the fullness of Adulthood; the adult me would drink alcohol and drive and vote, and she would be privy to universal truths that lay just beyond my ten year old reach.
Of course I got to eighteen and found that Adulthood had been kicked down the road a bit. 26, I decided, was the age.
At 26 I would have a glossy SUV, I would feel settled and certain about my life, I would have a job that fulfilled me, I would wear a gold watch and white silk shirts.
I would have three(!!) infant daughters, each more bizarrely named than the next; Velvet, Seraphina and Lake.
But at 26, working in a call centre, driving a 1998 Ford Falcon and having zero interest in white silk shirts (and babies), I realised I’d gotten it only slightly wrong, it was 30.
30 would be the age that I would be cool and confident, I would be a published writer with one expensively dressed baby named Paloma and a period cottage in Fitzroy. But more than that, I would know that I was in the right place, I would be a person who could give wise counsel over artfully selected crisp white wine. I would have a car with Bluetooth. I would journal and run beside bodies of water.
Finally then, I would have arrived at Adulthood.
Of course, at 32, with no car, no baby and still not a single silk white shirt, I think I finally get it; I’ll never get there, to that place of quiet knowing. Because actually, being an adult is too often misusing the word ‘brought’. It’s not knowing what to do with your life. It’s saying things you know better than to say. It’s drinking too much alcohol and not enough water. It’s book-ending your day with doom scrolling. It’s running late, eternally. It’s not knowing how to heal a fractured friendship. It’s new wrinkles and new feelings and new places and no day the same as the one before.
Say it with me now, Adulthood is not a place.