The first voice note I sent as 2020 came to its long awaited close and we rolled into the early hours of 2021 was not a drunken profession of love, nor was it some endless ramblings and reflection on the past year, it wasn’t even an overly enthusiastic Happy New Year message to someone I definitely should not be messaging after consuming that much champagne. It was to my flatmate, at 2am, loudly announcing my concern that we’d forgotten to pay our council tax before we came home for Christmas. And with that message, and a painful hangover, I realised that in a kind of messy, not always on top of it and very unexpected way, I had become an adult (ish). I know that actually having remembered to pay our council tax would have been the more grown up thing to do, but we’re getting there, small steps.
I’ve been thinking about this more since I came back to London. Home was full of too much food, positive covid tests and a sort of scraping the barrel attempt at festivities. Despite the strangeness, you can always rely on family dynamics and the characterstics of the people you’ve grown up with to come through. Somehow, whenever we come together, we seem to resort to our childish tendencies, regardless of how old we get. When I’m in Bedford I find myself toeing that blurry fine line of adult and childhood that seems to appear in your early twenties. I’ll cook complicated full meals for my family and yet nothing makes me feel more like I’m 15 again than when my sister winds me up so much that I lose control of my temper. I’ll pour a glass of wine to sit and watch Grand Designs on a weeknight but will spend the ad breaks moaning to my mum about how much time my brother spends in the bathroom. I’ll do our weekly food shop, walk the dog, help with life admin, organise my own plans (just walks) but I’ll bicker with my brother about why I don’t want to take the bins out. I’ll get frustrated if I’m not given the point in a heated game of Scattegories, I’ll get into moods where I demand sole attention from my mum and I’ll roll my eyes when I have to tell her where I’m going (on a walk).
Since moving out, the majority of those things have fallen to the wayside. My weekly food shop is just for me and I don’t have to worry about sharing a bathroom with my brother (just two other girls with incredibly intensive skincare routines). As well as the boring things like paying council tax, resetting the boiler pressure and remembering that Tuesday night is bin night, being in London has let me explore the boundaries of myself outside of the dynamics of my family or university. I know those boundaries are limited at the moment, they don’t stretch much further than the local park, the nearest Aldi and the coffee shop round the corner, but still, the small routines make me feel like I have some sense of independence. I know that all of this is coming from a place of privilege, and there is much more to adulthood than the actual act of moving out. I’ve noticed a change in the way I think, the way I decide which relationships to prioritise, the way I look at my own worth, a difference in what I put my effort into and a shift in what I spend my time worrying about. These things weren’t sudden, and I hope they would’ve happened anyway, but I needed that nudge to acknowledge them, a reason to look back on how much I’ve changed over the past few years.
Growing up does not mean I can now suddenly keep all of my plants alive, it does not mean I’ve stopped losing socks or that I now only read intellectual novels. It does not mean my flat is always tidy and full of freshly baked bread and flowers. I still have a tendency to accidentally finish a bottle of wine when I planned to only have a glass and I don’t hoover regularly enough to stop balls of dust and crumbs from gathering on our kitchen floor. Messy bedrooms, microwave meals, hangovers, wrong choices, debt, procrastination and oversleeping all still exist. The thing that has changed is my acceptance of them, my understanding of balance and strangely enough, my excitement for the whole process.