Saturday, 13 May 2017

Life: The Roaring Twenties

There are only four more months of my twenties left. Sometimes I feel un-fussed, even disinterested about my upcoming birthday and then I find myself idly browsing in Forever 21 and the realisation as I flick though a rail of denim mini-skirts: am I too old to be shopping in Forever 21? 

Hi. Here's an unrelated selfie to break up this essay. 
As I put the skirt down it the hits that I'm never going to be an Olympic athlete, never going to go into space and it doesn't matter that I've never wanted to do either because surely the first sign of old age is realising that not everything is possible. As a teenager, a medium told me that I would get "what I want but not when I want it", as a woman I am told that I "can't have it all" and these are the filters that I look at my twenties through.

I've written this blog for most of the past decade, longer than I have done anything else. The friends and the opportunities it has brought me have been some of the biggest joys. After not finding a girl gang in my teens and early twenties, the internet granted me a group of girls who, as well as being brunch buddies who didn't roll their eyes as I photographed my food, taught me about female friendship and since 2012 have been there to literally and figuratively cheer me on. Crossing Tower Bridge at mile 13 of the London Marathon and being greeted with a wall of screams and banners is something I'll never forget - both for the fact that my friends gave me their precious weekends and that I conquered my own over-achieving personality in the process: enjoying something I am not particularly "good" at.

Having a show-reel of highlights preserved online means that I can re-read an old post and remember exactly how I felt as I typed the words. The excitement before starting my first job (the corporate world just waiting to chew up and spit out my shy smile and pink dresses), an outlet for a love of fashion that felt misplaced in the "real world", a project that I started in secret and that now my real-life friends read (hi, there). I'm happy to remember just the good parts.

I have been to 25 countries in my twenties, the "travel bug" it seems cannot be cured by one gap yah trip to Japan.  I will never stop feeling incredibly grateful to be able to explore this world with my parents, my friends and by myself. I've visited places I probably couldn't have shown you on a map at 20, that I didn't know I wanted to go to until I went. I now live in one of them, miles from the small town I grew up in but a place where due to the aforementioned girl gang are only a Whatsapp away and my dual-culture upbringing already feels like home.

I spent the first four years of my twenties in bubble of full-time education, every day still I mourn the fact that I cannot go to Selfridges at 11am on a Tuesday and that staying up talking about everything under the sun until 4am happens maybe once a year these days and not (at least) once a week. The friends I was lucky to cross paths with (at twenty two conversations in a bar was enough for me to declare myself friends with people who now have held that dubious honour for almost a decade) taught me as much, if not more, than my law degree. Factually, that Bombay Sapphire gin does not come out of the bottle blue and that Merrill Lynch is not a business woman. Intangibly, so much more.

At times my confidence has failed me and I've felt self-doubt and something which I discovered through a Glamour magazine article is called "imposter syndrome" as well as a sometimes unshakeable feeling that I am yet to really find my place. There's been plenty of fun along the way though - I've watched the sun rise over Glastonbury, over New York City and from my east-facing balcony in London, wrapped in blankets and companionable silence. Christmas last year saw me receive a few too many links to gin-themed gifts. As bad as certain moments felt at the time, they are not the ones I remember or dwell on.

I became a homeowner and a tax payer and a qualified lawyer along the way but the intangible signs of adulthood have always felt more like "you are here" markers then the tick boxes that are set out for us or that we make of our own volition. Graduation, starting work and buying property are not the memories that flick up on my internal monitor when I'm daydreaming. Being asked for advice by a younger friend, being the first person to be told good or bad news, returning faulty items and (politely) complaining in restaurants make me feel like an adult far more.

My twenties have been packed with all the things. Things I didn't plan for, ask for or always even know that I wanted. But there have been some things that didn't come my way, things I thought would magically materialise with this decade - falling in love, meeting the parents, walking hand-in-hand, being introduced as "my girlfriend". The lack of what I used to think I wanted, what I used to think I needed to feel ok about myself doesn't really bother me now. I sometimes download a dating app only to delete it after five minutes. I'll get what I want but not when I want it. Or I can't "have it all" and I already have so much that I cannot reasonably complain about my lot. Until last June I somewhat smugly thought that I had never had my heart broken but how I felt after the 23rd of the month felt close to the all-consuming awfulness that friends had warned me about. My Brexit-grief confirming that I am still "young at heart" but thinking about the future that might have been already feels less painful.

Where to, now? I hope I still get ID-ed for a shopping basket of vodka, apples and magazines that I'm old enough to know will not enrich my life in any way. More seriously, I hope I keep my young heart but with an older mind, that I stay curious, that I can acknowledge the difference between "good luck" and "hard work" and that I start to believe that everything I want is (slowly, slowly) coming my way.


  1. Sounds to me you've killed your twenties Lily. Here's to getting older. Not necessarily more sensible Who wants to be that?!
    A Story of a Girl

  2. This is so beautifully written Lily! Here's to more living and learning as you enter your 30s.

    Jane / deluminators

  3. I have just a year left of my 20's and have been feeling the same way. But I think, like you, my 20's allowed me to have some amazing experiences that I'm grateful for such as travelling and my blog. Hopefully our 20's will be even better.

  4. You can definitely still shop at Forever 21. I still do and I'm almost 29 (granted I have a very bland and boring sense of fashion - if fashion can even describe the clothing I wear).
    I love this, speaks volumes to me but also makes me feel hugely inadequate in my life! I still have so much I need to do and feeling my life is very stale right now is making me consider what I can do to change things up...

  5. It sounds like you have filled your 20's with brilliant experiences, and plenty more to come.

  6. What a brilliant post and an excellent way of saying goodbyes to your twenties. Sounds like you're all set for your brand new decade and, believe me, it's not that scary!


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