Life Is Short. When your Grandparents say that to you, when you’re say, eight or nine, you laugh, with this subconscious perception that you’re going to live forever, and that you’ve got years and years left before you end up thinking the same way. I’ll be 18 in November. Officially an adult. That rather alarming fact has made me realise that all those patronising elders from your childhood were bang on – life is short and all you can do is sit and watch the years fly by.
I know, I know, I’m only 17. I’m practically a baby still, but I can assure you, even at my age you feel like the years have gone without you. Eighteen is an age I used to dream of when I was younger, about twelve, thinking “That’s years and years away,” and when I saw cousins and relatives turning eighteen, they seemed so grown up, so mature, and smart, and I was convinced that on coming of age, your one of the adults, and your thinking about children and houses and getting married.
Marriage is the last thing on my mind. Even before I do reach ‘that age,’ there are so many things happening, that scare me half to death – and outline my transition out of childhood and into the scary real world.
I’m currently studying for my AS levels, the first year of traditional A-levels. Suddenly I’ve come out of my GCSE’s and my safety blanket has been whipped out from under me – I may be in the same school, but the nurturing and motherly attention your teachers subjected you to for all those years has dissolved into essay after essay, responsibility you cant really get your head around, and exams appearing before you’ve had chance to catch your breath.
And then there’s an even scarier prospect – university. I know I want a degree. I need a degree for my profession – but being launched, rather forcefully, into choosing an actual university, rather than just putting it to the back of your mind for ‘when you’re older,’ is what really shocks you into growing up. You have to choose your last place of education before your thrown to the lions in the real world – you have to decide where in the county you want to go, expenses, where you’re going to live, what you actually want to do with your life – and on top of all that there’s the extra pressure of UCAS, personal statements, and whether your choice of university will actually accept you at all.
I’m currently in the process of choosing my mine, I think I’ve cracked it, and the one I’ve chosen means I can do as planned and get a house with my boyfriend – but then there’s the gut wrenching feeling of “should I move away?” “What am I missing?” “Can we afford to get a house?” You know it’s irrational, but you cant help it – I know I want to go to TASC, get my degree in journalism and live with my boyfriend for the duration – but what with everyone choosing their own Uni’s, open days, and careers advisers making you feel like this is the last chance you’ve got – you feel nervous and doubtful nonetheless.
Which leads me to my next big transition: choosing somewhere to live. My boyfriend works full time and runs his own business, so in that sense we’ve got the advantage that he can get a mortgage. We’ve been looking at potential areas we could move to – but whilst he’s clicking away on the internet and thinking about ‘our first house’ – I’m sat beside him, barely believing that I’m leaving home and moving into my own house. That I’ll be cooking, cleaning, paying bills, decorating, and then living with him– there goes safety blanket number two.
The fact these big decisions are looming are joined by small first time experiences, adding to the transition from seventeen and innocent, to 18 and independent. This June, I’m going on holiday, abroad, without my parents. For the first time. Now, I’ve been to France and Germany with school, and last summer spend a week in a hired caravan on the coast with two friends – but this is different. France and Germany, I was supervised by teachers. At the coast, my grandparents were in their caravan on the same site – but when I venture off to Salou, Spain, with the boyfriend, I’ll be very much unsupervised.
I know I’ll love it, and I am excited. I spent a weekend in London with him, and we coped fine. I think its more the fact that I’m finally doing these things, everything I knew I’d do ‘someday’ is happening all at once and I know I’m not a child anymore. I’m happy about these experiences – first times, big decisions, becoming independent, taking mine and Matt’s relationship to an adult level – but at the same time it makes me wonder where all the years went.
I remember turning sixteen like it was yesterday. I remember my first love not so long ago, and then the heartbreak that followed when it ended. All these things have now been and gone, and it feels like I’m growing up a lot faster than I first realised. It’s said that these years are the best of your life, after you turn 16 it’s all supposed to kick off – party after party, boyfriends, dates, new friends. I was talking about mortgages to my boss at work, and he stopped and said, “you should be out on the town every weekend, spending your wage on beer and nights out, not thinking about mortgages.’
But frankly that’s not me. I do enjoy my social life, and I am living the wild teenager life in a sense – I’m not going to deny myself of a mad party or a good night out. I got to see about two live bands a month, and attend as many music festivals as I can afford in the summer. But with time going so fast – can you believe its March already? – I feel like I need to plan, as if I’m bracing myself for when it all explodes and suddenly I’m 18.
So what I’m requesting is a time freeze. It feels like before I know it another big experience has passed, another year has gone. If I can stop time, stop this ‘growing up’ business, just for a day, maybe too, I know I’ll feel more confident in the times that are to come. I know it can’t happen, well, not right now anyway, but wouldn’t it be perfect? If you could stop time, think about what’s been and gone, think about what’s to come, and rid yourself, just for those 48 hours, of the frightening feeling that life is short, and getting shorter.
I’m 18 this November. I’ll be the ‘grown up’ at the party who all the younger cousins are in awe of, I’ll be making big decisions that will affect the rest of my life, and all I can hope for is that I will be smart, mature, and grown up.
Wanted: one time freeze.