To grow up is to be really brave. You’d never think it at fourteen. It’s what you always wanted. You would do anything to get out of that age. Away from school and all those pointless subjects. Live with your friends and eat sweets every day and it would be like one big sleepover except who would do the cooking and cleaning and washing and ironing?
If you’re lucky, your parents will teach you how to do these things, or you learn by just watching them. If you have older brothers and sisters, that’s good too. If you have younger ones, even better.
You should know how to do at least one of those things by the time you’re eighteen. Apparently that’s when you’re an adult.
Sometimes, I watch those wildlife programmes that try and be as clever and interesting as David Attenborough with their commentaries. I wonder how animals cope when they grow up. I bet they forget all about their mothers, until it comes the time when they have to be mothers, or fathers. How do they know what to do? Instinct. Must be. Yes. That’s it.
When I “left home” I had to say goodbye to my mum and sister in front of a crowd of strangers who would soon become friends, boyfriend and a load of people I’d never speak to again. I cried and it was embarrassing because I couldn’t go to the bathroom to wash my face or blow my nose I just had to stop crying without a tissue or anything and then hang out with these new people who were all quiet and on their mobile phones and a few of the more socially aware awkwardly making small talk.
I cried when I moved back home as well. Strange, that. I was like, in limbo between childhood and adulthood. Didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do. Growing up, you get stuck in that sometimes. You get a bit lost.
University was like one big school trip and then I had to leave all my friends and a place I had grown quite comfortable in over the three years I had lived there. I could do whatever I wanted to do. I went to Tesco in my pyjamas and ate Mcdonald’s, Pizza Hut and chocolate one day and was sick the next day and cried and felt very sorry for myself in a big pile of duvets.
If it’s not fun, why do it? Was my motto. Actually it’s Ben & Jerry’s motto. A lot of mottos aren’t that good because you can’t apply them to every single situation in life, and it’s important that a motto should do that, otherwise, how is it a motto? I didn’t think about much when I was eighteen. It was easier then.
To grow up is to know yourself and to be comfortable being on your own. That means – I think – to know what you believe and what you think is right and wrong. To know who and what makes you happy and you at your best, and who and what does not.
Being comfortable on your own means you can sleep at night without having someone lie next to you, or for someone to be thinking about you, or talking to you, or texting you throughout the day. You are quite happy to spend the evening in alone, and equally as happy to go out and spend time with friends. You pretty much never get sad. Grown ups never cry.
I have been an adult for three years. I can cook a meal, wash my clothes, clean the bathroom, lock up at night, work and pay bills, all of that just fine. But anyone can learn to do that. There is something else that needs figuring out, and perhaps there are people who do not need to – perhaps it just comes naturally to them, as naturally as the instinct of animals leaving their mothers and becoming mothers themselves. Maybe they have something they don’t even realize they have, the natural ability to grow up.