24

September 14, 2017


I dropped off my little cousin to her first day of work experience on Monday morning. I say ‘little’, she’s 21 next month. But I see her less than once a year and she’s absolutely, categorically still my baby cousin. She’s staying with Ryan and me this week - she lives in Birmingham and goes to uni in Edinburgh - and as soon as she was dropped off and my auntie said, “Here’s her porridge and here’s a bottle of Disaronno to say thank you,” they left and my cousin said, “This is like a movie where the child has lost its parents and is thrown to the nearest unwilling relatives,” and we laughed and I suddenly did feel like I’d adopted a small child.

I turned 24 on Saturday *lets off a single party popper* and for the first time in my 24 birthdays, I do feel older. I am 24, I am in my mid-twenties, and I feel like a responsible adult, helped by the fact I'm having to make sure my little cousin is fed and watered and knows how to use the shower and use an Oyster card. 24 feels solid, but every time I think 'twenty four' or read '24', I just think of the TV show and that awful, dread-inducing ticking time-bomb sound they use. Perhaps that's also why I suddenly feel like an adult; I feel like a ticking time-bomb.

I can hear you rolling your eyes and sighing, muttering, “Bloody ridiculous, overly-anxious, entitled, over-dramatic millennials,” and all of that is true, yes. I am. But, honestly, having my cousin here is helping me realise that, despite the natural anxiety of ageing, I’m capable and responsible and doing ok. Plot twist, I know. This is not a millennial blog post full of existential dread. Much.

My cousin is 20 and ridiculously clever and witty and funny and also an adult, but she is anxious and inexperienced and learning so much that I realised I have already learnt. This is her first real work placement, and she’s in a big city she doesn’t know to do it in. I took her all the way to the front desk on her first day as she whispered, “I shouldn’t be doing this, I’m still 12,” and I had to chill the yelps of, “No, you don’t! You don’t have to go yet, please no,” when I said I was going to leave her now with, “You’ll be fine, I promise. It’s first day nerves; once you’ve met people and know what you’re doing and where you’re going, you’ll be so fine. You’re braver and more confident than you think. Have fun and don’t be afraid to ask questions. GOODLUCKLOVEYOUBYE!” and I hugged her quickly and walked away without turning around, like a parent does with a nervous, needy child in their first few days at school, and suddenly, in that moment, I felt much older.

It sounds patronising - she is nearly 21 after all - but everyone is different and my cousin is fragile (and I am protective and motherly, I’m finding). We all learn and experience at different ages, in different ways, at different times, with different personalities and mentalities. I’m often still full of anxiety but on that Monday morning I was reminded that I’ve learned how to deal with my anxiety in various situations and still function (almost) normally. I can be independent. I am independent. I rent a place in Zone 3 in London, I pay all my own bills, I have savings accounts, I have a job, I do my own taxes, I bought contents insurance for goodness' sake. I have opportunities, I have passions and hobbies and drive, I have a successful relationship and I’ve almost nailed successful friendships too (learning about toxic friendships is a long life-lesson…).

I’m doing ok! 

I may be 24 which is basically bang in the middle of my twenties which is basically 30 which is basically dead, but I’m doing ok!!!

I joke. Watching my cousin experience something huge for the first time and feeling something strange was the world straightening out my back and lifting up my chin. I did that once, and now it’s her turn. She has lots to learn, and so do I. I have a lot of learning ahead of me, both good and bad. We all do. There’s no time stamp on learning, no time stamp on new experiences.

My cousin has done the journey successfully all by herself this week and I've mostly left her to her own devices, aside from having to chill another panic and insist that £16 on her Oyster is going to last her until tomorrow afternoon. She also dropped shampoo all over our bathroom floor and opened a bottle of tonic water that had been shaken so it went all over our kitchen and accidentally turned our fridge off, but she had hummus for the first time ever too which was a precious experience to be a part of, so swings and roundabouts.

24 is no age. No age is no age. I think we often forget the experiences we've been through and the things we've learned over the however many years we've been stumbling about life. We take ourselves for granted and should appreciate how far we've come a little bit more. All the big goals, and all the tiny little ones. We're not perfect and we're never done. There's always more to do and more to learn. We're not being left behind, there is no path to follow, no existential boxes to tick.

We're doing just fine.

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