I never really understood the appeal in being ‘thirty, flirty, and thriving’ in the 2004 film, ’13 Going on 30.’ I was too preoccupied with the notion of actually turning thirteen.
Then, thirteen arrived, and not long after it seemed, so too did sixteen.
And then sixteen turned into seventeen, and seventeen was a forgotten wasteland to eighteen. By the time I stopped to think, I’d graduated university and made it to the promise-land called your twenties.
Only, as we all eventually learn, life doesn’t pan out the moment you turn twenty-one. If anything, that’s when it really begins.
The 6 months after twenty-one brought with them a big dose of reality. I was no longer a student. I didn’t have my career figured out, or a box apartment in a big city. I didn’t have anything of real gravity, except a set graduation date and a spontaneous trip booked to Italy. Yet, in all the uncertainty, I found comfort in my in-between youth. I was old enough to be taken seriously. Young enough to feel as if time, abundant and forgiving, would always stretch out in front of me.
When the pandemic started, I felt trapped in a perpetual state of March 2020. But 2020 turned into 2021, and before I knew it, I was 25 without a stable career, or a box apartment in a big city. All I had were the small steps, which never did turn into leaps or a job in London – my one shot at a big-five Publishing company.
As I journey into my mid-twenties, I want to shift the focus and change the narrative. Twenty-four brought with it my greatest loss as an adult, a major confidence knock, and doubt after relentless doubt. My golden year was never really golden after all. But where it lacked in magical moments, it made up for in countless lessons I needed to learn.
Twenty-four taught me true friendship, or at least the ability to accept that not all friendships were made to last. It forced me to re-evaluate past trauma, sit with uncomfortable feelings, and step out of my comfort zone. Where once, I would have looked for constant reassurance, I was able to trust my gut more, move forward in my professional life, and acknowledge that some things, and some people, was never meant to be. And when the hardest week of my life arrived in November, I realised life was meaningless without the ones you loved and those who loved you back.
2021 wasn’t special in the way I had once hoped, nor have much of my twenties been. But it wasn’t all heartbreak and grief. It was laughing with my childhood best-friends on our local beach. It was FaceTime calls which soon became virtual therapy. And it was progress that didn’t need to be seen or acknowledged by anyone but me. Because just as Jenna realised in the 2004 film, ’13 Going on 30,’ happiness was never about the fancy apartment or the dream job in a big city. It didn’t matter if you were thirteen, twenty-five, or thirty. The big achievements would always mean nothing if you didn’t acknowledge the steps you’d taken to make them a reality. And in the end, no amount of money or success could replace the support of your chosen friends and family.