Things You Don't Realise About Growing Up Until You Do

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

When I was a lot younger, I used to think I was already super mature and informed and that I was already the person I was going to be later in life. This is probably going to sound incredibly patronising to younger readers, but you don’t really realise until you hit your twenties just how wrong that is; it’s honestly kind of scary how much I’ve changed in the space of even as little as four or five years and how very little I actually understood about growing up and adulthood in general. I thought I’d just share some of the things I’ve realised as an adult that I could’ve done with knowing as a teenager (for better or for worse).
This is a pretty obvious one when you’re under ten and still think that £5 is a lot of money, but even when you’re a teenager, if you’re living at home then it’s kind of difficult to fully grasp the value of money and the cost of simply living. I was well aware that my mum had a mortgage, that she paid the bills and taxes, that groceries and our food all cost money, but it wasn’t until moving out and having to budget myself and deal with my own bills that I finally understood the real scale of it all.

Having to pay for all of your own food, clothes, utility bills, rent, internet etc. and still hoping for enough left over to buy something nice for yourself gives you a whole new perspective on money and everything your parents did for you that you didn’t quite get before. Suddenly, you’re watching your hard earned money go towards everything but the things and experiences you really want, and realising that you don’t actually earn enough money to afford to live alone and have enough to put into savings at the end of every month. The environment that a lot of people grow up in and the media we consume paints a very different picture of what the value of money is and where our money goes, and the reality is decidedly less appealing than the childhood fictions.

I think this is especially true of today’s adults in their twenties, because we were the last people to grow up before the recession and our parents actually were spending less money on the same things compared to us. They were able to rent flats or buy homes for a fraction of the price that we’re now struggling to afford, and we’re sitting here thinking ‘damn, money was so much easier when I got a fiver a week for doing chores’.
Obviously you think you know everything and you’re already very mature as a teenager, but even at 18 or 19 you feel like you’re already as changed a person as you’re going to get and it’s just not true at all. I am a completely different person now to who I was at that age in so many different ways; even some of my core beliefs have drastically evolved as I’ve matured and experienced things and learned to see the world through different eyes and listen to others’ voices.

If I met my teenage self, she’d probably be filled with a mixture of awe and disgust for the person I’ve become. Awe because I’m confident, have improved exponentially in the looks department, am well-travelled and am almost completely above what other people think of me now. Disgust because I don’t dress to ‘flatter’ my figure, I adore makeup, I refuse to be ‘un-politically correct’ or laugh at others’ expense and I’m not ashamed to call myself a feminist. The old me was a tomboy who hated anything girly, thought that not being able to say racial slurs when you’re white was unfair, used to whine about bigger girls who ‘couldn’t dress themselves’ and thought she was the only girl in the world who was genuinely a fan of geeky things and not just doing it for attention. The new me would call that girl out, give her a firm slap and tell her to pull her head out of her own arse.

Don’t get too comfortable with who you are at 19 or younger. University and the immediate years that follow are your formative years, and when you look back on yourself you’ll be surprised by the fact that you don’t really see that person when you look at in the mirror anymore, and that’s okay! Changing doesn’t make you fake or a bad person – evolving is all part of maturing, growing up and responding to everything you’ve experienced so far. Chances are you’ll be far more comfortable in your own skin and with who you are as a person in your twenties than you ever were as a teenager, despite what you might’ve thought in your youth.
Sounds kind of contradictory to say that you will probably change but your friends are 50/50, but I think we can be kind of hyper-aware of our friends’ states of changing or unchanging, especially in our late teens and early twenties when everyone starts branching off into different life paths. By the time you hit your early to mid-twenties, you’ll notice that you have some friends from school who you probably don’t talk to anymore because either they changed into someone you didn’t get along with as well anymore, or they stayed the same person they were in school and your own changed self can’t really deal with them any more.

Neither of these situations is a bad thing or says anything ill of you or your friends, it’s just a fact of life that there are people who change and others who are essentially the same person you first met years ago. For some, this isn’t a problem, but for others it is. I’ve lost touch with basically all of my friends from years and years ago because who I am now just doesn’t compute with who they are, either because the ‘new me’ loses her patience with them rather often now, or because they didn’t feel like we had anything in common any more, or they couldn’t relate to where I am in life now.

There’s nothing wrong with not being compatible with someone any more – like I said, changing is a natural part of life, and that goes for changing who you spend all of your time with too. And when it comes to old or childhood friends, it’s also important to remember that you were exposed to such a small group of people in your little bubble of high school life. When it comes to school friends, you basically get what you’re given and you either cope with that and befriend who you can and forge relationships in spite of differences, or you lump it and don’t really have many friends. Once you leave school, that invisible boundary of who you are and aren’t exposed to disappears, opening up a whole new world in which you can openly seek out like-minded people (without the same risk of social suicide as in your school days). After that, you often realise that you were only really friends with certain people because of circumstance, and not because of genuine platonic love or shared interests.
For me, one of the hardest parts of growing up was living with the guilt of letting relationships fizzle out and die. Those relationships might’ve ended amicably through a simple falling out of touch or moving away, or they might’ve ended on a more bitter note. Either way, dropping friends and cutting ties with certain people is never a good feeling and it leaves you wondering whether or not you’re a horrible person or should’ve tried harder with them or should try to give the friendship or relationship another try.

What you also come to realise though, is that sometimes it’s okay to let go. In the past few years I’ve made peace with the ghosts of friendships past, and come to know that, actually, I am better off without many of these people. At a certain age, you find a new kind of clarity in that you can see toxic relationships for what they were, and look back on your younger self and wonder why you put up with it in the first place. Or you can see where old friends are in life now, and simply be happy for them and quietly wish them well on their adventures instead of pining after them or beating yourself up over not staying in touch.

Ultimately, if a childhood friendship was meant to be, it would’ve lasted into your twenties on its own. If not, then that’s okay. You’re not a bad friend for moving on, and you’re certainly not a bad person for letting go of people who – whether they realise it themselves or not – were dragging you down in one way or another. Sometimes that drag can be a friend who puts you in a bad mental and emotional state (purposefully or not), sometimes it can be someone with whom friendship feels like a one way street, and sometimes it can be much worse, or anything in between. If you feel like you might be better off without someone, gently cut your ties with them. I can almost guarantee that a weight will lift from your shoulders and you’ll thank yourself for it one day. We all develop enough baggage with age without carrying around our old friends’ suitcases too.
Coping with being different can be difficult when you’re younger, particularly if you feel trapped in the same social circles or the same small town. You end up censoring yourself a little, holding back pieces of who you are because you’re worried about what others might think or say or what the consequences of being your real self might be. That might mean anything from not being honest about being a giant nerd, to not wearing clothes you really like just in case your friends think you look dumb, to anything and everything else.

It takes time and growing comfortable with yourself to realise that, actually, it doesn’t matter at all what other people think of you. Whether their words or thoughts about you are downright cruel and ignorant, or just misguided ‘advice’, it’s all white noise and you don’t have to take it to heart. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter. If what you wear makes you smile or your hobbies get you excited or who you are makes you happy, then who cares what the haters say? When you’re younger and under more pressure to fit in or simply try and coast through your social life with as little trouble as possible, it’s easy to take what others think to heart and to worry about what they might be saying behind your back. But, after enough years of it, you just get tired of it and see it for what it really is: bullshit.

You learn to just do you and everything that would’ve hurt you before just slides right off you because you’re done trying to be someone you’re not, and at the end of the day these peoples’ little niggles about how you’re living your life are all just bitter words that won’t really have an effect on you anyway. Chances are, you’ll start making much better new friends, forging better relationships and fostering a better relationship with yourself once you do you and start projecting your genuine self out into the world instead of the mask you wore to keep others happy before.
There’s this idea that one day, as you age, everything just falls into place. You get a good job, you can drive, you feel mature, maybe rent or buy a house, you’re in a relationship or working the dating scene and the train to being a responsible adult is just chugging along right on track. If you asked me when I was a teenager what my life would be like at twenty-four, nearly twenty-five, I’d probably say that I’ll have my shit together by then and be doing something cool and grown up and just really have everything all figured out. It’s true that some days I do feel pretty grown up, but for the most part I have literally no idea what I’m doing and most other adults are the same, even well into middle age and beyond.

I don’t have my shit together; I work in a boring office that’s nothing to do with my degree, I still have too many clothes, I still sleep with and buy cuddly toys, I like spending entire days in bed and eating junk food for dinner and I frankly still don’t understand why I’m allowed to drive because I don’t feel grown up enough for that kind of responsibility. As we get older, we start to see friends getting married and having kids, and we’re wondering what’s going on and why we still feel like children while other people are having children, and meanwhile those people are wondering how and why on earth they’re now allowed to be responsible for raising another human being. Suddenly you’re thirty and you still feel exactly as ‘together’ as you did when you were twenty, only now you drink too much red wine on a Friday night instead of too many Jagerbombs on a Thursday, and you’re sharing your house with a child or two cats instead of five housemates.

There’s no magic spell for adulthood and being a real life grown up; we’re all just fumbling around taking each day at a time, trying to understand taxes and the housing market and do our best to not completely fuck up our lives.

What kinds of things do you start to realise as you grew up?


  1. Just wow! This is so perfectlyrics written and so so accurate.

    If I may continue the theme...?

    Mistakes and issues stop making you feel like the sky is falling - you learn to laugh it off, shrug and move on.

    Not having your shit together stops being such an overwhelming concept...we all learn to understand that what will be will be - and there's always going to be stuff that you didn't see coming along the way.
    But if everything went the way it's 'supposed to' then so many beautiful opportunities for new experiences, friends, loves, laughs and stories to tell later would disappear...and that would make the world a greyer place because of

    1. * perfectly written...I checked it and missed the mistake in the 1st bloody sentence!

    2. Thanks, Jen! :D

      That's definitely true and a great point - letting go of the life you expected or feel you 'should' have gets so much easier with that little extra bit of age and makes you REALLY appreciate all of the experiences that you did get instead. It's easier to see the bigger picture and let yourself just be happy with what you do have, instead of reaching for what you're expected to have. ♥

  2. Love this post, it's so honest :) x

  3. I love this post, and some of them you take way into your mid-twenties; I'm still waiting to learn how to adult. Haha. xx

    1. From what I hear, so are even elderly people ahaha!

  4. I love this post! I'm turning 24 next month and I honestly have no idea what the hell I'm doing with my life. I think I must be the only one sometimes as other people seem to have their shit together but I guess not. I love Dylan Moran's take on it where he says "You’re not really an adult at all. You’re just a tall child holding a beer, having a conversation you don’t understand."

    I too work in a boring office that has nothing to do with my degree..reading that was so comforting haha!

    1. Yay, and happy birthday for next month! Ahaha, that's a brilliant quote and horrifyingly accurate.

      Sadly I think that's the case for a lot of people in our generation, but hey ho! No university experience is a waste and office jobs can turn out to be great careers anyway!

  5. This is so accurate. I changed so much at uni and maybe talk to 4-5 people I went to school with and even then, not too regularly. None of us had adulting lessons! I'm 26, have a mortgage and still have to google and ring my mum for help on things, haha! Bodes well...

    1. If only we did have adulting lessons! I would've much preferred classes at school on how to do taxes, mortgages, savings accounts etc. than some of the stuff we did learn... at least we have parents who're a bit more experienced in attempting to adult than we are to help us out. xD

  6. Absolutely loved this post. I turned twenty a few months ago and I already feel such a change compared to who I was in high school. I talk to only one person from high school who has been my best friend since forever and I think what you said about childhood friendships being meant to be will last is so true. That is what happened with us and looking back I realized all the other friends I had in high school didn't fit with me at all. I'm so much more comfortable and happy with the friends I made at uni.
    I'm half afraid to grow up now and having to start job searching and paying mortgages and stuff.

    Love, Eline |


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