Danielle Jones needs to have some words with her younger 20-something self about the reality of ‘growing up’.
This is your future-self speaking. Weird, I know. I swear it’s not the excessive amounts of vodka
& Red Bull from last night, promise. Just wanted to fill you in on some of the life-lessons I’ve
learned over the last decade to try and reassure you about a future I know you’re anxious about.
My twenties were spent bumbling around, dealing with all sorts of dramas and catastrophes –
ranging from the retrospectively mundane to the heart-breaking. Of course, you know this better than anyone, you’re living this now.
I remember thinking as I scrolled through Facebook at the time that everybody seemed to
be having so much more fun than me. There were pictures of my university friends having
the time of their lives – be it travelling, landing their dream job or just living for the hell of it.
Then I had my older friends, the ones who had hit the big 3-0 and seemed to be so comfortable in their own skin. Like they could easily shrug off the odd grey hair and they almost certainly never had threatening letters from BT because their flatmate couldn’t stop phoning their girlfriend in Denmark every night and racking up a bill of thousands. I thought, if I could just push through until I hit that milestone birthday whilst blagging to everybody that I was having A REALLY VERY GOOD TIME THANK YOU VERY MUCH, everything would work out and I’d swan into my 30s enjoying myself with everything sussed.
Yeah, about that.
I spent my 30th birthday playing Cards Against Humanity with my husband and trying to keep
a screaming, colicky 8-week old baby placated.
It sounds disappointing and it’s certainly not what I had envisioned, but in truth it wasn’t
really that bad.
See, the thing I’ve come to learn is this. Nobody, no single person on this earth, has their
shit together. Whether they are a big-eyed, naïve twenty-somethings with delusions of grandeur
or a thirty-something self-employed, mum-of-two that looks like she has it sussed (Spoiler: She
When we are children (and in fact even when we’re well into our twenties), we have this view of
people over a certain age exerting a certain amount of authority. From parental figures to
managers – people who are older often give us direction, approval and, most importantly,
the reassurance that someone knows what they are doing. They are the true adults, they’re not playing dress up.
We often assume, that once we reach that particular birthday; a switch will be flipped and suddenly we’ll know how to get our shit together and keep it together.
In reality, Adulting is HARD. For every childhood and teen issue we shed the moment we
turn 18, there’s a newer, bigger one in its place.This only continues into your thirties. As much as we have our support networks and we think we may have got a handle of things, many of us are just one event away from the whole thing falling flat. Those authority figures we grew up relying on were probably secretly flapping around like a baby chick over certain things in their own life. How do I know this? Because that’s me now.
I am very fortunate. I’m married, I’ve got my health and I’ve even been able to switch from a very unfulfilling career in sales to writing for a living. On paper, I’ve got it all. But often (and quite often at that) I still find myself hiding on the kitchen floor, eating chocolate biscuits out of the packet thinking “What the fuck am I doing?”
There’re more bills to pay, friendships become super confusing with the trifecta of
partners/weddings/babies added to the mix and I’m still shockingly bad at remembering to
take my makeup off at night.
However I am one thing that I wasn’t in my twenties. I’m happy.
The trials and tribulations of my twenties: the sexist bosses, the false friends and the absolute
clusterfuck of mistakes I made, led me to where I am now.
A place where I really couldn’t give a monkeys about what many people think of me anymore.
I’m not saying I don’t get the odd twinge now and then, but I’m able to compartmentalise
and shrug off looks from strangers or backhanded compliments from my sibling.
I’ve taken control of my career. Long gone are the days where I’d lay awake at night at the
prospect of getting fired for not hitting some sadist’s ridiculous targets. Now, if I don’t like
someone I’m working with, I simply won’t work with them again. I do it politely and with
class, but life’s too short. Work to live don’t live to work.
And finally, I don’t have to justify myself to anybody anymore. Ten years ago I made choices
based on other people’s judgement. As I’ve got older I’ve had the realisation your decisions can either make yourself or other people happy. You have to live with yourself every day of your life so if you choose to make yourself happy, you’re going to be… happy. Ridiculously simple but incredibly hard to do.
So, twenties me, don’t worry – yes, your thirties isn’t the magical-unicorn-wonderland of self-
acceptance and success that you once thought it was. There are good days and there are
bad days, much like you have now. The stakes are higher, and things can get a bit scary at
times. But because of the experiences you’ve had and the journey you’ve taken – you have
totally got this.
Words by Danielle Jones
Artwork by Millie Woodcock