41 Moments of Growing Up
The surprises, challenges and rewards of moving from youth to adulthood
Part 1: Starting out
You will leave your small town and go to college in the city; you’ll make new friends, some will be fleeting, others life long.
You’ll mix with nerds, eccentrics, brainiacs, fools, screamers, scoundrels, suicides, hippies and hair-raisers.
You’ll lounge on dirty sofas, spend hours with people you can’t talk to, dance in nightclubs, go to parties. In the maze of inebriation they will seem infinite and magical.
You’ll keep a diary, your late-night friend.
You’ll wonder about the logic of personalities and the logic of your own; you’ll find new companions in people who are wondering the same thing.
You’ll try to make yourself attractive; you’ll critique your appeal, you’ll hang out in bars, art galleries, parks, libraries, train stations and lecture halls wondering about the accuracy of your critique.
You’ll learn, at some point, that you can trust yourself
You’ll consume too much of things that are bad for you; at the time it will seem like too little.
You’ll widen your horizons, gain new perspectives, read new books, discover new bands; you’ll visit Paris, Morocco, China.
You’ll build fires, win bets, swim in rivers, discover beauty, pledge promises, shy away from love, run towards love, win respect, lose face.
You’ll go home to live with your parents, several times over, stay out later than they want you to
You’ll watch films deep into the night, films you won’t remember in the morning.
You’ll get lost, you’ll panic; you’ll learn a benchmark of sanity.
You’ll buy records at discounted prices, find the subterranean strata of music and intend to stay there.
You’ll break your knee and get it fixed.
You’ll travel on your own, move across countries on overnight sleeper trains with carriages full of suspicious eyes, feel alive.
You’ll buy second hand books, framed pictures, start a novel; in all this, you’ll make commitments that will prove themselves invaluable 15 years later.
You’ll hate your job; you’ll begin to wriggle, think about life as an artist, you’ll make new plans.
You’ll dance into the night at a wedding in Rome and wander the 3am streets feeling like a raffish 19th century poet.
Work will bite you; you’ll say you won’t stay there forever, you’ll move on soon, promising to hold onto your dreams.
You’ll watch an argument unfold inside your head.
You’ll pack a van and say goodbye; that’s the plan anyway: you’ll leave the town and move away, one day.
Part 2: The Adult
You’ll be surprised.
You’ll buy a washing machine, secondhand tables and a sofa. You’ll read your first interior design magazine.
You’ll gaze at the sea, gaze at an aeroplane, gaze at beautiful people.
You’ll listen to the quietness, you’ll make things, paint things, design things, create things, code things, plant things.
Your nerd friends will become wealthy and eligible and look forward to their future; your cool friends will look tired and hassled and talk only about the good old days.
You’ll swim in the sea off Greek islands, visit Moorish palaces, travel to Japanese cities.
You’ll pick berries, visit gardens and smell the scent of flowers; you’ll begin to understand the nature of your parents’ love.
You’ll start to follow politics; you’ll call it a circus, a sham, a game show; your ideals will not change, they’ll just become more difficult to put into words.
You’ll discover you have heroes, even though the idea of having heroes seems banal and childish; you’ll grow out of that idea.
You’ll jog more, play sports less.
Your friends will begin to get married; even the ones who could never hold down a relationship will get married.
You’ll ask for a sign (from God? Buddha? the Ether?) and a sign will come.
Your childhood friend will gain a cocaine habit and have a suspected heart attack; in your own head you’ll succumb to the cliche that life is a ‘gift’.
Your fear of flying will begin to abate; your place in the world will solidify; your love for a single human being will astound you.
You’ll learn the names of birds and star constellations; they will become your new benchmarks of sanity.
You’ll afford long-distance flights and bathe in tropical waters and wonder (with all seriousness) if you could set up home here.
Your old friend from college will die suddenly and you will not go to his funeral; your own health will become a question and also a plan of action.
Your perfect career will begin to be born; you’ll know it took 20 years for it to be born.
Your hopes will continue to bloom, your hopes will continue to fade; they will light up and glimmer like fireworks over water. Where they will fall, it’s impossible to say.