Last weekend I got my second tattoo.

Not all those who wander are lost

The quote is from Lord of the Rings, and has always been one of my favourites. For me it means that although I travel and seem to lead a slightly unconventional life, I am never really lost – I know myself, who I am and what I want, and that grounds me.

Now I just need to look at my foot to remind myself of that!

I got my upper ear pierced, too, a couple weeks ago. Jokes were made about a ‘mid-twenties crisis’. Tom and I were talking about this the other day, and he pointed out that actually it’s not a silly idea at all.

As people poised on the edge of 26, tipping over the barrier that separates “almost 20” from “almost 30”, this is a confusing and (it seems to us at the minute) important time. Your teenage years and early twenties can follow one of a couple of fairly standard paths. You go to sixth form and university, or you choose not to go to sixth form and/or university and get a job instead, or you take a year or two ‘out’ to travel or work and then go to university. Literally everyone I know in my age group did one of these three things. So far, so standard.

So now we’re in our early twenties. Some of us are finishing degrees, others working their way up in their job. Some of us choose to study further, but most of us find work of some kind or another. Maybe it’s our dream career, maybe not. We’re living with a partner or with friends (almost all of us having escaped the confines of home). Our lives are still broadly parallel; at the very least, we understand what the others’ lives must be like. Even if it’s not the path we took, we can imagine ourselves having ended up in that situation or those circumstances.

But then your mid-twenties hit and suddenly it feels like there is no certainty anymore. One thing is for sure – we are all imagining that by 30, at 30, things will have ‘settled down’. By 30, we will know what we want to spend our lives doing. By 30, we will have found the person we want to have children with; or, by 30, we will know that we do not want children at all. By 30, we will own our own house, or be well on the way to it. By 30, we will have a good idea of ourselves and our plans.

But time is running out. We only have five years left. If we have any doubts about the path we have followed until now, or the person we have become, now is our last chance to change. Now is our last chance to try something new or unexpected, our last chance to rebel, our last chance to be young and reckless. Because once you hit 30, you can’t do that kind of shit.

Whatever you chose to do with the end of your school years fed nicely, neatly, into your early twenties. But your early twenties don’t necessarily feed into anything. They spit you out in your mid-twenties, and you have what feels like a free choice. But it’s only a small window, and you have to decide quick if you want to take it.

I think this is why I look round at my friends and I see relationships we all thought would last forever breaking down, see people in apparently good and satisfying jobs suddenly unhappy with what they’re doing but not knowing what else to choose, see people suddenly acting ‘weird’ or making apparently crazy choices.

Basically, your mid-twenties are a bitch.

[I’ll get back to you in my mid-thirties and let you know if I feel the same way then, too, but with all the grown-up stuff pushed back to 40. It seems pretty likely.]

4 thoughts on “Mid-twenties

  1. As an almost 35 year-old, I can assure you that it’s really not that bad. It’s true that my foundation as a mother and a wife remains constant (and contentedly so), but I am still learning new things, trying new ideas, and traveling to new places. I just bring my people with me.

    You, dear Julia, need not worry. I’ve never once thought of you as lost. In fact, I routinely remark to Greg about how confident and self-assured you are. You will know when it’s time to take certain steps – or whether you want to take them at all – so just trust your heart. And be secure in knowing that we need not all take the same path.

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