I have started writing this many times over the last few weeks. Well, to be more precise, I have stared at the empty page in front of me for a few minutes before making a disparaging noise and flouncing away from my laptop with my nose in the air many times in the last few weeks. I’ve imagined the empty page floating in front of me like a poorly dressed up phantom every morning when I wake up, and every night before I fall asleep. But until about five minutes ago, I hadn’t written a single word – not even in my head.
You see, dear reader, my whole life right now is an empty page. And I mean that in the bestest, most wonderful, least terrifying way possible. Honest. (Well, maybe a bit terrifying. Just a bit. In a good way. Obviously. [Good terrifying, yeah? Like a sky dive. Or a polar bear who doesn't get your sense of humour.] And yes, my voice is becoming more and more shrill as I type this. If you’re still reading then you should probably get a hearing test and double check that you don’t in fact have four legs and a waggly tail.)
To explain the current existential crisis, it helps to know that I graduated just over a year ago. At that point I was all loved up, had high hopes for a career in writing things, was planning to at some stage move in with the artist formerly known as Boyfriend, and dreaming about getting a dog. Fast forward to right now and I’m finding myself wandering rather aimlessly through life, constantly humming the Friends’ theme tune, and telling anyone who’ll listen that “I’VE GOT MAGIC BEANS!” in a manner that is at best alarming and at worst psychotic. I am oh so very single, to the point where my mother has taken on the role of matchmaker/enthusiastic gal pal/pimp, keeps telling me I need to “put myself out there” and “have some fun”, and is one step away from going rogue and putting me on Tinder… or eBay. My job involves a lot of writing, but mostly only 140 characters of it at a time. I’m living the sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll dream in my childhood home with my parents – if by sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll you mean cuddles with my cat, peppermint tea, and over-hearing old Sting albums. And the closest thing I have to a dog is my friend Jess. (She will understand that this is the greatest compliment anyone can ever be given, by the way.)
But! (And oh, I love that but.) When faced with the many not-going-to-plan areas of my life, my main reaction is relief. Relief at not having to fight tooth and nail to keep my plan intact. Relief at not having a plan at all. (I don’t even have a “pla”.) And I should be clear – I am a self-confessed control freak. If there were meetings for my ilk I’d probably be the chairman, because I wouldn’t trust anyone else to do a good enough job at it. (Imagine those meetings, by the way. They would never start late and absolutely everyone would take impeccably written minutes.) But the last year has taught me the valuable lesson that if there is no plan then nothing can go wrong. And my life had become a monstrous game of plan-Jenga (patent pending) with bits wobbling willy nilly, everything threatening to crumble, and me racing around like a lunatic trying to hold it all together. And now that – a year on – it actually and inevitably has collapsed in a rather anti-climatic heap on the floor, all the things I thought I wanted (apart from the dog, I’m still dreaming that dream) appear at best unrealistic and at worst pretty silly. I feel like a bird released from a cage or a balloon cut from its string or Batman after he escapes from that pit prison thingy.
So it would seem that I don’t want to be a shoe any more. Maybe I’m a purse, or a hat. Maybe I’m a book, or an umbrella stand. Maybe I’m a battle ship, or a god damn dragon. Maybe I can be anything I want to be because I’m 22 and in possession of a brain. Not to mention my winning smile. And my magic beans.
Welcome to the real world, Gemma. It sucks. But I’m gonna love it.
P.S. On a totally unrelated note, happy belated 20th birthday, Friends.