When I was 18, my main concerns were perfecting my eyeliner and making sure my fringe wasn’t wonky. The only thing I’d ever voted for was Kerry Katona winning I’m A Celebrity. I remember being 11 years old, sitting in my pyjamas on the sofa, and voting five times on a Siemens A60 that had a weird version of the Friends theme tune as its ringtone. I loved the small act of voting. Of sending my opinion out into the universe and feeling like I somehow mattered. When the person I’d chosen won, I was ecstatic. I’d picked the winner! It wasn’t something that mattered much, but it mattered to me back then. And winning felt pretty nice.
There’s a trend of books coming out at the moment that I’ve been reluctant to try. Not because they’re badly written. I’m sure they have been very important books for people who aren’t me. But I’ve been seeing a lot of books lately that seem to be promoting something that I’m not particularly interested in hearing about right now.
Like the Hygge invasion of 2016, we are being inundated by books about how to become an adult. Becoming grownups. Adulting. There seems to be a general need right now for people to be told what to do beyond school and university, maybe because no one seems to know what the hell is going on.
I laugh weekly about the fact that, “Holy shit. I’m an adult.” And yet there are still so many things in my life that I don’t have sorted out. I still feel like I should be heading off to school each morning with a marmite sandwich, lovingly made by my mum, and a packet of crisps. I should be forgetting to do my science homework and getting in trouble for leaving my PE kit at home.
When people tell me how to be a grown up, it feels like I should be pouring myself into some kind of one size fits all mould, sacrificing the things that make me happy to make way for a newer, sleeker, cooler and generally more together me. I don’t like it.
In defence of English degrees and doing whatever the hell you like.
This morning I saw a tweet from bestselling author, Diana Gabaldon, about her advice for aspiring authors who are choosing a university major. On the subject of English majors she said: “English major = “Want fries with that?” Pick something that will give you enough money to write what you want.” And ever since I saw that I have been stewing for a number of reasons.
Before I start, I want to say that this post is not really going to be about Diana Gabaldon. I don’t have any strong feelings against her. I’ve never read any of her books but I’m sure she is a very good writer. We all say silly things on the internet now and then so what I mostly want to discuss is why the idea in her tweet seems problematic to me.
Last night, like a night last June, I bit my fingers to pieces. The cuts my teeth left turning the skin infected, hot and red. But nevertheless, I went to sleep confident that I’d be waking up in a world I’d still want to be in.
Last June, I had to vote. An easy choice with only two possible options. Remain or Leave. In or Out. A vote that resulted in an unexpectedly historic outcome. Like today, I woke in a sweat, already somehow knowing, long before I checked my phone. Before I saw messages from friends. Messages that read things such as “I feel sick” and “How could this happen?”. Today, I woke up to almost the same messages of fear and nausea, this time for events happening thousands of miles away.