B is for my birthday.
I'm 24 this week. Officially mid-twenties.
I skyped my lecturer a few days ago and told him I'm already old. Losing a partner ages you, and so does having a degenerative genetic disorder. I'm becoming less physically stable, I'm becoming weaker. Only slowly, but I can feel it happening. I stopped being 23 a long time ago. I'm yet to have a full-time job, but I have already had a full life's worth of experiences - I've had experiences some may never have.
My birthday last year was a real low point for me. I didn't speak to anyone, at all. I received texts, but everybody I planned to meet or Skype cancelled. I didn't say anything out loud for over 24 hours. I was struggling to find a job, I was in a new city, and was coming off the back of graduating with what was very probably the lowest mark in my undergraduate cohort. I’d seen and joined in with, many different birthday celebrations throughout the year. Whilst I don't think birthdays are necessarily important, it is a day in which your friends and family are meant to show you they care for you. However, I sat alone in my room wondering that didn't happen for me. I couldn't help but feel that nothing would change if I simply did not exist.
Coming off the back of 2020, it is amazing to say my future is now less bleak. My parents will be visiting, COVID allowing, I will also be going for a meal with friends, and seeing my flatmates. I also received an apology from Jonny, and reassurance that he loves me, which he has proven since his death. I now have some people who care for me, and some of those who already did have finally shown me this. I may actually see another human being on my birthday.
I have been writing submissions for online magazines and zines, which has made me think about the concept of beginnings. I'm now starting a new life without what I’ve lost at the age of 23. 24 is the start of a new chapter. Over the next 12 months, I am going to have to decide where I want to live, and where I can afford to live, what I want to do with my career, and what I'm going to do my Master’s dissertation on. My life will be very different when I turn 25, and that process is starting now.
For once, I am excited. I am finally free to make my own decisions about what I want to do, as I no longer feel the pressure of meeting the expectations of others. Like many people, I’ve had family, friends, and tutors want and expect certain achievements, lifestyles, and decisions from me, and I have disappointed them in not meeting those expectations. Now that I have let down the people around me, the hard part is out the way, and I can get on with pursuing what makes me happy. At the moment, I would like to live in a studio flat in London with a pet dog and work in publishing and editing. However, I know this is a very expensive dream, so I know it will take a long time to get there. I know that this year will be the year where I need to work out how to get there, and I know that one day I will.
I am now also free from the pressure of dealing with Jonny. This is not to say that this means I hold any resentment towards him at all, as I don’t (and would do everything again, even if the outcome remained the same), but being in a relationship with a heroin addiction, and organising their funeral and managing their family and friends is hard. I can now focus on self-care, managing my grief, and mine and Jonny's spiritual journey.
My life has changed massively since my 23rd birthday, and in many ways, it has improved. I can finally say I'm facing 24 with confidence and independence, and I am looking forward to a year of growth and change.