I’ve never really had concrete plans for my life. Most people are able to imagine themselves as an adult, with a career and their own home and maybe a family – or whatever they hope for. But I’ve never done that.
When I was much younger, I could imagine a distant adult and pretend they would turn out to be me. I’d imagine a successful career (whatever career I was imagining at the time), the family that everyone told me I must want to have, the busy social life that was supposed to be the marker of happiness.
As I got older, that type of imagining became meaningless. I started to see people around me growing up – like my family going from being children to students to adults. And I learnt that you didn’t suddenly ‘switch’ into a different person. Instead there was a gradual transition where you learned new things and developed your skills and interests until you were able to do adult things like moving out and getting a job.
But I knew that wouldn’t ever happen to me. Whatever the transition was supposed to be between being myself, and being a Person Who Can Go To University (or a Person Who Gets Married, or a Person With A Full-time Job…), I couldn’t imagine it – it didn’t exist.
The only adults I saw, were those unattainable things that I knew would never happen to me. People with jobs, people with kids, people who liked parties. I tried to work backwards, and figure out what those people’s transitions were like – what they were like at school, what they did at college, to make them into that type of adult.
When I did that, all I found was more stories I couldn’t relate to. There were all people who had no trouble with school, people who made new friends at college, people who were just like all the kids around me but nothing like myself.
The only conclusion I could make was that there were no adults like me. Either there was no-one like me, full stop – and I was an entirely unique and impossible occurrence. Or, more likely, everyone who was a young person like me never became an adult. I could never see my own future, so I had to assume that I didn’t have a future.
I ended up believing that I must be one of those people who’s destined to drop out of life at a young age. Either I’d go so insane I’d commit suicide, or be institutionalised for life, or become a completely different person somehow. Or I’d be struck by some hideous disease or unfortunate accident and be killed before I got a chance the grow up. The only future version of myself I could imagine, was the newspaper article about a young person tragically dying before their time.
It’s only really in the last year that I’ve learnt that I was wrong. And it happened because, for the first time in my life, I found People Like Me. People who had been the ‘troubled kid’ at school – and then grown up into adults anyway. People who never liked parties, and still didn’t like parties, and just didn’t go to them. People who couldn’t make friends at college, and socialised online instead.
I’ve finally started to believe that I actually exist. That it’s possible for me to be an adult. That I have a future.