I wasn’t a big fan of being a teenager. It meant people didn’t take me seriously, especially when it came to writing, and since I look younger than I am, I hated having that –teen suffix to emphasise it. Even so, the thought of turning twenty was mildly terrifying. It’s not a legal boundary the way eighteen or twenty-one is, but it seems like a big jump anyway.
Yesterday was my birthday. I’m officially two decades old. I still look about twelve. I can’t drive, I don’t drink alcohol, I’m not interested in relationships, and I spend most of my time in bed looking at cute animals on the internet. Nevertheless, I’m twenty.
For me, I think part of my concern about this whole ageing malarkey (which I will say now, I’m not a big fan of it) was what it means for my identity as a writer. I’ve spent many years as a member of communities that cater to teen writers. While the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain is no longer running, the fact that I’d no longer be technically eligible to participate is terrifying.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of people who are more interested in Being A Writer than actually writing, but it remains a fact that writing is a huge part of my identity, rather than just a hobby or a profession. I’ve formed such a huge part of my personality around my writing over the last six or seven years, and much of that’s been as a teen writer.
Some would say that St Mallory’s Forever! and my poetry collections qualify me as a published teen author. I don’t really think they do. My self-published poetry more than St Mall’s, perhaps; it’s hard to feel much ownership over a book when you only wrote a third of it, and given that we’ve received no money for it in the last couple of years, it isn’t exactly contributing to my writing as a career.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that I need to reassess my goals. My hopes of being traditionally published as a teen will never be fulfilled. At this rate, I’ll never succeed in my goal of ‘doing the whole starving writer bit while at uni, and then making enough money to survive once I graduate’, given that I’m almost halfway through my degree and I haven’t properly queried yet.
A couple of weeks ago, the thought of this filled me with existential terror. I started wondering what would happen if I never made it as a writer, and realised I have no idea how to plan for a future that doesn’t feature writing as my main profession. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was eight, what I’ve been actively working towards since I was twelve or thirteen. I don’t know how to be anyone other than my writerly self.
Weirdly, I found comfort in the Confucius quote that used to appear in the Customize window on Tumblr as the default quote for theme layouts: it does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop. I don’t know much about Confucius; I’ve never read any besides that quote. But all those times I changed my theme committed that to my memory.
No, I won’t be a successful teen author. I might not make it in my twenties, either (though I hope I do). But even if it takes me a decade or more to get where I want to be… that’s better than giving up and taking another path. Because if I give up, I’ll never get there.
I have to keep plodding on.
I’m twenty. I no longer have the excuse of teenagerdom to get me out of adulting (though I’m a student, so I think I can still get out of it for a while longer). I’m emphatically not a child anymore. You know what I realised the other day? When I get my new passport (mine’s about to expire), that photo will last me until I’m thirty. It had better be a good one.
I’m in my twenties. As the youngest of three, this is such a weird position to be in. It must be weirder for my parents, who now have no teenagers, something they haven’t had in about thirteen years — my sister will be twenty-six this year. And to have no ‘children’, legally speaking… well, that must be even weirder.
Getting older is terrifying. Life is terrifying. Adulting is terrifying. AAAAAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
(* retreats to bed *)