At 23, my Mum was married. My granny had my Mum.What about me?

Last year, for my 22nd birthday, I was surrounded by my friends dancing to noughties classics in what would become known as the last time we were all in a room together.

Covid-19 has been in our lives for over a year now and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. We’ve learned to adapt with social distancing and online learning because despite going through this moment in history, life continues.

We have to “go” to work, feed ourselves and our families, we have to study and pay our bills. The every day happens either way regardless of all the additional loss and pain we have to take on.

Because what is the alternative?

Like you, I have carried on. I’ve pretended that learning an entire journalism course, researching stories and developing new skills over zoom calls is remotely normal. I’m catching up with my friends on FaceTime to report the fact that absolutely nothing has happened since the last time we spoke.

I was determined to follow the life lessons I wrote to myself last March. So much has changed and yet so little. They feel like they were written for a simpler time. A version of me that I’m not getting back. That much is true. Most of the lessons are about dancing like no one I watching, travelling and seeing the world and collecting as many experiences as I can. It’s not exactly aged well.

As I read my own words, I cannot help be consumed by that negative voice in my head that comes out when I’ve spent the day binge-watching Netflix rather than studying. I cannot help but feel that I’ve lost a year of my life.

Sure, a lot of things have happened. I finished my degree and left Dundee. I started editing with the Meridian and I’m painstakingly close to being a fully qualified journalist. However, when I look at the fact that my Granny was married to my Grandad at 23 or that my Mum was married at my age, I feel like I’m somehow behind.

I’m still studying, single, furloughed, living in my parents home. I am not where I pictured being. And sure, a full-blown relationship, marriage, children is something that terrifies me. I’m not even sure it’s something that I want or whether it’s just something Rom Coms have told me to want. As if they’re some nuclear family propaganda but it’s okay because the heroine is a girl boss (who is on the brink of becoming an undesirable spinster) but Ryan Reynolds professes his love at the end and saves her from her very terrible single fate. Phew. That was close.

I’m not even that bothered about being in a relationship. They are complicated and stressful and with a pandemic going on outside, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. That being said, I worry that I am not hitting the milestones I should be.

I know that there are sharp generational differences between My Granny, mum and I. Even if we all look similar and we all will look for any excuse to dance to some ABBA. Our generation, whatever I am a “young millennial”, an old “Generation Z” or the “All-Star” generation- take your pick, are typically waiting longer to do the whole family and kids thing. And yet, I always thought that I would be further than this.

This won’t come as a surprise but I am a (very) competitive person. I’m the worst at games. A bad winner, a terrible loser but frankly, you all get off lucky. I’m worse when it’s just me. I think I’ve always seen it as a badge of honour. It’s the thing that has kept me motivated. I have to do better than I did yesterday. My Mum reminded me about when I was in primary school and we had to do write five sentences with five of this week’s words for our spelling homework, I would use them all and I’d make a complete story out of them. My Mum smiled warmly and told me that was when she knew I was going to be a writer. I, on the hand, cringe outwardly as I realise that I have always been such a try-hard.

All week, I have been quietly dreading turning another year older. I might love birthdays and celebrating but in the midst of the pandemic, there is only so much celebrating you can do. Instead, I am forced to face that negative voice inside my head that says I should be doing more, working harder, climbing higher than I am.

As I’m writing this, however, in bed with a coffee at my side, I am reminded of something. This week, I submitted my NCTJ portfolio. It’s something that I have been working on for months. It has taken up nights and weekends of writing and planning and crying but I did it. And regardless of the result, I am proud of it.

It might not look like something solid to the outside world. It’s not a ring or an impressive job or a baby even. But it’s a milestone to me. A landmark towards something that I want.

Instead of 22 lessons for 22 years this year, I just want to take one lesson for one year older. Life might not be what I expected it to be. I’m not married like my Mum. I don’t have a child as my Granny did. I have almost next to nothing figured out. My life is completely undecided. I can be whatever I want. I am free to mark whatever milestones I want, whenever I choose. What says living your life more than that?

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Becca Carey

Becca Carey

SEO journalist @ Newsquest covering national news, entertainment and lifestyle + stories from Oxfordshire and Wiltshire | NCTJ qualified @ Glasgow Clyde College