Sitting at the adult table.
Over a plate of Vietnamese rice paper rolls with a new-found acquaintance, I was asked a question I couldn’t quite answer.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
It sounded like a job interview question. Or a question an internet dating website would use to filter your preferences. Or one of those awful questions that come up during icebreaker sessions that my tutors insist on having at the start of every semester. I find these touchy feely ‘sharing’ sessions excruciatingly embarrassing as I try frantically to distill my personality into witty articulate responses. Needless to say, this fails spectacularly and I end up talking really really quickly and picking really arbitrary facts which which to represent myself. Hi, I’m Rhea and I like pugs and I don’t like risotto because one time I got food poisoning after eating college risotto. Oh and I live at college. Um, yeah.
Anyway, back to my dilemma about how to answer the question. I ended up spluttering out something half-arsed and the conversation went something like this:
I like writing, so writing full time hopefully.
What will you write?
Novels maybe? I’m not sure yet. It’s pretty competitive.
Oh, like 50 Shades of Grey?
Um, that’s not really my forte actually. I usually write stories about migrant families. I find those stories really interesting. Though I did write a piece about a man who owned an incontinent ferret.
How did you come up with that?
It was based on this old guy I saw on the train. He was complaining loudly that his ferret kept shitting on his carpet.
On my way back home after this lunch, I kept thinking about the question. The definitive question at the centre of my quarter life crisis. The one that ties me into knots. The one that makes my palms sweat during conversations like the one above. The one that makes me shift uncomfortably when someone asks my my major.
It’s similar to the experiences discussed in Caitlin and Bronte’s posts about what it means to be an ‘adult’, and the associated responsibilities. All of sudden we’ve made it through the wilderness years of adolescence and it’s time to be accountable for our own decisions. Which is liberating and debilitating in equal parts. This has been playing on my mind a lot lately, possibly because this summer I’ve had my first experience of full time work, which has given me an idea of what the next 10 years might look like. I can’t help relating to Ethan Hawke’s character in ‘Before Sunrise’, when he says he often feels like he’s in a junior high play, pretending to be an adult so he can do it properly when it really happens. (Also an excuse to include a babein’ picture of scruffy 90’s Ethan Hawke)
But I realized during my long tram ride home, despite my occasional angst about the future, I love being 20 and having the agency to live on my own terms. The last two years at university have undoubtedly been the best of my double decade existence. I’ve met some mind bogglingly wonderful people and learnt so much from them. It comes back to that thing Stephen Fry said about university, ‘Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars.’ I’ve learnt perspective. I’ve managed to exorcise some of my high school insecurities and handle toxic situations with a more mature approach than festering in my own self pity. I’ve discovered my love for slam poetry, feminist literature and funk. I’ve had the freedom to figure myself out. Even though I sometimes feel like I’m stumbling blindfolded towards a moving target, it’s something everyone feels whilst navigating the no mans land of early adulthood. I’m in pretty good company (refer to Ethan Hawke, Caitlin McGregor and Bronte Clare) and as someone extremely astute in the matters of the future once told me, it’s never too late to reassess.
Oh, and another silver lining: at least I don’t own a ferret that explosively defecates.