Periodically, when my father calls, he kindly reminds me of a time he first visited me after I’d fled the nest. I was short on money (and self-respect) and so, for dinner, served him a pot noodle made using hot shower water. Usually, I choke beneath my own embarrassment, yet when he recalled it most recently, I felt different; I was unable to relate to my former feckless self. And the reason for this disparity, I concluded, was all down to the moment I turned 27. But why?
We enter our twenties with as much nervous anticipation as one would feel the first time you board a flight sans your parents. Except unbeknown to you, no one is allowed to exit the plane, and those that make it all the way to the undisclosed destination spend the rest of their life desperately searching for the return ticket. The plane doors close and you’re asked to buckle up your seatbelt and prepare for a 7 year journey of constant turbulence. And don’t try and reach overhead for the oxygen mask to help you- that kind of comfortable reassurance disappeared a long time ago. Probably the same time your mother stopped making your doctor appointments for you.
The first few years of your twenties can only be described as a mixed bag of dramatically combusting friendships, mediocre sexual encounters and a handful of dimly lit lightbulb moments that beg you to reassess your fragile sense of self. You’ll build a catalogue of outer-body experiences at 5am when you’re suffering from alcohol-induced insomnia as you watch the bedroom of some stranger slowly brighten as he subtly and continually prods you with his semi-flaccid penis in the hope you’ll suddenly find him attractive. You don’t.
Your professional life is equally as ambivalent and disappointing as your romantic life. Most of your time is spent talking to yourself in the bathroom mirror about how you’re better than this whilst simultaneously wiping the metaphorical arses of any colleague who has the ability to let you finish earlier on a Friday.
So after 7 long years of pretending you like the taste of red wine, crying in the solitude of your overpriced bedroom and slowly accepting that you no longer have the metabolism of a teenager and you are, in fact, just fat, the only appeal of turning 27 is that you are one year closer to that all-encompassing moment of relief; death.
But like the sweet, sweet miracle you have drunkenly prayed for during those pitiful moments when, after vomiting, you’ve rested your weary head on the shit encrusted toilet seat at a house party, at 27, life throws you a bone.
See, turning 27 is sort of like coming of age again; there is a glimmer of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Hitting your late twenties causes that inner switch to silence that dictatorial voice inside that cares too deeply about what others think of you. You dress to make yourself feel good. You tell Angela in sales she has lipstick on her teeth and her decision to make budget cuts is irresponsible at best. Cutting toxic people out of your life becomes a weekly human cull met with emotionless necessity. And it feels great.
That people-pleasing tendency you had going on is replaced by your new favourite word, no. No I don’t want to go out on Saturday; I actually don’t have the money. No I don’t want to stay late tonight; the project can wait till the morning. No I don’t want your phone number and I don’t need a reason why.
You realise that relationships take real investment of your time (which is short), of your money (which is limited) and yourself (which is in a really great place right now, thanks). Game-players, half-arsed sentiments and emotionally unavailable people are all tossed in the drawer of other useless shit you don’t need; along with bickering, unsolicited dick pics and the overbearing feeling of not knowing where you stand.
Some things just matter less; like losing your jumper on a night out or trying to get your friend to pay you back. Some things start to matter more; like really listening when your parents speak or making something of yourself.
And as you slowly creep towards the all-feared age of 30, your decisions become rooted in the following question: would I be happy with my life if I looked back at my twenties? You instantly remember all of the great moments and feel the anticipation of all the things you’re yet to do. Like quit your job and do something that genuinely serves you. Or end that relationship, move to Paris and eat cheese filled croissants with a guy name Jacque who mispronounces the word ‘umbrella’. Or join a running club, book club or any forced-fun-club that pushes you to waste your time on anything other than just nursing a hangover.
At 27, you find the bravery to do those things. And to make the uncomplicated decision to live the life that you want because fuck it, you’re the only one living it.