My first week of being 19 was pretty average. I noticed I’m doing things that a part of me feels 19-year-olds shouldn’t do: going for walks without a destination, looking for little things like a blossom forming, the church spire, a spot on the horizon. Do adults always have somewhere to go, somewhere to be? In the garden, gliding through the air on a swing I’ve had since childhood, I stopped and thought, Can a 19-year-old do this?
With each year and each new number, I’m still kind of waiting for life to start, expecting to get prettier, to gain intelligence, to become my “best self.” But this imagined zenith where everything comes together must not be the most important part of life, otherwise why do books always focus on the confusion and pain it takes to get there instead of the bliss and relative boredom of being content? At least with a book you know there is an ending, a certain number of pages left before the story can only continue in your head. (Does happiness continue until the end of the protagonist’s life? Does he or she find a house, settle down, start a family?) I can’t see where my final page is, but I often feel as if I am scrambling to get there, to find out how it all turns out.
I am slowly trying to come to terms with not knowing. Looking back to the beginning of this academic year, I can see that I knew nothing. Well, I knew about staying at home, the Smiths, feminism, the latest news, and studying for exams—but that’s really it. I’ve grown a lot. I think I finally feel on top of things, just as exam season begins. I am intensely looking forward to university now, and I frequently imagine myself there. I make up stories in my head for Future Me: what my bedroom will look like, what meals I’ll cook, what clothes I’ll wear, what music I’ll listen to, and the people I’ll meet.
Imagination is addictive. We haven’t had a proper hot day yet this year, so I keep visualising lying in the sun, pure heat on my bare skin. In bed at night, I can almost feel it. I feel powerful when my recollection is that vivid. Whatever happens from now on, I’ll always have that. Sometimes imagination is better than real life can ever be. ♦