What Will I Be At 23?

Mum was going to be 40. Such a big number. It seemed strange to me that she could be that old, because she had been in her 30s for as long as I could remember. It was deeply significant.

I remember clearly one day when I was 13. Mum was parking the car at Morrisons for our weekly shop, and I always went with her – I may have bought a whole can of Pringles to eat in one evening, or a nail varnish, or both. Or perhaps I was in my rice pudding phase!

We were discussing plans for Mum’s special birthday, thinking about what it all meant, and how best to celebrate it. I loved planning! All those ideas brought to life… My mind skipped forward a decade, thinking about Mum’s next big milestone: 50.

‘Mum,’ I said, pausing for a moment as I got out of the car. ‘When you’re 50, we’ll all be in our 20s! David will be 25, I’ll be 23, and Jonathan will be 20…’

The idea of Jonathan, the baby of the family, even being a teenager seemed a distant thought at that time. And I saw Hannah at 23 as a completely different person. What would she be? As we crossed the carpark to get the trolley, I pondered: Will I have a full-time job at 23? What sort of job? Where will I be living? Will I be married? Having children?

My life hasn’t changed as much as I thought it would. Neither have I. At least, the change wasn’t as stark as I imagined. It’s been gradual, a deepening of character, a slow process of three steps forward and two steps back. 13-year-old Hannah had no idea of the amazing opportunities she would have, or the amazing people she would meet. She didn’t know any of the things that would make life difficult and teach the biggest lessons. She didn’t realise that she would be the same, fundamentally, but with a far better understanding of herself and a far greater appreciation of life.

Even at that age, Hannah knew that the future was a blur and that there was no way of making an accurate prediction. The more she searched for clarity, the more it seemed to elude her, and the more anxious she felt about the future. And no wonder. No advice I could give her now would help – life just had to happen. She was not meant to know. How boring it would have been if she had!

At 23, I still don’t have a clue what the future will look like. Tomorrow will worry about itself. And so will the next 10 years.

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