I could give you the facts of my life, or I could give you the truth.
The facts: I am twenty five years old. I have no job, no partner, no children. I have no vocation. I have no financial security, no credit rating, no criminal record, no major health problems. My last major academic achievement was a slightly above average degree from a slightly above average university slightly less than three years ago. I have only one year of work experience. I have nice parents and nice neighbours and I live in a nice area. I claim an average amount of benefits. I have never spent more than two consecutive weeks outside the city of my birth. I haven’t had a romantic relationship with any depth or meaning since becoming an adult.
This really bothers me.
I try and tell people I am worried about my age – that I don’t like being twenty-five. They seem to think this is slightly dense, or that I don’t know how lucky I am, or that I’m falling prey to some pretty toxic myths about the value society places on ageing women. To some extent, these might all be true. But really, what bothers me it that on paper – CV, passport – I seem to have amounted to very little in a quarter century. Some people try and tell me that this doesn’t really matter. I find they are usually people who are not and have never been in this situation.
Finding a job can be nearly impossible most days. My disposition is nowhere near up to another call centre, I might go mad with boredom in an administrative post. Retail is okay, but targets are not, and I have found myself to be mostly allergic to the politics and bullshit that seems to accompany pretty much all jobs.
I am instructed to tell employers about time served on the phones, and how this has made me patient and understanding. I am instructed to tell them that my communication skills are good – nay, excellent – due to my degree in a language whose usage is in steady decline. These are the facts: the truth is a little more complex. Time served in a call centre had roughly the same effect as time served in prison: fat and dull-eyed from the constant diet of junk food and being told I’m worthless, convinced I will never succeed afterwards. My degree cost years of my life and left me thousands of pounds in debt (ironically, around £25,000 at last count) and isn’t good for much except teaching, which I can’t afford to study.
I honestly don’t think employers need to know any of this. If I could choose, I would tell them such different things. I would tell them about getting sober at twenty, crouched like a child in the ruins of my own life. I would tell them that I actually failed my first two years at university, and about learning that I can succeed in the face of odds stacked almost comically against me. I would tell them that I know I am really fucking strong because when I was late to lectures I would be racked with fear and desperate not to walk in, but I would do it anyway. I would tell them that next month I will, G*d willing, celebrate five years of continuous sobriety, about how I prove myself every damn day, about the deep and profound commitment I made to change and how I stick to it. I would tell my new employer that, yes, I was on my knees with depression and anxiety and that that’s probably a risk to employing me in the future. But I would tell them that every single day I was on my knees, I still got washed, and dressed, and ate three meals, and left the house, when it felt like climbing a mountain and all I really wanted was to stay in bed. I would tell them that I learn quick, I improve quicker, that when the chips are down I will always come through because in the past the stakes have been my life, and I don’t fuck about with my life. Not anymore, at least. I would tell them they’d be lucky to have me, and fools to let me go. I would tell them that I am terrified of everything, including but not limited to: spiders, job interviews, getting locked in a toilet cubicle, someone I love dying, having wonky eyebrows. I would tell them that despite often fucking crippling fear, I can still manage to be brave and funny and sweet and loving and helpful. I would tell them that I try and serve a higher purpose than my own self-interest these days, but that my own self-interest still gets her own way a lot of the time. I would tell them that this is all about progress, not perfection. I would tell them that I can do a brilliant Nicki Minaj impersonation, that my first book will be an analysis of feminism in hip-hop and I will call it Anaconda.
I will tell they’d be lucky to have me, and fools to let me go.
Lucky to have me.
Foolish to let me go.
I am lucky to have me.
I would be foolish to let me go now.