When I first moved to university, alongside all the dilemmas of meeting new people and starting a new course, one of the main worries I had was how I intended on surviving. You know, how to put the washing machine on, how to change a socket, how to cook. These things seemed pretty key to general existence, and I’m ashamed to say that prior to my first day on campus, I’d never successfully completed any of them.
That’s not to say I was completely unprepared. I’d made my fair share of supernoodles in the past, and on occasion done a spot of ironing. But I was under no illusion- these core skills weren’t going to be enough to get me through the next three years (and also the rest of my life…). My mum used to have to threaten throwing everything in my room away before I’d actually consider cleaning it, so “reluctant” kinda covers my general attitude towards domesticity.
A year and a half (more than that, really) into living independently and I’m only marginally wiser. My dirty pots get washed sporadically (sorry, housemates) and my room is like treading through a minefield- but replace explosives with bags of hula hoops or plugs. In all honesty, whenever I say I’m going to tidy my room, in all reality I’ve usually found something cool I’d forgotten about and begun a four hour playing session with it. It doesn’t even have to be especially entertaining- my old Gameboy provides me with as much distraction as a pink paperclip. I’ll lounge on top of a pile worn clothes, toying with the back to an earring I lost months ago, whilst reading my guide to pick-up lines in Mandarin (best birthday present ever), letting time slip away around me. Then, three and a half hours later- I’ve achieved nothing. You know, other than learning how to say “Are you still wearing underwear? Well, then my my watch must be 15 minutes fast.” in Chinese. And as much as that’s vital to every day life, I really needed to find my lecture notes from underneath a fortnight’s worth of books, clothes and discarded food packaging
|Barricaded into my room, mid-tidy up session|
I have this image in my head of adulthood- the far off future when I’ll understand tax codes and own sensible shoes and know how to make gnocchi. Where I’ll go into Marks and Spencer’s to buy birthday presents, and I’ll know the numbers of a few decent plumbers and understand the difference between Shiraz and Rioja. It’s going to happen eventually, and I’d quite confidently tell you that I’ll have accomplished these feats by the time I’m thirty.That seems like a reasonable age to be discussing mortgages. I may have even gotten around to some other life-achievements by then, you know, if I’m not too busy thinking about my pending hip replacement.
This pretty idyllic view of my life in eleven years time is kind of bewildering for me. It’s my own deadline, and it doesn’t seem quite far away enough any more. If I’ve only got just over a decade to start understanding the difference in kitchen cleaning products and how much is appropriate to drink at a networking event, then I should probably have some grounding in the basics right now.
As it stands I’m currently about as much use as lecture in syntactic theory. I’ve never successfully manned a washing machine without supervision, and I don’t have even the loosest idea how to go about making a Sunday Roast. I could probably figure out how to change a fuse, but I’d have to be emotionally prepared for a few electric shocks along the way.
And I’m by no means the least competent person I know. I imagine very few of my similarly-aged friends would feel ready equipped to be a proper, independent, taking-out-the-bins type adult. I think I speak for at least most of us when I say we’re all quite happy to continue in this bizarre student world of adulthood; where the fruit content in cider counts toward your five a day and doing the food shop means skidding round Tesco on a trolley.
Thinking about these things sends me into a downward spiral of panic. What if I’m the only person I know by the time I’m forty who hasn’t hosted a dinner party? What if everyone else is comparing notes on home insurance and I’m still trying to make a portion of pasta stretch to three meals because I can’t be arsed to get some food in?
While calmly deteriorating into a recycling-collection-date frenzy, dwelling on these great life mysteries, I had an epiphany. Eleven years ago, I was eight years old. I didn’t know my left from right properly, nor how to read a clock that used Roman numerals. I couldn’t be trusted to run a bath without fear of a mini-flood, and I wasn’t even tall enough to turn the central heating on, never mind know what to do if it wasn’t working. Now, a fully functioning nineteen year old, and I’m more than capable of all these things. They seemed impossible and far off when I was still strutting around in jelly shoes, but then so did graduating from primary school. If I’ve overcome eleven years of growing up without any major mishaps once before, I think I’m going to be able to do it again. And if I place learning how to calculate my electricity bill in the same boat as learning how to write joined-up, then I’m counting on it coming naturally after a period of trial and error, and only one or two situations where my lack of ability embarrasses me enough to motivate actually learning how to do it properly.