As a species, we’re pretty crap both at grieving and talking about grieving. It’s often a thing pushed aside, an elephant in the corner, ignored and moved around. Which is mad, as we face so many types of grief in our lives that can be truly impactful. There’s a particular spectrum of grief that comes with age milestones. I’m only recently realising that I’m mourning my twenties. Hold fire before judging here please and let me explain…
Yes, I’m heading into my fifth month of being 30 so this has taken a little while. But sometimes you can only realise the true depth of an experience or feeling when you step away from it. Furthermore, considering the emotional rollercoaster I experience pre-August 25th, this prolonged deceleration shouldn’t be such a surprise. And I’m not grieving the end of what my twenties were. I’m grieving the end of what my twenties could have been. How I thought they were going to go and how far away they ended up being from that.
This is not to moan about my lot. For I have an incredible life. My family are wonderful, as are my circle of friends. My health could be better, could be worse. I have hobbies I love and am pretty good at. There is not a single regret at where I am now and the paths I took to get there. But the bit I’m balancing internally is how the path I’m on isn’t the one I expected and arguably, due to all manner of societal pressures, isn’t the one that I envisioned at the start of my 20s.
I thought, by the age of 30, I would have experienced love. The romantic variant.
How this love looked was depicted varied over the years. At the start of my 20s, I was certain that the decade would end with home-owning child-reading with a husband. I’d gone to university expecting to meet my soulmate, so that narrative all felt totally inevitable. And yet, as the years past, I didn’t meet that person. That all-encompassing much-prophesised soulmate who would complete me didn’t come riding in on his noble stead.
Instead, in all honesty, I meet nobody. Nobody that counts. Not really. Aside from the odd arsehole who crawled out the woodwork and provided situationships that resulted in little more than demoralising disappointment and ruthless rejection.
I guess I should be thankful really. I’ve got to my big-age and my heart is intact. It has never been broken, instead it’s been a bit bruised and it’s taken a couple of dents. Which, perhaps in a rather Romantic take on it, makes me feel quite sad. Because a broken heart is a heart that has been used and taken out of the packet. It’s heart that experienced joy before the fall; that once felt alive and soaring.
Don’t get me wrong, big girls do cry – even those who haven’t been in love. Those disappointments still resulted in tears to the point of dehydration and some of the most awful moments in my life, I refuse to undersell or underacknowledge those pains I have overcome. In theory the brightest lights cast the darkest shadows, so I deeply begrudge that the darkest shadows that came from the hands of others were caused by the human equivalent of dim light bulbs.
I am incredibly appreciative of the love and joy I have from my friends and family. I have little doubt that, not matter what or who crosses the rest of however long I have left on this planet, I have a handful of friends who were some of the true great loves of my life. It almost feels disloyal to them to be asking for more.
But I hope that even though romantic love didn’t arrive in my past, it will be awaiting me in my (please, oh holy deities – near!) future. What I would give for something to counter those pangs of loneliness that arrive from not having and never have felt it. Especially as the form of that loneliness has unexpectadly shifted over the decade.
If I had a pound for every time I’ve ever said ‘I’m going to die alone’ I wouldn’t be a millionaire, but I’m pretty sure I’d have a damn nice pair of Louboutins. Sometimes it was a phrase uttered as a joke, other times (and I’m being frank and open here) whilst crying into a pillow. Or on a train or bus. Once or twice, on a park bench. Several times over several alcholoic beverages with friends.
But nowadays that feeling I link with that fear now actually arrives when I’m not alone. It arrives when I’m with friends who are in a couple. It’s not an omnipresent feeling, it’s one that arrives and disappears as suddenly as lightening. But, like thunder, it’s one that strikes at the very core and deeply echoes within. It’s for a craving of the intimacy they share, the knowledge they have their person and the certainty that comes with that. As taboo as it may be to say, I really crave that.
That’s the thing I find myself trying to find acceptance with. That’s what my five stages of grief for my twenties have been tied to: the denial that I felt so profoundly about it, the anger that ‘everyone else’ got to have that whilst I didn’t, the self-bargaining I made in how to ‘deal’ with it and the sadness at having ‘not, and never have been, feeling wanted’.
By writing this I’m trying to finally reach a degree of self-acceptance of it all. That experience isn’t one-size fits all, life cannot be predicted and that I didn’t do my twenties ‘the wrong way’.
And, I can also feel that way whilst also wanting to experience romantic love.
I don’t *need* romantic love, but I’d like to be able to give it a try. To love someone and be loved back. To have my person’s back and they have mine. I’m not looking for the centre of my solar system, I’ve formed a most-excellent one all on my own. I’m looking for another solar system to rest next to. We can sit in the rocketship, exploring our respective solar systems and the rest of the galaxy. Together.