20 whole years

It was a Friday night, and I was on my way to meet two friends in London. The plan was to meet for a quick drink and then have dinner, but then Friend A calls to say that the pubs are full of PEOPLE……young people at that. There is loud MUSIC and she can’t hear a thing. What’s more…..there are no SEATS. None of this will do at all – we are in our late 30s and beyond standing up in crowded pubs. And Friend B is really quite pregnant.

We agree just to meet at the restaurant. This suits me fine because as well as my handbag, I have a big bag for life full of children’s puzzles and games….and if there is no room to sit down in the crowded pubs then there’s definitely no room for my giant bag. The full bag for life is now customary whenever I meet these particular friends – Friend A has two children a bit younger than mine, and is therefore the recipient of many of my boys’ old clothes, shoes and toys.

I arrive at the restaurant, and Friend A is also clutching a bag which isn’t a handbag. Her bag contains a mobile (a hanging thing, that is…..not a phone) which was a gift when my biggest boy arrived (from Friend B and another friend, as it happens). I passed the mobile onto Friend A once we had finished with it, and she is now passing it back to Friend B; so it has gone full circle which is rather lovely.

I met these girls when we started university back in 1998, and now here we are in 2018 – 20 years later – swapping bags for life containing Orchard toys and baby mobiles and discussing children’s toileting habits as if this is a totally normal topic of conversation (which it is, isn’t it?).

On the one hand, I’m sure I can’t be old enough to be able to talk about a significant event having happened 20 years ago; but then when I think about Friend A calling to say that perhaps the pubs were too BUSY and too NOISY for a pre-dinner drink, I can’t deny that times have changed. Because 20 years ago, noise and too many people were actually quite appealing.

As the years have passed, we have gone from meeting for drinks to meeting for dinner; from venturing out with a little handbag to venturing out with a handbag, plus extra bags full of children’s clothes/games or baby equipment; from attempting to work out what we want to do career-wise, to realising that perhaps we’ll never work this out but will instead end up in jobs that probably wouldn’t have entered our heads 20 years ago because this is just where life has taken us. We have bought houses and found our little patches to call home. It feels like everything and nothing has changed.  To me, none of my friends from this time in my life look much different or seem particularly different – it just so happens that 20 years have passed and we now seem to fill our time doing grown up things.

I have a house, a job, and three little people who need me, and yet I frequently feel like I’m just playing at this being-a-grown-up malarkey and that one day I’ll be found out. A generation has been born and crossed over into adulthood since 1998, but to me my university days still feel relevant, important; and like they didn’t happen that long ago. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be back then, and actually……I’m still not too sure; but if I attempted to work this out now, it would fall very much into the bracket of ‘she’s approaching 40 / having a mid-life crisis‘ rather than ‘oh, she’s just taken a little while [like 20 years] to work out what she wants to be‘.

I seem to have a lot of big milestones approaching in the next year or so……20 years since starting university, 10 year wedding anniversary, 40th birthday. And big milestones make you think. They make you think about how one minute you are putting up posters in your student flat/house and then before you know it you seem to have acquired a house / flat / children / partner / National Trust membership; and started drinking a lot more tea……And about how you now sound like your mum, grandma, aunt and every other adult who, back when you were a very young person, used to tell you this very thing.

three boys and a tree


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