How do you handle entering a new chapter in life when you are so acutely aware of it being a ‘new chapter’? Whether you’re starting University, a new job or a new lifestyle, sometimes when you know you’re entering a new era it can alter how you approach it.
A lot of my life seems to be divided up in the post-production of my memories – sorted and compartmentalised into different ‘eras’ or ‘chapters’ upon reflection. Very rarely have there been times when I’ve known at the time that I was entering a new era, besides perhaps starting secondary school and college. However, even then I kept similar friends and every evening I came home to the same house with the same family so this shifting between ‘eras’ was seamless and mostly unnoticeable.
Talking to a friend last week, we were looking at my old diaries (laughing mostly at my use of Taylor Swift lyrics to describe the great heartache and distress of being an 11 year old) and what surprised me is how clear cut they all are – each representing a different ‘chapter’ of my life despite some of the notebooks being half empty, beginning/ending at random points and some only kept for a month, others for a year.
To my friend it looked like a mess of disorganised half filled notebooks but to me, they clearly represent different ‘eras’ of my life defined by certain emotions, people and points in time. The tone of each one is so different (as is noticeable even from the outside, perhaps best demonstrated by the emo phase notebook of 2015. Yes it does have the words “don’t read or Satan will rise and devour your soul” written next to the spine, thank you for noticing) and, although I was just writing for writing’s sake, when looking back I can see clear themes in each one that categorise each ‘era’ for me even if I didn’t know what those were at the time.
But here I am, stepping into what will undoubtedly be a new chapter so much more significant a change than anything I’ve ever experienced. For perhaps the first time, I am hyper aware that everything is about to change and I’m honestly not sure how to approach it. I’m about to move out, live with people who are complete strangers, study something new in a new city with an entirely new lifestyle. I am very aware that this whole thing just sounds like me #goingthroughit but with everyone else around me getting ready for University, work or just existing for the first time outside of school walls I know that we’re all equally clueless. The thing that makes it scary isn’t the wealth of opportunity waiting in the great beyond, it’s the things that are getting left behind. Like on some sort of huge supermarket checkout belt we’re being propelled forwards whether we like it or not, into adulthood and a proper life beyond anything we’ve experienced. But it’s not like we’re leaving anything behind because the space in which we existed before has since ceased to exist. My sister goes into my old school every day looking up to new students taking their A-Levels, attending our clubs and being the oldest around – that era now belongs to them, there is no space left for us. Yet for a lot of people, our next era hasn’t yet begun – I feel like time has swept me off its radar and I’m yet to be claimed by what’s coming next. It’s the physical representation of what a 4 hour airport layover fees like: the plane that got me here has left but the one taking me away hasn’t arrived yet so for now all I can do is wait.
But maybe it’s just aging that has allowed me to be so hyper-aware of what is changing around me. I have been lucky enough to have had experiences good and bad this year that, even as they happened, I knew would impact me in a big way. That’s an odd thing, knowing something is shaping you as a person when you’re still up to your ankles in the experience itself. That feeling of really, genuinely growing up is so strange but also something I know will permeate through the next few months. There is a platter of new experiences waiting in front of me that will probably never come in such quick succession at a time of such emotional importance ever again.
So here we are, teetering on the edge of the rest of our lives. In a state of limbo for the next few weeks with nothing much to do except prepare for what is to come. Although it might feel like a waste of time, enjoy it. Cherish this bubble of time as you sit in No-Man’s land for a while and take a deep breath before you walk towards what’s coming. Because it is coming. The wonderful and the difficult and the unexpected is all right around the corner and you’re so lucky that, for maybe the first time in your life, you’re hyperaware of the importance of this next chapter. You can buy all the new kitchenware or highlighters you want but honestly I don’t feel like there’s any way to approach this new era other than headfirst.
But should this awareness alter how you go about the next few months? That’s up to you. You can treat it all as a blur, letting the experiences and emotions fly at you to be analysed and reviewed later on just like me reading my old diaries and making more sense of it all in retrospect than I could ever have made at the time. Or you can try and consider what you would like to define this next era for you. Do you want it to be a time of growth? Relaxation? Excitement? You can’t control what it will be, but in the coming months try to take a moment every now and then to ask yourself what has been ‘defining’ this era for you so far and whether that’s what you want to remember it as. If you don’t like what you find then you still have the power to change the ‘tone’ of the chapter no matter how many pages in you are. This self-awareness is a tool to help you check in with yourself – whatever comes next will probably shape you in an important way and, although you can’t control how, you can make yourself a little more open minded, a little more self-forgiving and a little more grateful for all that is about to come your way.