My 28th birthday, compared to my 18th

It's my 28th birthday (yay! hurrah! woop!) and unlike previous birthdays, this one feels like an opportunity to really be grateful for the life I have at the moment. I finally feel really settled and content with life and like I'm sort of figuring out where I fit in to the world. I did get to thinking though, about how much life has changed in the last 10 years.
Of course you'd hope that life had progressed somewhat - if everything was as it was when I had just turned 18 then this would be getting kind of awkward! I look back at my newly-18-year-old self though, and I kind of weep for her whilst also celebrating the glorious mess that she was about to create.
I thought it would be nice to write a little ode to 18 year old me and reflect on who she was.
On my 18th birthday I'd just returned to school from half term - I was studying A levels in psychology, religious studies, and classical civilisations. As I shared my birthday with my classics teacher (the INCREDIBLE Dr. Vivienne Webb) and we were only a class of nine girls, we'd managed to book a class trip to London to visit The British Museum and go for pizza.
I'd recently had my heart broken (for the second time in my chaotic, romantic teenage love life) and was smarting big time from what was actually a very amicable break-up from one of the loveliest people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. My newly-ex boyfriend was one of the most popular people within our social circle, and I don't mean that annoying secondary school popular that's based entirely on being hot and good at sports (though he was both, to be fair) but he was just impossible to dislike; warm, kind, genuine... so it was largely impossible to express any kind of animosity towards him.
Instead, I sort of rekindled a previous relationship with one of my close girlfriends, and then began dating an incredibly eccentric guy who bought me orange sorbet in a gay club. Once back from London I hit the pub (my birthday fell on a Thursday and it was Pound'A'Pint night in The Penny Theatre in Canterbury - which was a pretty standard gathering for my group of friends) - which brought my weird romantic life crashing in around me. My ex boyfriend decided to come out to wish me a happy birthday and brought me flowers, I burst in to tears and begged him to get back with me, this upset previously mentioned girlfriend of sorts, and I called the oddball guy from the gay club to come and pick me up, cried on his shoulder, and asked him if we could go and get Chinese food. I ended up spending the night at his and there was a chicken in his bedroom. A live one.
Ahhh eighteen.
My parents bought me a car for my eighteenth birthday - an aqua/green/blue/turquoise Peurgeot which replaced my previous car, which I'd written off in a terrible accident a few weeks previously. I'm pretty sure that my car crash was some sort of near death experience - I've seen the photographs of the wreckage (which I was cut from by a fire crew) - and I'm surprised anyone made it out. Unfortunately I didn't appear particularly "enlightened" by the whole thing. I just became adamant that the fact that my newly purchased box of cigarettes also survived the crash unharmed should be taken as a sign that smoking wouldn't kill me.
My plan at eighteen was to move to Winchester the following year to study Theology at St. Alfred's. It was a plan that would never be realised, but at that point was pretty much the path I was set on. I'd completed my UCAS application, with a statement from my religious studies teacher that incorrectly stated that I intended to join the clergy. I was offered a place at all five of the universities I applied for - despite that reference - and I didn't attend any of them.
I was academically gifted really, at eighteen. Predicted three A grades at A Level, near enough guaranteed a place to study my chosen subject at university, pretty much excelling in each of my subjects at school. Yet I somehow managed to be fiercely social, had an enormous extended group of friends, smoked a lot, drank a lot and actually studied very little.
My closest friends were a pretty mixed bunch but we were super tight knit. Every morning I'd give my friend Holly a lift to school. She was infamous for exhibitionism and risky sexual practices - I miss her.
It was around the time of my eighteenth birthday that I staged an experiment to see how much weight I could gain in a fortnight. A lot, it turns out.
It was the year to come that would pretty much set me on a road to ruin and make the following decade, leading up to now, the most poorly judged, but at times very rewarding, demonstration of how not to be successful that I could possibly have lived! But I look back at newly eighteen year old me, sat around a table in Pizza Express with my classics class, or crying in Morrison's car park about being dumped, and I don't think I'd warn her of that much, even if I could. Every mistake that I was about to make at that point in life, from some truly disastrous romantic decisions, to racking up thousands of pounds worth of debt, to adopting an obese street cat - have gradually lead me to where I am today.
At 28 I have two children, despite being adamant at 18 that I probably didn't want any - and if I did become a Mother, it wouldn't be before I was 30. At 28 I've already been married and separated - I should probably get divorced this year - despite at 18 declaring that I would get married in 2020. At 28 I can only really describe myself, career wise, as a struggling writer - my favourite of clich├ęs, whilst at 18 I wanted to study theology and write philosophy books for a living. At 28 I have finally settled on the absolute love of my life, he took some finding, but I can't believe I ever felt love before this - despite at 18 being pretty certain that there will never be anyone else like him.
I wouldn't ever want to go back to being eighteen, but in it's weird way it was awesome. I have to thank Amadou I guess for leaving me for someone else, and making me cry loads. I have to thank Rufus for the orange sorbet, and for picking me up from the pub that night and not kicking me out of the car for crying about my ex. I have to thank Dr. Webb for being an incredible mentor and for the pizza. I have to thank my parents for buying me another car after I made such a mess of the first one. I have to thank Holly for the morning she came to school wearing only a poncho. I have to thank Mariel for lying for me on so many occasions about my school day smoking habits ("she's gone to the toilet Miss") and The Penny Theatre in general for serving me alcohol, and for their halloumi burgers. Thanks everyone for making my eighteenth birthday such an odd one... but just you wait until I'm 31 and look back ten years from then!

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