Sunday, 1 April 2018

I'm going to miss being 19

“You are only young once, but you can stay immature indefinitely.” - Ogden Nash

Today is my last day being a teenager.

I spent today how I’ve spent a lot of April Fool’s Days… camping. Even on the eve of becoming a teenager I was camping.

There in one story in particular about the eve of my 13th birthday (well, technically my 13th birthday itself) that gets recited to me every Easter year-upon-year. Picture this: It’s night-time, a 12 year-old Liam Pape has been in bed for a few hours and wakes up in his sleep at one of his first Scout camps, crying and yowling because he wants to go home and spend his birthday with his family.

Ben, one of the older boys at the end of the tent, tells me to be quiet. Harry, one of the more considerate boys at the other end of the tent takes me to a leader instead. On waking the leader, I explained that I wanted him to call my mam so she could come and pick me up. The leader, Mark, instead gives me another blanket and tells me it’s 3am so he’s not calling anybody. I go back to my tent and eventually fall asleep. Unknowing that I wouldn’t live that down for the next six years.

Once of the best things I heard about being a teenager came from my secondary school history teacher. In 2013, I’d been invited to a peers event at the House of Commons as part of an anti-tobacco industry campaign I was part of at the time. He came with me as a chaperone and on the train down to London he said to me, “Don’t be afraid to look stupid today. You can get away with it. You’re a teenager.”

Me, looking smug about being a naïve, juvenile teenager
Even though, I’ve come to learnt that most people look stupid well into their old age nowadays, I’m sure I will look back at these teenage years with nostalgia that I will no longer be able to laugh off idiocy as “well I’m just a teenager.”

The main thing I’m going to miss about being a teenager isn’t any of the perks that come with these magical years (if there any any perks at all that is - spots, puberty, and PE lessons don’t sound that great to me). Rather, the actuality of being able to say that I’m a teenager. I still very much associate being 19 with adolescence. At the end of the day, it’s still the decade of your life when you went to Primary School and Secondary School. But being 20, nah son, that’s a whole other kettle of fish. Being the big two zero means that you're in the decade of your life where most people start a career, buy a house, and have kids. Being 20 is adulthood.

It’s not the expectations that bother me though, it’s the whole notion of adulthood associated with being 20.

Some of the best pleasures I’ve had in the last year or two, especially in London, have been the expressions of people who thought that I was way older than 19. Their surprise when I proudly declare that I’m only 19 is fantastic!

I fondly remember a conversation with a colleague at work last year. She was 35 years old and had recently came out of a long-term relationship but was looking to get back onto the dating scene. She asked me if I had any single friends I could set her up with. “Pah! I’m 18. Basically all my friends are single!” I chortled. She laughed it off, said that she thought I was in my early 30s and then declared that she was old enough to be my mother.

By far my favourite ‘being 19’ story happened this February. I was in a club and a woman (who I later found out was 24) asked me for my Instagram username - I can only assume this is the 2018 way of asking for someones number? She followed me and I followed back as she was very pretty.

Marin and Kyle went ballistic when I told them I had no plans to slide into her DMs though because I felt like a catfish. “What the fuck do you mean? She’s seen you in person though?” they said to me. However, the poor woman definitely thought I was far older than I was though.

Imagine if we went on a date and she says, "I’m a part-time model and work for an auctioneers. What do you do for a living, Liam?" and I then need to explain that I’m a student so I spend most of my time dossing around in my flat and watching David Dobrik videos on YouTube. Then what happens when the bill comes? I gently need to nudge it over to her side of the table with a pitiful expression as I explain, “student loan, sorry luv.”

Since their 20s were the decade that my parents got married and had me, I’ve decided to set a goal to spend my 20s trying to find ‘the one’ and seeing if I can unearth my true callling in life.

I’m shitting you.

I’ll probably just continue to overwork myself until an early grave.