I celebrated my twenty-fourth birthday a few days ago, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how strange a time this is: Covid aside, being at the crossover of early and mid-twenties is honestly bizarre! Some people are still studying, some are early in their careers, and some are lucky enough to be fairly established in their field. Some live at home with their parents, some are renting, some are saving for a mortgage deposit and some have bought their first home.
Everyone I know is doing different things. It was easier when we were at school, I think. Back then, there was a simple, orderly system by which to measure where an individual ‘should’ be. Year Nines chose options, Year Tens did coursework, Year Elevens did exams, Year Twelves wondered what on earth they’d put themselves in for and Year Thirteens wrestled with UCAS, A-levels and Student Finance England (shudder.) It was easy; I knew where I was supposed to be and understood where other people were too. Now? I wish it was so clear-cut.
Navigating a career is hard, and nobody tells you that, growing up! As much as I know that there are thousands of teachers at the same point in their career as I am in mine, there is no-one else in my school who is going through their second year of teaching, right now at the same time as me. Everyone’s done their second year in the classroom, of course, but no-one else is doing it in my school, this year. I don’t know if that makes any sense at all – how is it possible to sometimes feel alone, in a room full of friends?
It’s that realisation that there’s such enormous diversity of experiences now, that I think is more than a little mind-blowing. I am carving a path for myself as I go, knowing that there is no-one walking ahead of me to tell me what’s coming next or how to do it right. So much of adulthood is working it out for yourself and good grief, I never realised it would be so hard!
As a child, I remember imagining that I’d reach my mid-twenties and be absolutely set. When you’re a child, it seems so far away to be twenty-four, and it seems entirely likely that you’ll reach that age and live a cookie-cutter-perfect life all of your own. Children draw it every day, that square house with the garden, duck pond, car and usually a family to match the one they grew up in. A child I teach proudly told me that they’d drive a Lamborghini when they grow up (I teach in the Home Counties so perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch, but their wonderful childhood naivety took me aback.)
There isn’t a map for adulthood, and I often wish that there was.
There also isn’t a map for navigating neurodiversity, a category I’ve recently realised that I sit quite comfortably within.
Neurodiversity – noun – the range of differences in individual brain function and behavioural traits, regarded as part of normal variation in the human population (used especially in the context of autistic spectrum disorders)https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
As far as I have always been honest about mental health on my blog, I think it’s only fair of me to be transparent about this newest development in my self-understanding. Like everything, I’ve given it a great deal of thought and am in the process of giving it the time and research it deserves and requires. While I’m happy to accept that I am neurodivergent (a person on the spectrum of neurodiversity) that doesn’t make it any easier to see myself through this new lens, to have so much of my life and my experiences suddenly make sense in a completely new way. The closest thing I can compare it to is having your eyes tested, and having your eyes pulled into uncomfortably sharp focus all of a sudden – that’s how it feels to have my worldview shifted like this.
I will undoubtedly blog about this again, when I have a little more of an idea what to say, but for now it fits squarely into my shout into the void of ‘Does anybody have a map?!’
Those words are not my own (as I get older, I’m beginning to wonder if there even is such a thing as a wholly independent thought…) They are borrowed from the opening number of a musical I saw recently, the incredible Dear Evan Hansen. The song in question, Anybody Have a Map? is from the perspective of two mothers who struggle to relate to or understand their teenage sons, but the lyrics speak to me deeply, especially now.
Can we try to have an optimistic outlook?
Can we buck up just enough to see the world won’t fall apart?
Does anybody have a map?
Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this?
I don’t know if you can tell
But this is me just pretending to know