This obsession or perhaps anxiety is a part of everything I do. I write lists of things I need to do the next day when I’m too stressed to sleep, have a spreadsheet with my fitness targets, and constantly frame my own achievements against the time frame they were delivered in.
As a teenager, I would Google my favourite comedians or writers and see what path they took so I could judge where I was against them.
When they inevitably went to better universities or schools than me, I’d then reassess who my heroes were and look for a role model whose footsteps I could reasonably follow. Jon Sopel, seemingly the only non-scientific famous graduate of Southampton….thank you.
And I’m now approaching 30. It’s close enough I’m sending save the date messages to friends, and trying to decide how to celebrate the relentless passage of time.
I feel like Rob in High Fidelity, listening to old music and assessing my own behaviour and wondering if I’ve lived enough.
The writers or journalists I enjoy have paths I can no longer look to for guidance, because they’ve had the temerity to be born before me.
It’s not that I worry about getting old. I’ve embarrassingly gotten in better shape and more confident in myself as I’ve aged, with even my follicle concerns limited to greying rather than going.
But I am taking stock, and wondering what I’ve done, and what comes next. Like a role playing video game, if I picked a different class/degree and started again, would I be doing better?
Next week I’m flying to see a Swiss friend from Erasmus, and realised our milestones significantly diverge.
In the time since we last saw each other, he’s met a girl, got a dog, had a baby, and bought a house. I’ve got verified on Twitter.
By any measurement his life is a roaring success, but it’s not what I want. So why am I comparing myself to others in the first place?
If I can’t suddenly sell a sitcom to Netflix, my choices are either pay too much to live somewhere nice or pay too much to own somewhere horrible.
For my generation, home ownership is simply impossible unless you live at home to save, do something immoral for work or simply marry rich.
As for family, my worst nightmare is waking up one day and my life being two kids, a wife and a better holiday each year.
I think my main realisation is acceptance. I don’t have to want these things, and it’s OK not to have ticked things off an arbitrary bucket list.
Skydiving sounds scary, bungee jumping even worse. Taking drugs would let those who tried to peer pressure me win, and if I got a tattoo my mum would kill me.
So I’m going to stop making lists. Not knowing what comes next isn’t a loss of control, it’s a reality of life.
I’m now looking for things I’d like to do, rather than things I need to do. Instead of milestones and targets, I am going to focus on simply having a lovely time.