There’s a musty old volume of Tennyson on my bedside table, of unknown origins and questionable cleanliness, which is my only comfort tonight. Well, maybe not the only comfort. I’m perfectly healthy, only slightly overweight with slightly crooked teeth. I have a perfect family, apart from the fact that they’re all ridiculously busy and a tad delusional. This time last year, I also had a perfect life. I graduated from one of the best universities in the world, with 2 PhD offers, and was set to be a doctor of sorts by 24. And then life kicked in.

For the past nine months, I have been sitting in my room in my parents’ house, holding onto my sanity with both hands as it threatens to leave me. The PhD offers never materialized, deadlines passed by unnoticed, and I turned into the biggest failure I knew. Well, at least the biggest failure my father had ever, ummm, fathered. And I’m sure a lot of my mother’s book club members, those who sported the I’m-sure-you-paid-someone-to-get-in smiles at my Cambridge announcement agree with him wholeheartedly. But I don’t.

There are thousands of people out there, waiting to slot you into a neat little category. Success, failure, nerd, bimbo, pretty, are no longer just adjectives. They seem to be words vast enough to hold the measure of someone’s personality. I refuse to be categorized, I am far too  three dimensional for that. If  nothing else, my jeans are proof enough.

I could call it a day; declare a year is long enough to spend in purgatory and move on with my life. Being a theoretical scientist, in my country with my gender, is unheard of, and therefore unthought of.  I’m only 21, I could change my career route, do something sensible and acceptable like becoming a teacher or a doctor. Technically, that’s the better choice, but we all need to remember what we knew as children and forgot as adults_ technicalities don’t matter.  I refuse to follow a career path, if only on principle. I want to explore, create,  discover. That’s the only way I can be me.  Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful to all those who have dedicated themselves to improving our lives; where would we be without electric kettles and insurance and alarm systems and even the scented sachets you put in your lingerie drawer. But I wonder, is it too much to ask that for the millions out there trying to solve problems and make points, there should be, if only a handful who simply want to learn?

Thats what I aim to do eventually. Learn.  Right now, however,  I’m just a work in progress, indefinitely delayed, infinitely hopeful. I’m someone who almost became who I was meant to me, but then stopped short and nearly fell into an abyss. Nearly. I’ve been clawing to hold on to the edge for so long I can’t feel my fingers anymore, but I’m still here. I’m hanging on by a thread. There’s a lot in my life that has not gone according to plan, so many things that I cannot fix and the universe appears not to consider a priority. And so, in the absence of success and relationships, and a wardrobe worth my time, I am going to stand out by the corner, grabbing any little chance at happiness that comes by. A yellow balloon, a song, a great hair day, my mother’s smile; there may not be much laughter in my life, but I’ll find something to smile about. So I’m putting this out there, ‘on the internet’ as my mother would say, mystified. I’m sure no one’s going to read this, but just writing it makes me feel more real than I have in a long time. And it makes me happy. That’s the whole point of this shindig called life, right? Joy. Peace. Happiness.

‘ A second voice was at mine ear

A little whisper silver-clear

A murmur, ‘Be of better cheer.”


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