My mum drove down the darkened country lanes. We’re both riding that post gig high having just seen our favourite band, Sundara Karma, at the Thekla in Bristol. Or as we call it ‘the boat that rocked’. Connecting my phone to the cars speaker I watched in anticipation as my clock changed to 00:00 am. It’s now the 29th September and I have just turned twenty. Gone are my awkward teenage years and I almost let out a sigh of relief but instead pressed play and settled for singing a passionate rendition of the only song I could possibly want to hear at that moment, The Courteeners Not Nineteen Forever.
The jangly riff accompanied by four Mancs singing of teenage insecurities and romanticism filled the car and my head with the somewhat overwhelming notion that my teenage years were no more. That I am in fact on the brink of adulthood. My mind, however, preoccupied with the thought of how nineteen was by far my worst year. Broken hearted, parents splitting and a breakdown in my first year of university left little to be desired of nineteen. But as Courteeners lead singer Liam Fray chants You're not nineteen forever, pull yourself together I know it seems strange but things, they change no sentiment could ring truer. Life is ever changing and turning twenty was my much-anticipated quarter-life crisis. Only I did not splash out on a Porsche, invest in a never to be used gym membership or obsess over my ageing skin, instead, I became determined and motivated to find purpose somewhere in my life.
I thrust myself into all that University had to offer, workshops, lectures, careers meetings the lot. I had spent two years living vicariously through my boyfriend, fixated on his UCAS applications and prospects, and forgetting my own in the process. Projecting my own dissatisfaction onto him and wondering why I seemed to be continually just coasting through my degree, with average grades and little to show for a year’s work. Breaking up and being completely alone, as terrifying as it was, forced me to confront the daunting reality that I had no job prospects or experiences of my own. I wanted to work in social media but the realisation of the vagueness of that idea began to sow the seed of panic. One-third of the way through my degree and I had nothing to show that I had gone beyond the realms of just studying set texts and submitting essays. I could not set myself apart and would graduate with a mediocre BA Hons and apply aimlessly to any job that would take me. That simply was not good enough for over fifteen years in education.
Chest tightening, breathing quickening and sweating palms wiped on jeans the waves of panic were beginning to consume me. Years of dedication to my studies and hard work could not amount to a substandard and unfulfilling job. Or worse, no job at all. I wanted excitement. I wanted to feel challenged. But at the root of it all, I wanted to feel I would be making a worthwhile contribution and make some sort of difference. I spent hours updating my CV, searching the internet nightly for work experience, placements, and future jobs. I was completely focused. Years of schooling intertwined with personal interests and passions formed the feeling I hadn’t experienced in all my twenty years; certainty. I was certain I had to work harder, expect more for myself and expand beyond my personally constructed limitations. I could and can achieve more than I had previously been willing to settle for.
On went that oh so familiar and severely overplayed guitar riff and I sang out Tried to get your attention all night long asked you once, I asked you twice, asked you four times If you'd like to dance to that song. Cutting some questionable shapes at this point before being interrupted by the chime of my phone notifying me off an email. I had just received confirmation of my place to teach English in Bali this summer. Traveling alone for the first time in my life to an unknown country for one whole month. I’m counting down the days and June could not come sooner. I’ve become the epitome of all my hero Beyoncé preaches; I’m a fierce, strong independent woman who can do anything I set my mind on. I’m going to travel, broaden my horizons and appreciate all that the world has to offer me.
Now over halfway through my twentieth year and it’s my best year yet. I’m walking to work in time to the Manc teenage anthem, reminiscing how I’m indeed Not Nineteen Forever and I’m happy. I have an interview next month for a placement with Transport for London. My CV’s struggling to be contained in two pages and I have an abundance of glowing references reiterating the hard work ethic I’ve spent the past seven months conjuring. I’m doing it, setting into motion the foundations for the future I’ve dreamt of.
Text | Katherine De Sousa
Photography | Jessica Lena
Model | Courtney Donegal
Styling & Art direction | Leticia Curteis-Lateo