All the baked beans in the world couldn't prepare me for 27.
The highlight of my day was weighing myself every morning, because when you live off baked beans and tasty cheese (seriously), that uni weight you’ve been carrying around for years comes straight off.
I’m turning twenty-seven soon. I’m more aware than ever that I’m getting older. Of course, I’ve spent every second, waking or sleeping, getting older, and although I am turning twenty-seven next month, I’ll actually be completing my twenty-seventh year and will start my twenty-eighth. Isn’t that scary?
Actually, I’m starting to think that maybe it isn’t.
This morning, while doing the dishes, my proper live-in boyfriend said to me, “wow, twenty-seven, that seems old,” which, of course, it does to him, as he’s not even twenty-four yet. Alas, I’m feeling good about turning twenty-seven, and I think it’s because in the last year I’ve actually just gotten everything I ever wanted.
When I finished uni I was twenty-two and a half. At uni “they” tell you how amazing you are, and that you’re going to go out there into the real world and be a fabulous, employed writer. Of course, this is simply not the case, but “they” really make you believe it.
I believed it, certainly, and it was a huge shock when I entered the workplace and I was on the bottom of the ladder. I had gone from a high-up place to a very lowly bottom place, something I hadn’t really experienced since the year-six-to-year-seven transition. And I feel like I’ve struggled to get that feeling back, where I’m on top, ever since. Every job I went to, I was given a little bit more responsibility, but I only ever felt like “they” were doing it to shut me up. I was eager. I was a fucking 10 being treated like a fucking 2, and I wanted to be superior to everyone because at uni “they” told me I was. And I believed them.
Cut to my twenty-fifth birthday, the day I moved to Melbourne. I moved to Melbourne out of a pure “FUCK YOU” to those few years I spent being at the bottom – at the organisations I worked for, the city I was living in, and especially an incredibly emotionally-abusive relationship that I was in – and moved to Melbourne to show those “FUCK YOU” recipients that I AM the top that I know I am. …but my life didn’t really move forward. It actually kind of just stalled.
It was completely stagnant for the first nine months. I was gestating “sad”. I was the most bottomist I had ever been. My washing machine broke and I hand washed my clothes for six months. I didn’t leave the house because it cost $4 to catch the tram – something I couldn’t afford. The highlight of my day was weighing myself every morning, because when you live off baked beans and tasty cheese (seriously), that uni weight you’ve been carrying around for years comes straight off.
"I was a fucking 10 being treated like a fucking 2, and I wanted to be superior to everyone because at uni “they” told me I was."
And then, some really weird things happened. Some new friends popped up (or rather, relocated to Melbourne), the weight loss made me look cuter than ever (said my sad, weird brain at the time), I GOT A JOB, and I met a nice boy.
I was still at the bottom but things were getting nicer and nicer by the day, and the rungs of the ladder above me seemed less far away. It was still hard. I couldn’t afford to socialise with these new friends, but I did anyway. I did some questionable things - like buy $6 bottles of rosé instead of buy groceries; like sleep with the nice boy the same day he broke up with his girlfriend - but exciting things were happening… stimulating things.
And then, even more suddenly than anything sudden ever, the boy and I were serious and in love. We wanted to leave Melbourne to follow our actual dreams, instead of pretending like being poor in Melbourne was so fabulous (it’s not).
It’s two months later, and we’re living in a smaller town, and my life is completely different, but I still feel like I’m exactly the same person. I think this is a huge achievement, and a happy one.
Even though I’m in a new town and I’m starting again - and it’s fucking cold - I’m feeling more and more like I’m on top every day. I have a beautiful house that is significantly cheaper than the tiny unit I was sharing in Melbourne. I have a beautiful partner who loves me, and we laugh together, and dance in our kitchen together sometimes. I have two fabulous new GROWN UP jobs, and finally I feel like “they” trust me to have the responsibiity that I have been craving for… jesus, has it really been four and half years since I finished uni?
I feel like this is what I wanted for my twenty-seven year old self: work I am qualified and experienced to do, in the field that I want to work, a stable house, a wonderful man by my side, and creative projects that make me happy and make me feel like I’m making the world just a tiny bit more interesting or nice. Isn’t this just what anyone wants?
Fucking hell, I am so lucky to have all this.
So damn lucky.
Image: Alex Jack
Penelope (Nel) Kentish is a theatre maker who lives in Bathurst with her husband and misogynistic cat. You can see her other stuff at carrot-flowers.com.