You know the stereotypical nerdy introvert with thick spectacles and her nose in a book? She’s organised, disciplined and does so well in school that it seems success is inevitable. Of course you do. Everybody knows that girl. The one everyone expects great things from because she has no excuse to screw up.
For most of my life, I was that girl. I was the one who took meticulous notes, got the work done ahead of schedule and had enough time left to write clumsy novels. Sure, there was that ill-advised dalliance with art school – but I made up for it by graduating top of my class in a far more practical programme. I got into a fantastic internship. I was promising.
But I’m not that girl anymore. I can’t be. I screw up a lot.
Like the other stereotype, the one who can’t get her act together. She’s smart too, but in the unorthodox way that’s only useful if you’re incredibly talented or fabulously wealthy. She’s fickle. She makes decisions nobody gets. They give her the benefit of the doubt, but every time she has a fantastic idea that doesn’t quite pan out, they worry.
I’m that girl. The one who’s a writer because she has no patience for anything else. The flighty one who’s never had a proper job, can’t multitask and has a panic attack every time she has to make a decision. The girl who wanted to be a nun because the idea of living in the world while not living in it was her idea of heaven.
Yep. That’s me.
I don’t quite know how the transformation happened. I was on the right track…and then I wasn’t. I’ve always been cautious, afraid of making the wrong choice, but everybody said, “Oh, you’ll do well. You’re smart.” Huh. If I’m so smart, why haven’t I figured out how to be a grownup?
There’s a huge difference between the skills that get you through school and the ones that get you through real life. Maybe I was too busy trying to be the good little girl to learn how to handle my business. Now all the kids whose homework I used to do are stable and successful, and I haven’t figured out how to earn a decent living. Maybe I should have had more fun. Maybe I’m going to be the batty old writer living in a caravan with twenty cats. Assuming I can afford to feed twenty cats.
Or maybe (fingers crossed) there’s another girl that no one tells us about when we’re kids. Not the dutiful wife and mother, the go-getting corporate shark, the starving artist. Not the backpacking ashram-dweller or the fierce activist. Not the sex-symbol, the fashionista, the girl next door.
A girl who’s an unholy mixture of all stereotypes – or something entirely different. A girl who can take her time figuring out what she wants because her generation has the luxury and burden of choice. A girl who can screw up and get back on her feet, lose it all and start over. A girl who’s got what it takes to be pretty much anything she can conjure up – and blog about it, too.
Maybe I’m that girl. I hope so, because a) she sounds badass and b) if I’m not her, I’m screwed.