I'm 21 and most of my friends are either 20 or 21 (babies Ellis and Ais-Ga not withstanding). There's this odd thing that I've found around people my age and the concept of being an adult, that is, nobody feels like one, or rather, nobody admits to feeling like one. This could just be because all of my friends are students and the student lifestyle is pretty much like being a child, just without the nagging of a real, live, indisputable, adult. We eat shit, watch shit and stay up late dancing or doing nothing at all. Sometimes, I eat a jar of jam for tea, or, more often than I care to admit, a packet of biscuits, and my room is covered in a knee-deep layer of shite. Add alcohol and sex and we have the best of both worlds.
I've heard properproper adults say that they still feel 16 or 18 or 21 or whatever, but I think that's probably something to do with wishing they didn't have the responsibilities and feeling a bit bewildered by the fact that they DO have the responsibilities they have. I think most people would struggle to tell you what they mean about still feeling like a kid, but I reck it's just that they expect that becoming an adult is an event, a sudden epiphany and an urge to get a mortgage and an ironing board.
I don't feel like a child. I don't ever remember feeling like a child. Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to tell you that when I was 11 I'd rather have spoken about the cost of living over Gareth Gates (mmmm, Gareth Gates), or that I didn't get worked up over and embroiled in the messy, messy politics of the playground. I don't think I was ever really any more or less mature than most people, but it's not about that. I just never had the magic, or if I did it was gone by the time I turned about 4. You know how everything is exciting and the world is a weird, but exciting, place? I think that's what I was missing. I knew too much, I think. I was terrified of what I'd seen and the expectation I always that had things would get worse. There's not a single time in my life you could pay me to go back to, except maybe my first year at uni, but not a single time in my childhood.
I think there's also something about mortality that ends a childhood, too. I never lost anybody as a child, besides my great-grandma who was well into her 90s, but experience of mortality comes in many forms. Every time you purge food in any way, which is massively traumatic to the body as well as the soul, you take you a risk with your life and your health, you take a responsibility and a risk and I'd been doing that years before I even hit puberty- the start of adulthood, I suppose. I first overdosed (in that I took more pills than recommended, with intention and planning. I just failed to realise how great the human body is and how much it can absorb, so it was almost hilariously uneventful which terrified me, actually, at the time) before I was a teenager.
It doesn't make me all that noticeably different from people my own age now and it didn't then. Sometimes though, I feel utterly confused as to how people my age operate and they feel. When you're at school, you're best off with a reasonably big circle of friends and one best one, the system is sort of organised to ensure that most people, especially girls, have that and I was no different. The friends changed over the years, but I always had that kind of a structure, which fell apart as we all got older and moved on and I got more ill and less interested (and probably less interesting too, hahaha). Which is all fine and, I'm pretty sure, natural. I wouldn't want that set-up now, all the allegiances you have to keep up, made complicated by playground politics. I have a handful of close friends and no group to manage. But still so many people do? Maintaining their childhood through what appears to be a tight group, in which each member bitches about another, and an exclusion of others. It's so bloody strange, these people and their ever-lasting childhoods.