TWSS’s Senior Editor, Rachel, reflects on the aches of growing up and moving away from home for our second installment of the girlhood column.
I got the train back to Bristol at midnight last week after a long day of drinking with my friends from home. We all met in Bath for my best mate’s birthday and had a great time wandering the city, enjoying a bottomless brunch, and winding back to our other mate’s house. I had a wonderful time with these girls that I love to my core – each a bit more mature, a bit more individual, and a bit more self-assured than they had been when we were in sixth form, unsure and antsy about the future. But then the culmination of fatigue and alcohol ended (as inevitably it always does) in a depressing conversation about the friends, the groups, the habits we’ve lost since we all left home.
I fled my hometown at the age of 19 in something of a blaze of glory. Nights in pubs and people’s gardens were going to be replaced by the abundance of options that came with living in the coolest city I’d visited on my open days. I was adamant that I was going to be different – happier and more independent. I was determined to shed my skin, the one that I associated with my childhood and growing up. To be honest, that version of myself couldn’t be discarded quickly enough.
When I was waiting for that train I sat and reflected on all of this. I studied my reflection in the glass, and through the drizzle I saw the ways I looked older. I kind of mused for a while on how I would never again see my 18-year-old face stare back at me in the mirror. This was pretty self-indulgent, but then again, I was drunk.
Coming to university and the strangeness of the Covid years have sharply cleaved apart these two phases of my life – my youth and my adulthood. It’s weird to realise that what I’ve considered central parts of my life – my friends, my interests – are no longer current and are now committed and enshrined to memory. I can revisit them through nostalgia, but I can never make them materialise again as they were. I’ve changed, and so has everyone else. The landlord at my favourite pub back home tells me he misses my friendship group, but the truth is, it just doesn’t exist anymore.
I’ve made a conscious effort to revive those interests and habits of my teenage years. I can listen to The Cure and Sticky Fingers and it reminds me of good times at school and summers spent with my friends. I’ve rewatched Peep Show and Downton Abbey, and I remember watching TV with my mum and talking about the latest episodes with my nan.
I don’t know how to be okay with feeling nostalgia for things I wish I still had. I didn’t notice the present slipping into the past, but I’ve found myself grieving a version of myself that I threw away too carelessly and now is impossible to reach.
I graduate this summer and I’m moving back home. I never imagined that once I had left I would go back, but truthfully I’ve run out of money and I don’t have a plan. Lots of my university friends have exciting things lined up, and lots of my home friends are also moving onto bigger and better things. I wonder if the spectres of my childhood will haunt me as I try to settle back as an adult into the place where I grew up. Regardless, I’ll make this transition carefully: I’ll keep hold of the people and the things that I care about now. And when I inevitably move out again, perhaps to a new city and into a new job, I’ll be able to move forward without feeling like I need to forget what I’m leaving behind.