“You’re not 25 anymore, y’know,” my sister says. She’s being gracious. After another year abroad, I re-enter my bedroom where the posters, postcards and photos plastered against the back wall are peeling off, the Blu-Tack tired of supporting them. This is interior decoration befitting a 16-year-old, and I am now (sigh) an almost-no-longer-twentysomething.
But what does the bedroom of an almost-no-longer-twentysomething look like? Probably a few minimalist picture frames capturing my wedding day, the smiles of my two (ideally mixed race) kids and our most recent European holiday. One abstract painting and a watercolour landscape.
Except that I am single and unemployed with zero offspring. And I haven’t picked up a taste for abstract art. I don’t belong to this bedroom.
No, I don’t even belong to this city. It made me but I have outgrown it – or rather I’ve deviated from the life plan it envisages for its children. According to Mother Canberra, I should be a middle manager in the public service, on track to paying off the mortgage on my three-bedroom house, married and probably also a mum myself. I should have an iPhone 6 and a barista who knows my name and order.
That’s probably the picture I would have painted for myself 20 years ago. I’m not sure at what point exactly in these last two decades my vision shifted. I no longer want that. I mean I do: I’d like a job with regular hours that pays more than decently; my own home; a life partner; babies; the latest smartphone; consistently excellent coffee with customer service to match. They’re all fabulous things to have.
What I mean is that “that” is simply not enough. I want more than that. And if need be I am willing to give up every single one of those things for that illusive and ineffable “more”.
What I mean is that I would much rather be and do than have.
Five days in, I’m grateful to be back in my hometown. But I wonder if in the long run I won’t feel more at home in the company of English teachers in Madrid, expats in Dili, artists in La Paz. People who love their jobs but live for the weekend. People who are “in between” yet totally in the moment. People I never wanted to be.
I am almost no longer twentysomething and I don’t know how to decorate my own bedroom.