It’s the start of a new decade. The next time that happens, I’ll be 32. Predictably, this induces feelings of nausea and flashbacks to that scene in Friends where Monica’s mother tells her it’s time to start wearing night cream (is it? Is it? Does it matter that those unmistakable lines on my forehead are covered by my fringe? Why do I have crow’s feet, but only on one side?). Standing about in my friend’s living room last night, our little group having rather self-consciously switched over from Jools Holland to toast the New Year with cut glasses and the BBC1 fireworks (which in itself begs the question: why am I worried about getting old), someone voiced the opinion that this next decade would be the most important and definitive of our lives.
This shouldn’t be startling. I’m 22 now; obviously, a lot’s happened to me since 2000 (cf. puberty, university, being sick in a field in front of someone I fancied), but it’s in your twenties that the Big Things are meant to happen. The Goals, and the Life Plan, and, honestly, as I type this, my palms have started to sweat. The glittering career part: absolutely. ASAP. Bring on the advancement and a job that doesn’t pay by the hour. It’s after that things start to get fuzzy.
Theoretically, I want to own my own house and pay into a pension and know about wine and dinner parties. At some point. In a distant and possibly parallel universe where I like cooking other than in a wok, and have learned to walk in high heels. Equally, I theoretically want children – as do my friends – but when another friend pointed out that this is the decade in which some of us will start buying/bartering/squirting them out of our bodies, we all started squinting suspiciously at each other. As if what Jack had actually said was, “this is the decade in which someone here will both contract and spread a disgusting, embarrassing disease. Or commit a murder.”
Seeing that his sprogged-up-for-2010 announcement had gone badly, the same friend (whose car bumper is currently held on by gaffer tape, suggesting that for him, adulthood won’t arrive any time soon) tried a different tack. “Or maybe,” he philosophised, “the most significant and definitive decade of our lives was the one that’s just gone.”
Yeah. There was twitching. Faces whitened and eyes bulged as all of us considered key memories of acne, school discos, life crises and A Levels as templates for the next sixty years. Over in the prat corner, Mr Philosophy (who in his own words, ‘only met girls in 2007’) seemed to be choking.
2009 had it in for us. More war and less lucre than ever, deaths that ranged from the tragic to the tragically bizarre, and the only real news-humour derived from finding not just that your MP claimed for a moated duckhouse with a shelf for garlic peelers, but that the great, almighty System condoned this. On a personal level, there were only one or two parts of the year I really, really didn’t enjoy, but last night I definitely shared the collective wish to shuffle 2009 out the door, into a Ford Transit and send it, bag on head, to an unmarked grave in Epping Forest. Sure, we inaugurated Barack Obama, but that was just a star-spangled hangover from November, back when the world was full of possibility. In fact, 2009 gave us Alfie Patten, the world’s youngest cuckold, and Susan Boyle who, poor woman, promptly went mad.
I may sound full of gloom. But 2009 was not a defining year for me (I swear I haven’t bought one of those Affirmations tapes), and I am more excited about this New Year than I have ever been before. I have made lists. I have resolutions. My first list fell victim to my tendency to let papers accumulate in my bed til they fall down the side of them, but that at least provides fodder for resolution no. five thousand sixty four and whatever. Crucially, I also have a gorgeous RED Moleskine diary in which to write them (the resolutions. And possibly also important things like dates, appointments, birthdays &c). Last night, arriving home with feet joyfully crippled and a lifetime’s supply of mascara, I used said diary to scrawl the following: “This is going to be the decade of clean-living, of direction, of success, of independence and maturity. ” I was completely sloshed, but greatly admire the sentiment.
All in all, things are looking good. My current job (which I have, overall, enjoyed) finishes in a couple of weeks; I have an exciting internship in the Spring, some great pupils for tutoring and several putative DPhil apps that might translate into places if only the funding mumble, mumble…
There’s also the possibility of an interesting project with the National Library of Wales, singing in Birmingham Symphony Hall, and, throughout, the opportunity to improve my skillsets in the fields of begging letters, CVs, blagging and hype.
Anyway. Life is always good when you have people who love you and a The Thick of It DVD. I’m off to acquire the latter. Happy New Year.
(I cannot tell a lie: one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to start blogging, again, properly. Many thanks to the people who emailed and prodded and Facebooked and kicked.)
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.