Turning 24

November 27, 2023

One Summer's Day - Joe Hisaishi

I've turned 24 today. A year away from 25. It's odd to think I've lived probably more than a quarter of my lifespan at this point. It's also reminding me how behind I am compared to my peers.

My old classmates most likely for the most part have degrees, masters even, and a well-paying job. Some are probably already married, maybe even parents. Meanwhile, I'm typing this in my room, at my mother's home, not as isolated as before but still living like a teenager, kinda, and feeling like given that she gives me no incentive or encouragement to go forward, that she might be thinking I'll never move out. Technically I'm not so old to still live at home: after all, my brother didn't move out until he was about 28, if I recall good, and nowadays we zoomers tend to move out later. But still, I feel like an overgrown teenager that should've grown up a long time ago. I just have compassion for my younger self who had to grow up too fast and then figure out how to mature emotionally entirely by herself, not being given any cues or clues as to how and when to do it. Developmental trauma fucks you up. Emotional neglect does as well. But hey, I'm holding on, and getting there... I hope.

I feel like a different person than I was a year ago. Probably a normal thing, but I've gone through a lot of things in that last year, and I feel simultaneously very weary and like an era has ended, or is in the process of ending.

When I turned 23, I had just come back from Kazakhstan. I was in love with a girl from here. I was mostly listening to Mongolian music. My cat was about to encounter a life-threatening health event, but I had no idea about it. I was still heavily focused on speaking and writing in Russian, and my folders, computer, and phone were all set to this language. I was dressing and doing my makeup differently, with colours that sometimes really did clash with my golden tones or some clothes that weren't very fitting to my body type. I wore only silver jewelry or crystals. I was never going to the library, didn't have any friends or place in the community, simply existing in the realm of the house I still live in, going for grocery trips every day. I was writing a novel in Russian that I had tried to write twice already, that had been in the works since 2021, but that I could never bring to fruition because it'd get sidetracked.

Today, I'm wearing an olive green slightly cropped shirt that I bought a couple days ago along with a few others, and I'll soon go on Vinted to search for good secondhand pieces that could complete my wardrobe revamp at least for winter. I also wear sun-shaped earrings that are gold-plated and that I received today: I can't believe how I never wore gold coloured jewelry in the past, it just makes my features shine. The girl I loved then is no longer in my life, and has been away for several months now. I'm learning Portuguese, taking a lot of pleasure in it, and enjoy watching RTP, especially in the evenings or in the afternoons when I'm alone. My folders are in English, my computer also, but my phone is in Portuguese. Both of my cats are alive and well.

I'm known within the local community, got work experience, and may be getting a new job soon. I'm returning to traffic law classes because I don't want to be dependent on people and/or the shitty bus timetables for driving me to and from work. I also have a friend, who ironically is originally my mother's friend, but I feel I'm actually closer to her than my mother is. I still go, careful in my steps, to the port to say hi to the boat. Speaking of that, I want to have finished the reworking of the outline of the novel I am writing (in English) by the end of the year, and to have started the actual writing by January. The novel I was writing in Russian is scrapped for the time being, but I may rewrite it later.

If one were to ask me how I think my 25th year will go, I'll reply: I don't know. Because I don't. I don't think it's going to be hellish, but I don't want to be too optimistic about it either: it may be a very hard time for me, or it may not be. I'm no longer in the state I was in 2021, where I thought I'd kill myself if I hadn't moved out/gone far away by my 22nd birthday, but still I don't want to go out on a limb and say I'll definitely be out of here by my 25th, because the truth is, I can't really know.

If I were to really have to pick something however, I'd want this year to be an emotionally restful one. I want to get things done in terms of milestones, to catch up with the others, even if my life will never be a "normal one" as in, gone down the normal path. But emotionally, I want to rest. For real. The last one was so hard on me I think I need a good amount of rest.

I'm tired of being the one who carries all. I carry myself, my childhood, my trauma, my entire life and the responsibility of caring for myself, and then I carry the baggage of others because it feels normal to help, to be there. Don't get me wrong, I love my friends who are emotionally struggling, but I feel like there may come moments where I'll say "okay, I think I can't really do this right now, can we talk about this later?". I still am working on learning when to stop, where to stop enduring, stop pushing through and plowing forward in the face of adversity (cf: what happened with the girl I was in that situationship with) when it was really just beating a dead horse, and learning when to pull away from someone when I am opening up emotionally and they make it about them.

The thing is, I know these people also need to be listened to. I was in that situation at some point. That's why I listen still, no matter how exhausted I can be: it's because I know there's nothing worse than feeling like no one listens. But at times, I think I should say no, or gently remind them not to make things about themselves. And probably also ask them to call me out on it if I do, because there's a chance I may still do it at times.

Ultimately, I want to be at peace, and to be, finally, unapologetically Aral, without feeling like I'm going to hurt someone just by existing, by having emotions, positive or negative, and by doing what I want to do, for myself, sometimes. I want to be as beautiful as I can be, because it's important to like what you see in the mirror. Having healthy hair, colours that flatter me, shapes that flatter my body type while remaining tasteful and not walk around scantily clad.

I want to know that I can do things, that I can achieve what feels impossible, like publishing my first book and then snowballing off to the next one, getting a place of my own and moving at least with my ginger kitty, getting a driver's license, a job, being finally more or less a normal person.

About Portugal, I still have no idea when I'll go there, but I want it to be good, and for it to remain a beautiful memory. Who knows, I might end up liking it far more than I do right now and settle down here, but again, I don't want to count my chickens before they've hatched. I don't want to try and make it into something it's not, but to really... experience it for what it is. I also think about attending cultural events related to the Lusosphere.

I want to eat out at a restaurant with somebody again without feeling triggered and unable to eat more than two bites, and to find a person I'd be safe enough with to gradually expose myself again. I may or may not go to therapy... I don't know yet.

I don't know if I'll be able to achieve all of that during my next year of life, but... let's be cautiously optimistic about it. I'm too burned by all these times I thought this was it, only to fall back to square one and to remain stuck. I don't want to feel as humiliated again.

So, yeah. I'm 24 and I'll see where this goes.
I'll probably do another similar article on New Years' Eve.