The Labyrinth And Growing Up

I’m eighteen and a half. I have finished high school. In a few months, I am going to begin a law degree. And yet, I feel like I am dragging my heels into the dirt whilst whining “but I don’t want to”. The future is no longer the future, it’s here. And that scares me. In so many ways, I am the least mature of all of my peers. 

It’s like John Green writes in “Looking For Alaska”:
“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia…you spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present” 

On my eleventh birthday, I went to the Sydney show and mum let me buy the Dolly and Girlfriend show-bags. It was 2005, and on that day I swore I would do anything in my power to one day work in the industry. For the past seven years, I have dreamt of how awesome that future is going to be, and how interviewing all my favourite celebrities is going to be a million times cooler than sucky high school. The future was going to be this amazing place. And yet I’m here, and I just want to turn around. I keep thinking that maybe I’m just not at the amazing future yet, however that’s exactly what John is saying. We are stuck in this labyrinth and cannot appreciate our present situation because we are so sure something better is around the corner. All year I have used the image of finishing the HSC to sustain me, and here I am, done and dusted, and I’m still stuck in the perpetual labyrinth. The end of the HSC has just turned into the start of uni. Surely, I keep thinking, that has to bring the amazing future of my dreams. 

Deep down, I know it is an illusion, conjured to make labyrinth life easier to cope with. It’s like Oswin in “Asylum of the Daleks”, you imagine the dream to get you through the painful reality. 

Increasingly, I have been feeling like the petulant child in the backseat of the car refusing to act in a mature manner. As more and more of my friends have been entering what appear to be serious relationships, I have grown whiny, feeling bitter and left out. I don’t remember the moment we became relatively grown up, but suddenly it has hit me in the face and left me winded on the floor while everyone else keeps moving. Serious boyfriends? Drinking until four am? When did this happen? I still want Disney marathons and sleep at ten. Another way to cope with the labyrinth? Definitely. 

On Sunday, I helped out at a fifth birthday party. It was fairy themed, and as I ran around with the little girls, I realised how much I miss the innocence of childhood. 

Being a fairy is a way to escape the labyrinth
 At one point, the girls decided to make a club. They had extremely serious looks on their faces as they told me “there are no boys allowed in this club, or near our clubhouse, okay? It’s just for us special fairy friends”. And as I looked at them, all I could think was how much was going to change in the next eight years for them, and how sad that made me. I wished they could retain their rose coloured childhood glasses forever, and not let the real world tarnish their view. 

At five years old, you have nothing to worry about. You can say you want to be a princess and no-one will correct you. You don’t have to worry about drinking and friendships and boyfriends and HSC results. You can meet someone on the playground and become instant best friends. There’s no drama. 

In Taylor Swift’s song, Innocent, she sings, 
“Wasn’t it easier in your lunchbox days? Always a bigger bed to crawl into. Wasn’t it beautiful when you believed in everything and everybody believed in you” 
And Taylor, it was. It was so much easier when we believed in fairies and santa and magic, and when nobody doubted our potential. At five, you don’t have to worry about being good enough, because there is no good enough. There’s just games. There’s just imagination. 

Taylor not only sings relatable songs, she also tweets relatable tweets

Taylor Swift has another song, “Never Grow Up”, and in it she sings, “and no-one’s ever burned you. Nothing’s ever left you scarred. And even though you want to, just try to never grow up.” Nothing hurts when you’re a kid, except a skinned knee or two, and I just wish we never lost that innocence. 

We’re all so eager to escape the labyrinth of our teenage lives. We want to be adults. We want to have it all. But the labyrinth is not as bad as we think it is, and I’m beginning to realise I’m one of my last peers to discover this. They’ve all been finding their exits while I’ve been wandering aimlessly clutching on to the branches of my childhood for dear life. Maybe by avoiding a lot of teenage behaviours I have only dragged myself further into the maze, or maybe it’s helped push me towards my career and therefore the edges. Wanting to enter an industry as competitive as the media industry, it’s all about who you know and survival of the fittest. In a way, I haven’t seen a point to keeping up with people who aren’t going to push me along. It means that I’m one of the only people in my year still waiting for a first kiss, and I haven’t been invited to any of the numerous parties that are happening this week, but I’m also interviewing one of my favourite celebrities on Friday, and to me that’s worth a lot more. These interviews. These opportunities. To me, they’re a way out of the labyrinth. And I guess to my friends, their boyfriends and parties are too. Alaska thought the way out of the labyrinth was Straight And Fast. John Green thinks it’s belief in A Great Perhaps. Pudge believes hope in something beautiful can ease the pain.

I’m really still trying to work out what my way out is. Pudge initially thought the way out of the labyrinth was “to pretend that it did not exist, to build a small, self-sufficient world in a back corner of the endless maze and to pretend that I was not lost, but home”. Part of what I adore about John Green is that he so brilliantly manages to capture the thoughts from deep inside my soul that I couldn’t put into words. Pudge’s views on the labyrinth are a perfect match to mine. But now, just like Pudge, I need to find a way to get out. And maybe like Pudge, that will be through writing. Or maybe I’ll become more social at university. Or, in a worst case scenario maybe, I will stay in my corner forever and eventually forget the labyrinth is surrounding me.  

I hope that one day I will be able to read this post and think back to being eighteen and realise that all my worries were for nothing. That I am on my way to the edge of the labyrinth. That my beautiful future is not just an illusion.
But for now, I will read John Green books and dream of my Augustus Waters, and my way out of the labyrinth. 
The niggling thought at the back of my head, though, is that John Green books never have particularly happy endings. They all perfectly represent teenage life, however, and maybe that’s the message we’re meant to get from them. That the point of being a teenager is that there is no magical happily ever after. It’s supposed to be about confusion and pain and making mistakes. That the labyrinth is where we belong, at least for now.

frangipani princess xoxo

One thought on “The Labyrinth And Growing Up

  1. This has been one of my favourite posts on your blog and I can totally relate to it. I see all these adults in my life worrying about adult things and I just want to stay like this. I'm perfectly happy where I am now, perfectly content to sit in my own labyrinth watching Starkid musicals and reading Harry Potter while the rest of the world bustles around me. But then I always wonder if maybe there's more things to make me happy out there and I just haven't found them yet because I'm too scared of the bad stuff. I suppose it's like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans; sure, you COULD get chocolate, but there's a chance it could be Loving the fairy costume 🙂

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