Season 2 Episode 5
There was no research that went into this episode. No useful links to share as a result.
It was a brutal and honest look at my own experiences and my own evolution.
The transition from adolescence to adulthood wasn’t easy, but hopefully it at least gave me something to write about…
There is no hiding from the truth – I am now a fully-fledged adult.
100% all man.
If I was a footballer, commentators would say I’m ‘well into my career, only a few good years left’. If I were an actor, I’d no longer be the young heart throb, sneaking onto the Titanic. If I was in politics, I’d already be crooked and corrupt.
I’m now such an adult, that I’m older than the hot English teacher we had in Year 8 was.
I’ve missed my young, hot teacher years!
That means that if I did work in a school today, the kids wouldn’t even think of me any differently to the rest of the staff. They wouldn’t think I was one of the cool ones who understood them and was on their side. They’d see me as part of the system, moseying around with the other teachers in our grey knitted sweaters, sneering at the kids in the playground as we try every method possible to sap as much fun from their lives as we can – secretly jealous of their youth and energy, taking out our bitterness with the world on them.
Wow, I have clearly have some twisted thoughts about the lives of teachers…
But what I’m trying to say is, as an adult, I’ve now made that transition from adolescence to adulthood. Ridden the painful rollercoaster of puberty; but gotten out of the carriage with my legs still shaking.
As an adult in his 20s, I’ve found that life has certainly gotten more… complex.
Whereas before I only had school, girls and sport to think about, I’ve now got so much on my plate that sometimes I just want to shut the door, close the curtains, and sleep away my problems and stresses.
This feeling of occasional overwhelm, is something that I’ve only really felt over the last couple of years. But boy if I don’t sometimes feel it…
So what happened here? Why do we feel like this? Did life get more complex, more challenging, more difficult?
Or do I just need to man up, and stop being such a little B—
When you are young, you are the centre of the universe and you see life with such vivid clarity.
You have your small slice of the world that you interact with, and it feels like it’s everything. Rarely is there something outside of your bubble that concerns you, or plays on your mind.
There are but a few elements to your day-to-day routine, and rarely do you have to make big decisions, you just kind of go along with things.
You don’t need to understand how or why things or systems work. We don’t often think beyond the surface level interactions we have with the mechanisms that make our society turn.
We don’t stop to consider the stress our parents go through when organising the school run and trying to make it to their job in time.
We worry about getting our homework finished, but we don’t realise just how much work the teacher has to do to complete the marking and plan next week’s lesson.
We play for the local football team, without realising how much effort and sacrifice goes into setting up the goals for a training session, and organising the weekly matches.
Our lives are lived in a narrow tunnel, we progress through it wearing blinkers, ignorant to the complexities and challenges either side of us. That’s how a happy kid should live. We have found that as a society, this is the life we want for our kids. This is the ideal environment for them to be able to thrive, to channel all their energy and focus into learning and developing, rather than being bombarded with the realities of life.
That’s why it’s tragic, or at least noteworthy, when young people have the blinkers removed too early. Perhaps they are born into abusive families, who either don’t protect from the world, or plunge them into nightmares that most children at that age can’t fathom.
Or perhaps, as is the case with too many kids in our country, they are born into inner city ghettos, racked by generations of inequality, and are forced to experience the adult world in all its vulgarity.
These kids have to grow up fast in order to survive.
However, barring the occasional and unpleasant momentary glimpse into the outside world: usually through a divorce or the death of a relative; most of us grew up adequately sheltered and protected. To our benefit. That’s one of the main reasons why it’s so easy to get better at sport or languages when you are young, your mind isn’t yet plagued with the stresses and distraction that will start creeping in during your late adolescence.
I remember clearly that difficult time in my life, when the blinkers started being removed and these stresses and concerns started to worm their way into my field of vision. I remember it having to do heavily with the internet. I saw more and more stuff online: Pornography, conspiracy theories and Violent videos from distant warzones. The world, my world, got bigger and bigger. My complex. More things to worry about and think about.
People also started saying things like:
‘Why don’t you get a part time job at the weekends?’
‘What do you want to do when you grow up?’
‘You should start thinking about what you want to study at A levels, and at university’
This new information and pressure started to drown me, I became increasingly overwhelmed with these new concerns. I had gone from being happy-go-lucky in my lane, to being rudely confronted by the outside world. So I swung completely in the other direction. Developed negative feelings of fatalism: the world is going to hell in a handbasket. And nihilism: there was never any point in it anyway.
I searched for meaning in the wrong places. Namely, in the conspiracy theories that either proved my fatalistic attitude, or, in their own twisted way, implied that the world was actually ordered – controlled by powerful people – which in a way, makes you feel a little bit better about it when you think the whole thing is just some random mess. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty sure the world was going to end in 2012.
Okay, I know it sounds stupid now… But I was convinced back then! I would have conversations with everyone about it! I might as well have been walking round school with a tin foil hat! I remember telling my Mum that the world was about.
She laughed and told me: “People say that every ten years”
She was, thankfully, right. But I can see why that theory appealed to me: the end-of-the-world scenario appealed to my fatalism, but the fact that it was all determined by a Mayan calendar thousands of years ago made me feel like at least there was some order to it all.
I remember hearing the term ‘existential crisis’. I knew, even then, that it summed up perfectly what I was going through.
At that age, you still feel like the centre of the universe. So when you see all the madness out there in the world, and start thinking of it as a too-far-gone mess. You project those thoughts back onto yourself:
‘The world is pointless. But I’m the centre of the world. So my life must be pointless too.’
This probably has something to do with why a lot of us, at the end of our adolescence, start dabbling more and more in different forms of escapism: video games, drugs and self-imposed social isolation to name a few.
This is a terrible mentality to develop, particularly if, like me, it comes just as your final GCSE exams are approaching. All the good results of the previous years, marred by the fact that as I came into my final exams. I just didn’t care
At this point in our lives, we are craving direction and purpose. And thankfully, out of the darkness, emerges university to provide it to us. Everyone, all the well-meaning adults around us, sell university to us as the path to progression – we can have this argument another time – but I also feel that it’s used as a bit of escapism. Just as our lives are being laden with the burdens of the adult world, university pops up with its well-ordered schedule, clearly defined path, minimal workload and copious amounts of partying, sex and camaraderie. What better way than to avoid the looming realities of your life than going to uni! And what better way to avoid it further, by sticking a masters on the end and doing it for another year?
This sense of direction is incredibly comforting, it’s what makes those years often the best years of someone’s life. Never again, will they have that kind of clarity. The kind of clarity they once had in their youth.
Over the course of the three years, you become more and more institutionalised; you work and you struggle towards this end goal of graduation, and the meaning of life itself gets re-written every semester in the form of your university timetable.
And then, just like that, it ends. Complete cut-off. You are severed from the institution. And pushed off the cliff face, hurtling towards the rest of your life, with nothing but your degree certificate to slow the descent.
This moment is when you realise just how much of an escape uni was, when you realise that the problems, stresses and complexities of the outside world did not go away. No, they were always there; looming, growing, behind the university walls, waiting for you.
Now, you have faced the real challenge. It’s like leaving the harbour. The moment you cross the harbour walls, the water instantly changes, gets rougher, choppier, as waves and vibrations from all direction seem to hone in your small inflated dingy.
If being a kid was like looking through a telescope, then becoming an adult is like looking through a kaleidoscope.
This is why life seems hard. We just spend so long behind these walls, convincing ourselves that we can float, without realising that we hadn’t yet made it out of the training pool.
It then becomes so hard to stay stead amidst the turmoil, so hard to move anywhere, and harder still to find direction. When presented with unlimited opportunity, we have to define direction ourselves.
It’s been two years since I left university. Thankfully, I managed to find some kind of direction. That doesn’t mean I know what I am doing, or that I have a singular end point, but I certainly have direction – I figured that part out.
What I haven’t yet mastered, is navigating a rough sea that has waves coming in from all directions. It’s my own fault, I have certainly made things harder by taking an unconventional approach to my career, and my life in general. There are a lot of different things I need to focus on – all the different aspects of my business, my charity projects, my relationship, martial arts, and of course – this podcast.
Truth is, I’m terrible at balancing it all. That’s why, like I said at the beginning of this episode, sometimes I just feel like drawing the curtains, closing my eyes and trying to forget about it all. I’m not great at handling all the complexities that have been entering my life as I’ve gotten older – and that’s why it’s got more difficult.
But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I take hope from the highly successful figures that we revere in Western culture, people like Elon Musk, Kevin Hart and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. People who seem to have a remarkable ability to compartmentalise problems in their head. Break down the complexities of their lives and attack one problem at a time with all their effort and intensity.
I take inspiration from people like these – love ‘em or hate ‘em – because of that ability. An ability to focus in ways that shame my fragmented attention span.
At the start of this podcast, I questioned whether I just need to man up and get on with it. I don’t think the answer is to try and force my way through these new complexities of life. Sure, it might work for a bit, but I’ll tire myself out, lose steam, lose motivation, and start feeling overwhelmed.
I believe, from looking at the lives of others, that the answer lies in compartmentalising problems and getting focused. In thinking back to the clarity of my youth, before I missed my hot young teacher years and saw life in simple terms through a concentrated lens. And then trying to reclaim some of that clarity to break down the complexity of the adult world.
After all, the solution to complexity is, of course, simplicity.