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Here is a Happy Thought

An irony of this pandemic is as we are shut away from our grandparents, we have come to resemble those we miss most. We shuffle in our slippers, hoiking up our prematurely embraced elasticated waist bands, wonder whether beige is, actually, rather fetching. Prince Charles style, we speak to house plants. Three of my friends have taken up knitting.

This ageing is not only superficial. We're bitter, gnarled up inside. We rue, recriminate, regret in a way that no twenty year old has done. We have a feeling, formerly the preserve of the elderly, of sands of time slipping through our fingers, an hourglass toppled by the sausage fingers of a wibbling, mop-haired blonde buffoon. We've seen him tip the very BEST grains of sand - premium-resort, side-of-the-Maldives, top-quality best-part-of-your-life PREMIUM sand away. Castles, fortresses, unbuilt mind palaces are swept away, running into the grouting of our parents homes.

When completing Netflix is now a public service, the sense of wilting in our bloom feels all the more acute. We watch Elle Woods graduate with envy, both long for and recoil from the sweaty masses of 22 Jump Street. I walked in on my sister watching Monsters University and threw a slipper at the TV. Mike Wazowski doesn't know he's born. For these, we've been told, are the very best years. They are the ones our parents harken back to, the anecdotes they stretch back and pull out to enliven a flagging dinner, to fill an unoccupied day. They are the Memory Hump that, like camels, is sustaining them through this starvation of novelty.

And this is unsurprising. The 'Reminiscence Bump' is a well-studied psychological phenomenon. We remember far more around our early twenties because we get an adrenaline shot of the new; a type-A hit on life. It's the era where we try veganism, lick toes, jump in fountains, pull all-nighters, strand in random cities, discover. The newness of it all is what our misty-eyed parents look back to. No one cares about the second time you tried alcohol, threw up in a class, had your heartbroken. It's why 93% of our memories are 'firsts'. McAdams theory of the Self as Author supports this view. When we reach our twenties, we start to construct our narrative of who we are. Assimilating the past and projecting into the future, we put some coherency, some order onto an otherwise disparate set of events. Right now, it seems the Self is suffering from writer's block.

Here is the volta. We have not been robbed of any newness. In the graph of age on one axis, and memories on the other, ours will bump a little later than others. But it will still bump. The 'Twenties' are not a time, not a set of years, not a place, but rather a high concentration of the untried, untested, unknown. And those things remain unknown - for now. I still don't know what it is like to be high. My brother still does not know the feeling of exhilarated exhaustion at the end of Freshers Week. My sister does not know what it is to leave school properly. Yet these things will happen - later on, but with the same freshness, that same sense of the new as they have done for everyone else. When this is done, we will have the same vaunted, fetished, glorified growth as anyone else. If anything, we will have more - for experiences that were bordering on hackneyed, as they were snatched away have been held up to the light, and we can experience them anew, as new. Our 'Twenties' are not time, but a construct, a celebration of the new. Though ours has been postponed, maybe altered, it is not gone.

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