The transition from a teenager who lives with her parents in her hometown to someone in her twenties having to pay her own rent, bills and do just about everything by herself in a brand new city is quite a difficult one. It isn’t a snap change, and every day brings its own challenges. However, it is an entire learning process and often quite like being thrown in at the deep end with bricks tied to your feet – there isn’t much chance of coming up for air.
There are a number of things that we, in our early twenties, have to deal with but have never been taught. A few years ago, we would have seen these things as ‘adult problems’ but, without warning, they were suddenly problems we had to deal with because, guess what? We’re now adults too.
But I don’t know anything about tax, or what to look for when hunting for somewhere to live, or budgeting, or how to decide my next career steps. Why weren’t we taught about tax in school? Or about paying bills, mortgages, bank loans – anything that I could use today? But at least I know Pythagoras Theorem and can decipher what Seamus Heaney really meant when writing about a shovel. Useful things that I can use in my everyday life, right?
These are the current life struggles that I’m facing as a 21 year old.
What is tax? What is income tax? Why am I paying it and where does it go? Why do I pay too much or too little? Why do I get letters telling me that I owe so much and must pay in the next ten days? Why does it take 45 minutes to get through to a human voice on the tax helpline? Why does it seem to be a recurring issue for me every single month?
Tax was never an issue for me until I received my first letter from HMRC last year telling me that I owed them over £500. Apparently I had been on the wrong tax code. I wasn’t sure how and it wasn’t my mistake but I was suddenly given this very large bill. As I was a student returning to final year, I wasn’t going to be earning enough money for it to come out of my salary by itself. So I was going to have to somehow pay the lump sum in one go. And ever since, tax, wrong tax codes and the HMRC helpline have been the bane of my life.
2. Bills, Bills, Bills
Unfortunately not the breakfast chain kind. Instead I mean rent, electricity, gym and numerous other bills that I have to pay each month. It’s a little bit soul destroying seeing all of this money coming out of your account each month, but we need these things in order to live. This is the thing I miss most about living at home; not having to stress about making rent every month. Oh, and my family too of course.
Once again, we weren’t taught about paying bills in school and budgeting our loans and wages to meet these bills. A part-time job, full-time university course and monthly bills to pay just don’t work very well together, which means something is usually sacrificed. I used to work two part-time jobs in my second year of university because I needed the money, which meant I spent less time at university or studying. Money makes the world go around and me attending my two hour lecture doesn’t pay the same as a full day of work – it’s the sensible choice, but only once in a while.
3. Finding somewhere to live
This is one of the adult problems I struggle with the most. Especially when you don’t currently live in that city and are expected to somehow pick somewhere suited for you and well, nice to live in. It’s extremely stressful as there is usually a small number of amazing places to rent and you have to be super quick as most of the time, you can’t begin to look too early as they need someone to fill the space straight away.
It’s the most annoying thing about London, as are the deposit prices, rent prices and whole ordeal of tenancy referencing and paperwork. Surely there must be some sort of app or website that makes finding somewhere to rent much easier?
4. Making huge decisions
This one I’m struggling with right now. With graduation coming up, my contract on my flat ending around the same time and nothing lined up for the future, it’s all starting to stress me out.
When’s the best time to start looking for jobs? What kind of job do I want? Where do I want to work? Do I want to go traveling? Should I wait and gain more experience here before moving? Should I stay in Liverpool? Move back to London? Move somewhere further?
I need a Doc in my life that can whizz me into the future (and maybe buy a sports almanac while I’m there).
5. Keeping up with the Joneses
One of the worst struggles of our generation is the need to be seen to be living our best lives on social media. I think we share too much online at times. All of our private lives, our friends, our relationships, our wins and our achievements. Nothing is kept behind closed doors anymore. But what are we doing it for? So others will be envious of us? Accept us? Or so not to be forgotten about?
It’s shallow to admit it, but what I do in the future will obviously be broadcast across social media and on my blog. I think this is why I’m so stressed out about the next steps after my graduation. Whatever I do will be judged by all of you readers, as well as followers on Instagram and my friends and family back home and here in the UK. Whatever it is I do, I want it to be amazing. But I want it to be amazing for myself, not just something that looks good on social media.
I’m starting to look at life with the question, ‘What would you do if social media didn’t exist?’ – where would you go, what would you do and who would you be? Would you want to go to Australia because you really want to travel and see it or because you want people to see you living your ‘best life’ in a new country on social media, or even, just to make yourself sound interesting?
To all the other twenty-somethings struggling along, we got this. Life is a learning process and we can get through anything. And stop doing things for Instagram, seriously.