IT’S difficult to pin down a time when you were at your happiest. I would go for about 28, but that was also probably the time when I was at my lowest. Is that possible?
A couple of years ago someone said to me “you were a bit mental in your 20s, weren’t you?” Well, it depends in what way you mean.
I had been living in Devon for around two years with a couple of other reporters and we went out virtually every night of the week, either to a couple of pubs, a club or to a gig.
I reckon I saw between 150 and 200 gigs that year and probably didn’t stay in once.
So in that respect, I was happy. On the other hand, a lack of sleep, combined with a job that usually started before 8am and ended well after six, a crushing lack of self-confidence and a diet of crisps, soup and sometimes cheese on toast didn’t lead to a healthy life, mentally or physically.
The daily treadmill (not one in a gym) — wake up with a variation on a hangover, drive to work with dread at what the day had in store, return home, be asked whether I was going out, go out, have anything between four and eight pints and arrive home around 1.30am to play music for half an hour or so before having five hours sleep and repeating the process — was beginning to take its toll.
The tablets I was prescribed helped, but the only way I could see of continuing was getting out. Out out. I got out of a relationship and out of that job, but I was exhausted, depressed and around eight stone in weight, having worked out (again, not in the gym sense) I could go several days without eating, which saved a few quid.
I look back now on that year with more fondness than I felt while progressing through it. I was trying creative writing and didn’t think I was bad at it, a couple of friends and I (briefly) attempted a band, and I genuinely thought I was in with a chance.
The problem was I didn’t really know what I was in with a chance of. Depending on how I felt the pendulum could swing wildly from being a novelist to losing that little bit of weight more that would take me under eight stone.
That was the control aspect. It was the one thing I could do with guaranteed “success”. I knew I wouldn’t fail and it was an easier option than experiencing crushing rejection at the hands of publishers or a record company for example. Or even another person.
People sometimes ask if I felt ill through not eating, but I felt as if I could run a marathon every day, the reality being, of course, that I would have collapsed a few miles in (probably nowhere near that).
There is a genuine buzz you feel in your 20s as a world of possibilities opens its doors and gives you a glimpse of what could be yours, before closing just as quickly.
Most people choose not to take the risk, some go for it and succeed, others fail.
I just didn’t realise I was experiencing that brief moment of opportunity until it was took late. Gone.