Before I left Sydney, a fantastic Sandberg-ian mentor gave me a piece of advice: to take the opportunity of starting fresh as a student here at Oxford to fail at something. She hastened to add that she didn’t mean my course. She was thinking more along the lines of ice-skating. And obviously the goal wasn’t to fail, but to try my hand at something without caring about the consequences. Shrewdly, she perceived that one of my personal obstacles is self-consciousness.
Paradoxically, it is the fear of looking like a fool that often leads to…looking like a fool. Just think the people who pull out their phone at parties the second they’re left alone (as if anyone thinks they’re fielding a bunch of urgent/hilarious messages), or when someone is so concerned about how they look on the dancefloor that they end up awkwardly moving like a stick insect on a hot plate. Rather than just letting themselves go and creating this kind of magic:
They say that age is just a number. And it is. Just a number. A number that’s directly representative of how much time you’ve spent on the Earth and suggestive of how much time you’ll have before you cark it.
In a few days’ time I will be 24. This is a scary age for me because I haven’t yet produced a hilarious off-Broadway hit that lands me in an Office-esque writer’s room (Mindy Kaling at 24), made a Sundance-acclaimed mockumentary romcom playing a fictionalised version of myself alongside Michael Cera (Charlyne Yi at 24), or shot to international stardom and pissed off a Grazia editor by wearing a giant bow on my head at a Dior Couture show (Tavi Gevinson at 13)…so of course it’s time to stress.
That said, with each passing year there is an accumulated wisdom that assures me that my almost-quarter-century hasn’t been wasted. Some of the Rules of Life that I’ve discovered so far:
Working at the biggest department store in Canberra for 3 Christmases in a row as a brace-faced adolescent, I learned a number of Life Skills:
1. How to cope with intense boredom
I was in Ladies Accessories which had none of the bitchy drama of Menswear, discounted only-slightly-chalky expired Godiva chocolates of the Food Hall, or fierce Commission Competition of Electronics. I spent hours re-arranging sparkly tchotchkes, cascading party clutches by colour or PVC content, and trying to convince the befuddled Dads to buy their daughters cute MBMJ accessories for Christmas (to all my classmates, you’re welcome!) Continue reading
Tonight (which you’ll notice is not Halloween if we’re going with the whole Gregorian calendar thing) is the big night for college Halloween parties in Oxford. This put me in the odd situation of wanting to celebrate actual Halloween last night…but in like, a moderate way. My going-out stamina is like my iPhone battery; it only lasts 2 nights if I’m miserly and keep the Instagramming to a minimum.
Here’s how my Halloween morning played out:
- I didn’t want to waste my actual costume (which involved dropping £15 at Primark ie. a definite over-egging of the party pudding) on last night, so opted for the classic cheapskate, zero-creativity costume: a cat. I know, I know, it makes me sick up in my mouth a little, and it was probably karma that I had such a battle finding cat ears. Claire’s Accessories and Poundland had been completely plundered; pretty much all that was left was these awful spider hairbun-toppers, overpriced gimp masks, and stupidly tiny hats on hairbands (like, little puffy wizard hats and Tim Burton-esque top hats). Actually, on second thought that could have made for a cool Kristen Wiig/Amy Poehler homage…