Often, I stay awake as late as possible, so when I do fall asleep I cannot know that I am dreaming.

I lie in a comfortable bed, next to my beautiful wife, and scream for hours into my pillow. No one knows this.

Soon, I will give up. The fear will be too much. I know this.

Afraid that when I wake up, the me that I am will be someone else. I’ll be someone else, or I’ll have lost something, won’t be able to finish my life the way I started out, full of dreams and newness and plans, it’ll fall to shambles at the hands of the stranger who gets out of my bed.

What if I can’t do all that I need to do, I’ll run out of time, I know I will, I haven’t started any of my life plans yet, and still, I can’t imagine myself anywhere past 25. I can’t see myself at 30, don’t know what 40’d look like, and 60, 70, it’s beyond anything I ever touched upon. So I have till 25? ‘Tis a damn shame, considering I’m already 21, that’s less than four years.

Of course there’s no reason to expect I won’t be around at 26, 27, 29. Just because I can’t project, that doesn’t indicate anything. But then, there’s no reason to presume that I’ll even have tomorrow. No one says I’m going to wake up okay tomorrow. I may have lost something of the me I’m familiar with. Oh, shit, back to that. Anything could happen. I get confused, tired, scared, round and round and round, thinking myself in circles.

And what if, what if I get everything I think I want, things I think I need, and find out it was all wrong, nothing I can use, all wrong. What if I get what I ask for, and get what I ask for? What if my priorities are all wrong and I don’t find out until the day before I turn 25? Oh, right, I’m not going to disappear at 25 just because my imagination doesn’t stretch further. No matter. What if I find out too late that it was really that one I needed?

I lie in bed, afraid that my life is trickling away, afraid I’ve taken on too much, or not enough. Afraid that I’m too full of hopes and dreams I have no right to think about, and no backbone to carry out, and no courage to fight about. Afraid that my time will run out before I work anything out.

Around and around, convolutions and contortions, twisting it from all angles, and it still comes back to me, and decisions.

It's perfectly normal to be afraid at night. It's the only time we're pretty much guaranteed some quiet time to think, to reflect on the day, the year, the future. And that's when all the fears, the insecurities, the worries about what the future holds start to creep in. We all need time to think, but sometimes we over-analyse things (I know I do). And problems become even bigger and more worrying because it's the one time of the day when you can't do anything about them. The biggest fear of all is that you've wasted your life - but it's also the most unfounded. Let me explain...

When you're a kid, the summer holidays seem to last for years and years. A school year is a lifetime. The five years at secondary school are a couple of generations. But towards the end of your teenage years, when you're starting to work out how the world really works, when your personality is becoming fully formed, the time starts passing a bit too quickly. You could never imagine even being twenty years old, that's ancient, it's years away... When you actually hit the twenties, you think your life is halfway finished. It's all going way, way too fast. You were supposed to be a millionaire by now, instead you're having trouble finding a job, and the university qualification isn't a guarantee of riches and glamour like they promised you. Life is hard out there, much more so than you were expecting. It's all a bit sudden. And it's quite normal to think that you've let it all slip away from you.

Then comes the milestone - your 21st birthday. Why don't you feel any different? It's supposed to be a big, momentous occasion, but you just feel slightly let down (and maybe hungover, if you've done it properly). Already you're thinking it's all been wasted, all that time is lost, you're a failure, you've thrown it all away. Now I won't pretend to know the fine details of your life, or what problems you may or may not have, and I won't be condescending and say "I know what you're going through", because of course I don't. But in most cases, I'll have a fairly good idea. And if I'm totally wrong, accept my apologies, and ignore me.

Take my life (please, ba-dum-dum-tishhhh): I'm 28, I'll be 29 next March (at time/date of writing). When I was 20 I thought I'd wasted my life, that I wasn't going to accomplish anything. I thought it every year after that too. To some extent I still think that now, but not seriously, and never for very long. As long as I'm alive, there's still time to do things. So I'm not rich and famous yet, like I planned - plenty of time for that. So I don't have a house and car yet, like I planned. Maybe next year me and my girlfriend will be able to get a mortgage, if all goes well. If not, we'll wait another year. We're just about to buy our first car, for about 500 quid (about 800 US$, give or take). Our house will probably be a 2 bedroomed apartment, nothing spectacular, but it'll be ours. The car won't be a Ferrari Testarossa, like I imagined when I was younger. So what, at least the joyriders won't want it.

These days, I have different dreams. Oh sure, I still have the rich and famous dream - and if that works out, fuckin A I'll be getting that Ferrari, and a split level house on stilts up a mountain somewhere. But my dreams lately are slightly more simple. What do I want, what do I love? Here's a few things that are important to me:

  • I love my girlfriend. She's everything to me, and she loves me right back.
  • Ben and Jerry's Caramel Chew Chew ice cream with hot fudge sauce - there's a tub in our freezer right now, it's only 3 quid. The sauce is in the cupboard, give it 30 seconds in the microwave and we're in Heaven.
  • Saturday mornings I like to have toasted, fresh rolls, with loads of butter and Marmite, followed by a cup of coffee and some biscuits. Sometimes it's croissants instead, with butter and raspberry jam. This often presents a more difficult decision making process than you might imagine.
  • On Friday nights me and my girlfriend get some beer or wine, and relax after a hard week at work, sipping booze and smoking a spliff, watching tv till all hours.
  • I have a good job that I enjoy, with nice, friendly people who support and encourage me.
  • We live in a nice area - the rent isn't cheap, but maybe next year we'll get that mortgage...
No, I'm not rich and famous. No, I still don't really know what I'd like to do for the rest of my life. And no, I haven't achieved any of my big dreams from childhood - I'd be a stuntman now, if I had, with a Ferrari (did I mention the Ferrari?) and a massive converted fire station for a house. In Hollywood.

But you know what? I'm really not hugely bothered. If I did have all that stuff, I'd still want my girlfriend with me, and I'd still love ice cream, and I'd still love beer, Marmite, and spliffs. So when I get really, seriously pissed off at the world, I try to stop and think. I look at myself and what I have, the little things like ice cream, and the major things like my girlfriend. And sometimes I think I'm the luckiest bastard on earth.

The only thing I'm afraid of now, in the wee small hours, is not having enough time for everything else I want to do (that, and the monster under the bed, of course). Like some of you, I plan on living forever, but haven't yet been able to work out the fine details...

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