At the start of the summer, my sister moved home from university for a few months, with her entire life boxed up and in tow. Among her belongings, I found this picture of our mother.
Aside from the fact that you can all see where I get my devastatingly good looks from, the interesting thing about this photograph is that she’s about a year younger than I am now. What’s more, she’s pregnant with me.
It’s one thing to see other people your age having babies. It’s another entirely to realise you entered your parents’ lives when they were both no more than the sprog you are now. Because your parents are, and always have been, your yard stick for adulthood. They’re the grown ups. Having evolved through the stages of oblivious child and self-involved adolescent (half true), of course it had dawned on me that my parents had no magic parenting wand or extensive training, that they did nothing but their best, but this has still brought that home for me.
It blows my mind on a semi-regular basis that we can make more humans without, like, a license or something. Of all the intensely serious things I could hypothetically be granted permission to do – perform open heart surgery, negotiate a hostage situation, programme a missile, cook Christmas dinner – having and raising children feels like it should have more caveats. Or, you know, some.
But no. We are all here by the grace of someone who didn’t know what they were doing; who very likely felt overwhelmed and underqualified. (Cue me segueing into how my revelation can make you feel better about yourself)
Like you, dear reader, in everything that you do. (Ta-da!) You owe your very existence to people who were winging the most important job anyone will ever do, because that’s the only way to do it. I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it’s the only way to do anything. Getting older is not what I thought it would be, with the wisdom and the confidence and the moment a neon sign comes on above my head reading I GOT THIS. But I have got it, for the most part. And when I haven’t I’ll just laugh and remind myself that my mother went and had a baby, and then two more, and if she managed that I can handle anything.
I think they call it ‘imposter syndrome’; the feeling that you are not qualified or deserving or competent, and it plagues us whether we actually are or not. Take me doing my first aid training last month. Did I listen and ask thoughtful questions and get a certificate at the end? Yes. I rocked it. I was Hermione Granger in that class. Will I be doing anything other than winging it if I ever have to put it into practise? Ahahahaha no. It doesn’t matter if the universe and the training board has decried me ready and able. I have not morphed into First Aid Hannah, or earned enough experience points to make me immune to first aid failure. I am Regular Hannah, still knowing things and doubting things, and being pulled along by my instincts and emotions far more than my brain.
You don’t level up, is what I’m trying to say. Not on your birthday, not at your graduation, not when you hold your infant daughter for the first time. But perhaps the biggest obstacle to hitting the milestones is just realising that you – Regular You – can. That feeling at sea – feeling so out of your depth that it’s funny – is the human condition.
So try and aim a little higher than you think you can hit. Fake it till you make it, as they say. That’s how you earn one of those neon sing thingies.
Oh, and thanks mum x