I had dinner last night with a dear friend. As we caught up, I was keen to hear all about what's been going on with her. Her and her boyfriend are buying their second flat, and she told me all about their plans, how it was working out -- I had a quick Google and checked out the garden, the massive lounge, the lovely, high spec kitchen.
We talked about friends we knew who were getting engaged, friends who were also in the process of buying a place. We spoke about friends we suspected may be pregnant.
It was so great to see her so enthusiastic and I was swept up in her excitement. After a while, she asked me, "So what's new with you?" and I couldn't think of anything.
I drew a complete blank. What was new with me?
"Not a lot! Same old, same old!" I admitted.
No exciting house buying plans, no proposals, no babies, no exciting career plans, no new job, no nothing. Just not a lot. I had zero to report. The only interesting things I could offer up were other people's stories, or something I'd watched on telly.
When I got home, I couldn't help but get a little reflective. What was new? What was exciting? I have holiday plans -- which of course are exciting -- but that's it. after November, when I've had my holiday that I've been saving for, what next?
When people ask me whether we'll be buying a place, the answer has always been no, as we're lucky to rent at a really cheap rate and haven't really had any incentive to buy anywhere, but now I'm feeling like we're getting left behind. When all our friends are on their second, third, fourth properties, will we have even got our foot on the ladder at all?
See, I never thought I really cared about buying a place. It never seemed like it would be a reality to me, as I was so terrible with money in my late teens and early twenties -= the very idea of me getting a mortgage was laughable, let alone being able to save for a deposit. In the last couple of years though, I have had spare income -- income that I could easily have saved for a house.
But I didn't -- we've prioritised going on same ballin' holidays and I've bought a lot of candles and plug in air fresheners, and somehow the last three years have just wafted by on a breeze.
If we were to really knuckle down and save, it would still take well over a year to get the money together. That's a year without any unbudgeted emergencies, no car breakdowns, no big birthday weekends. That's a year giving up eating out, which I adore. But it seems if you don't give things up and get on that ladder, you're getting left behind -- so is it time to bite the bullet? Maybe.
The other thing that was preying on my mind last night as I lay in bed, my mind punching itself in the face, was that I still can't drive. Who can't drive at 26 and a half?! ME. THAT'S WHO. I started learning at 17, hated it, gave up and then put it off and put it off until suddenly it was nearly 10 years since I started learning.
I've used cost as an excuse, I've used "Oh, I live in a city so there's no point." I use the fact that I didn't really enjoy it. I feel now though that it's something I HAVE to do, to be a proper grown up. Like, I'm not really an adult until I can pick up my parents and take them for a meal somewhere in the middle of nowhere, not having to rely on trains or my boyfriend who quite vocally hates driving himself.
One of my (small) worries about having children is the thought of feeling isolated in our flat, having to faff about pushing a pram onto a bus every time I need to go to the shops. The thing is, it totally is something I can change, I can learn, just as everyone else has. But now it's got to the point where I find it a bit embarrassing, like I have to pretend I don't actually want to drive now. It's a lifestyle choice. Well it isn't. I'm just a big fat scaredy cat.
Similarly, I feel like the house thing I pass off as a choice, where in fact maybe I am actually a little scared that maybe I won't be able to get a mortgage, or I'll fail the credit checks, or I'm not cut out for saving. I have a little voice in the back of my head that's saying "Pffftttt! No way you'll ever be able to own a house, Natalie! You're way too much of an idiot. You'll never be able to save! And moving is such an effort! You're way too lazy for that."
The thing is, I've not really cared before. But recently, as friends navigate their way through adulthood, seemingly expertly, I feel like I'm floundering. Not quite ever reaching the next stage. I'm stuck.
The idea of a five-year plan used to terrify me, but now I feel like I need one. As life whizzes by, I don't want to be left behind. So maybe, just maybe, it's time to give up my ASOS orders, expensive Frapuccinos, and finally become a grown up. It's scary, but it's time. I think I'm finally ready.
If you see Natalie tweeting about buying pointless crap, tell her off - @Natalie_KateM