My bedroom, 11pm

It was 2020; a global pandemic had brought the world to an abrupt halt and sentenced us all to solitude, but apparently, I was still obliged to get older. Even if that meant that the usually momentous experience of reaching adulthood had to be celebrated alone. It seems that the Fates had decided that the occurrence of COVID-19 was of greater importance than me – an overachieving, reclusive, pretentious “writer”-type – successfully reaching 18 years of life, which (trust me!) is quite the achievement.

Even ignoring the lockdown, there’s a certain melancholy to your 18th birthday. It is the unsettling feeling that your adolescence is gone, and with it the hope of experiencing the carefree joys of a misspent youth – a youth that is allowed to be misspent because you are young. An anxious child, I had never taken to such frivolous behaviour for fear of reproach, and I have always regretted the part of me that prevented me from ever truly being a teenager. There is no small amount of sadness that has arisen from this regret, but the time for foolish delights had come and gone; there was only the dread of mounting responsibilities, expectations, and an ambiguous and seemingly unnavigable future that awaited me. This angst was only exacerbated by the necessity that my birthday be experienced alone.

It was getting late, but I was intent on compensating for my unremarkable adolescence by spending every remaining second of it as best I could (given the circumstances placed before me), namely by listening to Florence + The Machine.

It was during this rumination on the happiness that could have been and never was that the song interrupts my thoughts. Although being their most famous song, Dog Days Are Over was never one of my favourites, as it had just never resonated like their other work. But on the night of the death of my childhood, it was the greatest song I had ever heard.

Happiness hit her like a train on a track

Coming towards her, stuck still, no turning back

In that final hour, I felt compelled to dance. I’ve never been a dancer, nor have I ever truly felt the inclination, but suddenly, I felt the desperate need to stand up and flail around my bedroom like a madman. Jump around with no one to judge me for a lack of “maturity” or berate me for being “childish”. Florence’s otherworldly voice had liberated me, and for a few ephemeral minutes, I felt the pure, unadult(erated) joy of being a teenager.

Run fast for your mother, fun fast for your father

Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers

Leave all your love and your longing behind you

Can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

And with it came an understanding and a resolution: the understanding that my life is my own to govern and my own to lead and is, therefore, not beholden to the wills of others; and the resolution to embrace all that remains of my life unapologetically, and without consideration for the anxious twittering of that other self or the judgment of joyless adults.

Who said that childhood had to be the greatest time of your life?

The dog days are over

The dog days are done

I knew then, and announce proudly now, that the meaning of happiness is dancing alone in your pyjamas on the night of your 18th birthday.

Can’t you hear the horses

‘Cause here they come

 

Stereo Story #572

 

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As well as Florence + the Machine, Steven's favourite performers include Hozier, Fleetwood Mac, and Patti Smith.