My early twenties, years twenty-two to twenty-four, are for the most part a Sambuca and Bourbon-induced blur. I had a blast, and sometimes I really miss that time of my life, but then I remember some of the mornings after, when I'd shuffle into the bathroom to survey the damage in the mirror, only to meet the gaze of a woman who looked as though she slapped on clown makeup shortly before face planting into a quarry. I remember going in to work the Friday after Thursday night drinks at the pub, arriving half an hour early so as to have a coffee and get my story straight before I had to face my workmates and their knowing looks. I remember waking up in a park at 2 .a.m. with a Tequila bottle and a minor league baseball player laying next to me. I remember going home with guys just because they told me I was cute, and having to beg them for cab fare home afterwards. Your twenties are supposed to be a roller coaster ride. They're the time when you're given a free pass to go wild and make as many stupid mistakes as you possibly can, and learn from them. I was the girl who ditched the safety bar altogether and stood up at the top of the dip; the girl who was that dangerous mix of eagerness and naivete, who craved more attention than anyone could ever give her, and went looking for it in dark corners and lonely alleyways. I've always looked back on those days with a strong sense of regret, until now.
Had I not made so many horrendous judgement errors and social faux pa's, I would never have learnt the difference between attention and validation. Attention was what I got when I drank men under the table on a dare and snogged the loser. Validation was what I got from my friend Dennis, who saw me struggling to stand up and put me to bed on his couch for the night, rather than risk me going home alone on one of Melbourne's worst train routes. I still find myself craving attention every now and then, and contemplating doing silly things to get it, but that's when I remind myself that sixteen years is a long time between drinks, (metaphorically speaking; I do still enjoy an alcoholic beverage or three), and that I'd sooner stick my hand in a blender than try to relive my 'glory days' by getting hammered and trying to pick up at pubs. I wanted love back then, but I didn't have the slightest idea what it was, how to get it, or where to find it. I know now that when I do find it, it will stand out like a beacon in a fog. I won't have to earn it. I won't have to beg for it. It will be given freely by someone who validates me with something as simple as an attentive ear and an open mind. Someone who knows my faults, but doesn't exploit them or measure me by them. Someone who validates my checkered past whenever I look at them by reminding me that the damaged road it lead me down was also the road that lead me to them.