Life Begins At 22: The Authors…


To celebrate the launch of BROOKLYN GIRLS, some of the loveliest authors I know very kindly agreed to write about what life was like for them at 22…

Marissa Meyer, author of THE LUNAR CHRONICLES

Looking back, 22 was actually a pretty good age for me. I’d been out of college for two years (yeah, I’m one of those people) and was working full-time as an editor and typesetter at this small, artsy book publisher in Seattle. I’d just bought a house and was living with my brother and some friends, and the economy hadn’t collapsed yet so we still thought that was an awesome idea. I was writing, of course—I believe that was the year I finished “The House on Thornrose Lane,” which became my most popular fanfic and remains the most reviewed Sailor Moon fanfic on to this day. Who knew?

But what really happened when I was 22—the big, important, life-changing thing?

Hot-Rod-a-Rama, The Swiss Pub, August 2006.

I spotted this super tall, handsome guy in the crowd while I was trying to pinpoint my missing friends on the ridiculously packed dance floor. We smiled, we danced, we talked, and he was funny and charming and knew who Steely Dan was and seemed impressed that knew who Steely Dan was, and the next day when I asked him if he was interested in going to a Renaissance Faire with me, he said yes (after I explained what a Renaissance Faire was). He even wore a kilt.

And I thought, huh, I may have actually stumbled upon a keeper…

Which turned out to be famous last words.


At 22 I was living in London. I’d moved there age 18, which people tell me was brave. Actually, I think it was brave. But at the time it didn’t seem brave, it seemed necessary.

When I moved, I worked as a live-in “Mother’s Help” but by the time I was 22, I was living in a bedsit behind of row of shows, opposite Ealing Common tube. It had been advertised as a mews house, but it was more of a converted garage, the gaps at the tops of the bare brick walls had been plugged with empty bread bags and slugs danced across the carpet every night.

I worked for an accountancy firm that also had a Dublin office. For the Christmas party, the Irish contingent came over and joined us for dinner. The previous year, I’d had a flirtation with one of the Irish staffers, but had subsequently learned he had a girlfriend. This year, though, he was quick to tell me he was single. I was just as quick to get exceedingly drunk (although I still remember what I drank: bottled lager, wine with dinner – red and then, when the red ran out, white – a Tequila Slammer, a Black Russian, a White Russian, a Southern Comfort).

I left the hotel with the Irish guy and we staggered from doorway to doorway, snogging ferociously, until we were finally able to flag down a cab, the driver of which, I’m pretty sure, was sorry to have picked us up.

Back at the hotel, I announced to my colleagues – gathered in the bar – that Irish Guy and I were off upstairs. To his room. “To have sex,” I added from halfway up the stairs. You know, in case I’d been too subtle.

It was my first time. I don’t remember much about it. Which is probably for the best.

Jamie Brenner, author of THE GIN LOVERS

It was the summer of 1994.

Courtney Love’s Live Through This was the soundtrack to my life.

Because while I knew I would live through it, I had no idea what was on the other side.

I was dating a beautiful musician. I was a waitress, he was a bartender, and it was all reckless and bad and getting worse by the day.

I wanted to be a writer but I wasn’t writing. I wanted to be a mother but I was in a relationship that was doomed. I had no idea how to get from there to here.

The thing is, even if someone had drawn me a roadmap, I wouldn’t have followed it.

There is no way around it – you have to just go through it.

Live through this with me and I will die for you.

                         – Courtney Love

Tamsyn Murray, author of the AFTERLIFE series and STUNT BUNNY 

At twenty-two, I became Mummy to a brand new baby girl. Looking back on it now, I find it completely amazing that I had enough patience, common sense and smarts to care for a whole new person when I barely knew how to look after myself, but I think it was the making of me. Before she came along, I was drinking too much, smoking too much and had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was drifting along, like a twig in a stream, and, occasionally, I went under.

I remember the day she arrived as though it was yesterday – she was late (of course) and I was desperate to meet her. I’d tried everything to speed her arrival but she wouldn’t be rushed, something I would get used to in the years to come. Then the contractions started, we rushed to the hospital and nineteen hours later, a squawking, indignant, pink-faced bundle was thrust into my arms. It was simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing I’d ever done in my life.

I thought at the time she was a difficult baby, but that was before I had my son and found out what a difficult baby reallywas. But as my girl grew, she gave me a sense of purpose and more than enough love to see me through the sleepless nights and deadly nappies. She was my little friend as well as my baby and we had such fun together. When she was older, we went on adventures to Rome and Paris and Florida together, just the two of us. We didn’t always see eye to eye but we were always close and I don’t regret the nights I spent in, looking after her when my friends were out getting drunk. I don’t think I missed a thing.

So really, I’d say two lives began when I was twenty-two – my daughter’s and my own.

MIRANDA DICKINSON, author of WHEN I FALL IN LOVE and other gorgeous books

When I was 22, I was full of dreams with absolutely no idea how to make them happen.

I had just left university with a good degree and came back home to the joys of endless job applications. It seemed I had the double-whammy of being over-qualified and under-experienced for every job I applied for. I’d gone to university with my dreams of being an actress firmly in place, but after one audition where the casting director said, ‘No. Next!‘ before I’d even spoken and another where I was the only candidate and still didn’t get the job, my confidence hit rock bottom and I quickly shelved my career ambitions.

I wasn’t writing then. Or at least, I didn’t think I was writing – although my diaries I faithfully kept during that time would disagree. I’d been laughed at for writing when I was 18 years old and didn’t try to write fiction again for ten years. I wish I’d had the confidence to tell that person to get lost and carry on with what I loved doing.

When I was 22, I’d also just met someone. I was amazed and overwhelmed that anyone would want to be with me and so when he proposed I accepted straight away. I started to have doubts about it throughout the year but I convinced myself it was just pre-wedding jitters. I wish I’d had the confidence to listen to my gut. It would have saved me from nearly eight years of unhappiness and fear.

What message would I send to my 22-year-old self? Be confident in who you are. Don’t worry that you don’t have all the answers yet: you’re not meant to! Fight for what is important to you – whether anyone else thinks it’s important or not. And trust your gut reaction. If something feels wrong, it is. And lastly, even the really awful mistakes (that you make in good faith but wish in time you hadn’t) can help you to become stronger, more determined to succeed and a fierce celebrator of life.

Sasha Wagstaff, author of many lovely books, including RECIPE FOR LOVE

I know exactly what I was doing when I was 22. I was BUSY. Exceptionally busy. Like, really, really busy, you know? Not busy being rich and successful, you understand. No. I was totally caught up with the supremely time-consuming process of feeling hopelessly, bewilderingly lost. Fresh out of uni with a degree in French and Russian, adjusting to life without studying, partying, living abroad and messing up my love life.

Post-uni, I split up with my long-term boyfriend and despite my best efforts to dazzle every recruitment agent and bank in London, I was seemingly unemployable. Dillusioned, myself and a wild childhood friend drank, sponged off my parents and went slowly off the rails. We did lots of self-indulgent star-gazing in pub car parks, making friends with a couple of guys who admired the stars with us. Deep, man.

A few months later, I managed to properly dazzle a recruitment agent. I had a job! As a filing clerk in a bank! Meh. But I threw myself into it and realised I was pretty good at it. I was earning money. I was successful – ish. Yet only a few months before, I had been in danger of spiralling into a bottle of vodka, with no clear idea where my life was going.

Look. 22 is a confusing time. On a superficial note, you will be able to wear whatEVAH you want and look glorious. It’s da bomb (as my 22 year old self may well have said). On a more serious note, just go with the chaos. It fades and a gazillion wonderful things might unfold. I changed careers and became a writer. One of my fellow stargazers from the pub proposed to me in New York and we’re happily married with two kids. Who knew? Not my 22 year old self, for sure. I had to stumble, trip and happen upon the whole lot. Ah yes, good times.

TALLI ROLAND, author of The Hating Game, among other delicious reads!

For me, this post should probably be entitled Life Begins at 24, because that is the age I finally finished my Masters and went out into the big wide world of work. And thus began the disillusionment with corporate life, because although I loved having my own flat, making money, and living in a great city, I detested the nine to five grind of doing something (in this case, editing a medical journal) which was guaranteed to put me to sleep within five minutes.
In fact, my colleagues and I would often indulge in a cheeky little snooze while looking suitably engrossed in an article on DREs (don’t ask – you really don’t want to know, believe me).
But the brilliant group of people I worked with more than made up for the rather lacklustre material. All young, most just a few years out of university and living away from their hometowns, we became a close circle. Outside of the beige office, we took on Montreal: going to bars, eating eating eating, and hanging out on the terraces during the lovely hot summers.
I still remember the heady excitement of exploring a fantastic new city, the freedom of returning home to my own apartment, and knowing that if I wanted something, I had the money to buy it. Life after 24 was all about freedom and fun, and although there was the inevitable heartbreak and confusion, that’s what I remember most.
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