Oh, the existential angst!
Remember when you were 22 and you had no idea what you wanted to do or how you fitted into the big, wide world and it all seemed overwhelming, sometimes exciting, but mostly this big, huge, void of trying to be an adult, that you had no idea how to fill.
This is the story that Georgina Young has crafted in Loner. The title is a subtle play on our protagonist’s name, Lona, and also sums up her beliefs about herself.
What I really liked about this story, is that Lona didn’t have a big ah-ha moment or major crisis that suddenly dropped her into the adult world. It was far more real than that. Lona made some errors of judgement, nothing drastic, said no when she probably should have said yes, said yes when she probably should have said no, bumbled her way through moving out of home, caring for her sick grandfather, going out on dates, dropping out of uni because the art classes were leaving her feeling dead inside, alienating her best friend and working a couple of shit jobs.
Lona’s voice was authentic and endearing, yet she was aimless, insecure and full of so much uncertainty that it made my heart ache!
One of my younger colleagues (closer in age to Lona than myself) also had a strong reaction to reading this book. She felt that she was still in the middle of Lona’s angst, struggling to find meaning and purpose and confused about what it takes to become a fully fledged adult.
I think we do ourselves (and our young people) a huge disservice, by not talking more about the journey we all go on to become an adult. It’s not something that happens overnight on a certain birthday. Or when you move out of home for the first time, or get your first full-time job, or buy your first car. In fact, it’s a lifelong journey that evolves with every decade and with each life experience.
Having said that, though, there does seem to be a point in most people’s mid-to-late twenties where things start to click into place. Maybe it’s when you finally realise that this whole adulting thing is a lifelong journey after all and you finally feel significantly different to how you felt at 18 or 19 or 20. Or perhaps it’s when everything stops being a ‘first’.
Lona at 22 isn’t there yet. Like the rest of us, she experienced no miraculous revelation or epiphany. There was no big character change or psychological growth. She didn’t suddenly ‘come of age’ or work everything out. Lona simply clocked up some more life experience.
- Winner of the Text Prize 2019
- Set in Melbourne, Victoria
- Kill Your Darlings interview with Georgina Young | 13th Aug 2020