After almost six months of living alone I share the house once more with a long-legged, football-obsessed, fridge-emptying 21 year old lad. The evidence is all around me in the casually kicked-off trainers, the discarded cigarette papers and unwashed dishes that seem to be an integral part of living with a typical, young, male adult - except unlike a typical person of his age almost everything he does is in response to fear.
A stranger would describe him as attractive, confident, streetwise, a bit of a charmer, someone who knows how to look after himself, the life and soul of the party....that isn't the side of him I see at home and he knows himself, and on a good day will occasionally admit, that it is a façade that he has created. The real "Lad" is the boy who sat across from me at a picnic table, after blowing off his college interview, and while trying to wipe away a tear that I wasn't supposed to see he admitted ...
"I was in prison when I should have been growing up, I didn't get to do it. Now all my mates are grown-ups and I'm still a kid. I won't lie to you, I'm scared."
Think for a moment how frightening it must be to be an adolescent with the appearance of a large 21 year old. Imagine that for the last 8 years every single thing has been done for you and suddenly everyone has expectations. Try to envisage the people you meet every day - on the bus, at the shop, in the doctor's surgery, at the job centre - expecting you to be able to behave like a fully grown twenty-something and having no patience or understanding when you don't measure up. Then visualise keeping up the image of a streetwise, confident, charming young man when inside you are scared, confused and overwhelmed. Growing up is tough.