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  • kirsten-mcpake

26 is old now? That's fun.

I’m sure if you work in the arts or have graduated with an arts degree you are somewhat aware of the 25-year-old deadline. Arts opportunities for young people run from 16-25 years old.

You have 25 years to be a young person and after that you’re on your own. Obviously, I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m pretty pissed that my 25th year was spent in my childhood bedroom fighting with my sister about what to watch on telly. I thought we’d all agreed that last year didn’t count.

However, my 26th birthday has been and now I have aged out of all the young person opportunities that we couldn’t apply for last year.

No one likes the moment when they realise they aren’t a young person anymore. For some of us that happens when a teenager asks you ‘What are Busted?’ or makes fun of your skinny jeans. But, for many emerging artists it’s the moments when you realise you’ve aged out of emerging artist and young person opportunities. And that shit stings.

(Literally as I’m writing this Forever Young came on shuffle and that’s how you know the universe is mocking you)

Not only does passing this 25 year old deadline mean you have to miss out on valuable opportunities, it is also a painful reminder of how the industry thinks you should have jumped on the ladder by now. Of course, I know many people in the industry don’t think this but the way we approach and talk about emerging artists reinforces this expectation. I have gained two degrees in the arts and the more time that passes between my graduation and paid opportunities adds a layer of burnout and exhaustion that is exacerbated by suddenly being informed that I’m not young anymore.

We know that emerging does not just mean young. You can be emerging at any age.

But, am I emerging? I’ve not done anything yet.

I know loads of fellow not-young young people and graduates are all experiencing the same concerns and confusions.

When do I emerge? Do I work for free before or during my emerging? What if I can’t afford to emerge? If I’m already exhausted what hope to I have once I emerge?

Burn out is so very real within the arts. You can be expected to commit your every waking moment to your practice.

But burn out amongst emerging artists is extra complicated. Is taking a break before you’ve started actually just giving up? What if you take that wee break and miss the one opportunity you needed to get things rolling?

If you’d asked me when I was wee what I’d be doing when I was 26, I would have said that I would be a married, international spy living in a big house with a car. I gave up that expectation a while ago, but if you’d ask me when I was at uni in my early 20s I really, really believed I’d have more faith in a future career by now.

Uncertainty has ruled the world for the last year, and I’ve been dealing with it within my own life. However, realising what I’ve missed as a 26-year-old has left me shouting into the void.

Anyways, back to my banana bread (I’m bringing it back guys)

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