Balancing life, love and a career: the age old challenge for 20-somethings. A challenge that has gotten the better of many. And I am NOT going to sit here with my Lidl lager and pretend I've got it all figured out. Absolutely not. Especially with my choices.
I chose a career in medicine. The once-revered profession now buckling under rapidly increasing pressure and staggeringly low morale, as the current sociopolitical climate drives our beloved institution, the NHS, to breaking point. Outside of the hospital, I chose a life in stand-up comedy: an art form known for its cut-throat networking, late nights and long hours on the road. All for the chance to step on stage and flip the coin: heads for a hit of that sweet, sweet mass validation, tails for another crippling blow to your already questionable self-esteem (also, leave the coin. This gig was for "exposure"). The little time I have left over, I pump into trying to find and maintain a relationship with someone brave enough to settle down with the aforementioned disaster-in-progress...
A junior doctor AND a stand-up? Learn from Kwame's life choices (Image: Mark Dawson)
Thankfully, things are going well at the moment. I've just completed my junior doctor foundation training in Birmingham, with plans to start specialist training in 2018. I'm making my Edinburgh Fringe festival stand-up comedy debut this August, with my show Open Arms. And to quote Theresa May, my girlfriend and I are "strong and stable" (although I say that whilst retaining the insight not to open the relationship up to new challengers).
But as exciting as these new beginnings are, they are still just beginnings. There's a long way yet to go. Which is why, instead of giving advice, I thought I'd reflect on some of the best advice given to me. Here's what I've learnt works - and which advice you, my fellow bewildered contemporaries, can definitely avoid.
1. Look after the pennies
Moving to Birmingham was probably one of the best financial decisions I've made in a long time. It's been painful watching the cost of living creep up and up during my 24 years in London. When I was a kid, the child single fare was 40p. The £1 coin my mum would give me in the morning would take me to school and back, with leftover change for sweets!
Fast forward to now, where I've had the pleasure of being charged £22.50 for a double vodka red bull on a night out. The barman claims he wasn't selling me a drink - he was selling me an "experience". Well that "experience" was sadness, and NEWSFLASH: you don't have to sell sadness to a Londoner. That's what rent is for. With most 20-somethings moving to London for work, one of the best decisions I made for my bank balance was to move away.
2. Keep a healthy mind in a healthy body
When it comes to (trying to) stay fit, running is my sport of choice. But for a man whose headphones are eternally AWOL, getting motivated is a constant struggle. At the gym, I use their televisions to fuel my workout instead - with mixed results.
Sometimes it works well; if I'm on the treadmill while a disaster relief advert comes up, I like to turn the treadmill up to max speed and pretend that I'm sprinting to save all of the children ("Hang in there kids! My damp towel and half-bottle of water is going to fix everything.") But then Antiques Roadshow will come on next and I'll have to hit the emergency stop button. "DON'T RUN THROUGH THE ANTIQUES, KWAME. THE PRECIOUS ANTIQUES." Onlookers think I'm on some kind of high-intensity burst programme, but I'm really just damaging a machine. Try it next time you're in the gym, tell them Kwame sent you.
3. Mother knows best - sometimes
I'm sure my mum means well, but as much as I adore her, we never seem to be on the same wavelength. Once, when I was 12 year old, I told an electrician that I didn't know how to make cup of tea, to get out of making him one. I remember my mum kicking up a huge fuss about how me not knowing how to make a cup of tea "made her look like a bad mother". She unfortunately failed to see the irony that beating me in front of the electrician wouldn't exactly get her shortlisted for mother of year either...
I thought that as I got older I'd grow to understand her more and more, but instead all she's done is "modernise her madness". Recently, at the dinner, my mum made a joke about my weight.
She then stuck two peace signs in the air and shouted 'MEE-MEES!', thinking:
a) that's how you say 'memes', and
b) insulting someone then shouting 'memes' is how memes work.
Mother didn't know best, but she certainly tries.
I hope that helps: remember, there's still a long way to go yet.
Kwame Asante: Open Arms is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 27 (not 16) at 18:45. Tickets available at www.edfringe.com