So, this month is my 26th birthday! It seems like only yesterday that I was complaining about being asked for ID and embarking on my whirl-wind international adventure.
The other day I was reading my old journals from when I was a teenager, and I got-a thinking about all the things that I have learned over the years. Comparing just how different I am to when I was 12 or when I was 16, etc.
So, I thought it would be nice to reflect on the lessons that I have learned over the years and share them with you. So, without further-a-do, here I go:
- School really does not last forever. I spent years trying to fit in with my peers at school and worrying about homework. I desperately wanted people to like me and had no idea what to do with myself when they didn’t. I always found that I was either too posh or too poor – too snobby or too common – and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going. It’s an amazing moment when your world expands from an endless cycle of deadlines and cliques to a beautiful place worth exploring.
- Working hard doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get what you want. This is perhaps the hardest lesson that I have learned, and it was something that I didn’t truly know until I was 22 and finished with university: Life doesn’t simply reward hard work and disqualify lazy people – connections, networking and personality go far. Sometimes you’ve got to learn to be smart and savvy, and play the game (and learning to play doesn’t make you a bad person!)
- Bad boys are a waste of time. It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting on my bed as a boy played me Bob Dylan’s “Don’t think twice, it’s alright” to describe his feelings towards me. Oh, those were (not) the days.
- A cup of hot tea is one of life’s greatest pleasures + a cup of tea makes everything better.
- If you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, don’t share it. Be careful about what you put out into the cyber world. No nude photos, bitchy messages or vulgar words – they’re far too easy to share.
- Keeping a journal may feel like a hard habit to maintain, but it will be worth it. I have kept a diary since I was 10 years old and I love reading my old entries, noting just how much I have changed over the last 16 years. Even my voice and language have changed (my favourite era was when I used words like “minger” and phrases such as “that’s well good”). Journals are essential for maintaining perspective and keeping clear memories.
- Always do your best and try your hardest. Even if you don’t win or do “the best”, you will never reproach yourself or live in a world of “if only…”
- Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way that you would a friend. Don’t put yourself down or “should” all over yourself (e.g. “I should be more successful”.)
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can’t do everything by yourself. Talk about your problem with a friend, join a therapy session or ask someone nicely if they can give you a hand with a hard task.
- It’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be. I remind myself this fact every time I start on a difficult piece of work, step into an exam or face a fear.
- Cats are amazing.
- Fairy lights and scented candles are basic bedroom essentials.
- Being smart is awesome, not nerdy. Ignore bullies and those who want you to play down your intelligence for the sake of being cool.
- Being an introvert ain’t a bad thing. I used to think that I was really weird because I preferred one-to-one social situations and didn’t usually enjoy big parties. I would try and force myself to be more extroverted, cringing at my own inauthenticity. Now I understand that it’s simply because I lean towards the ‘Introvert’ end of the spectrum – I have always loved my own company, making up my own games and spending hours writing stories. Embracing who I am and doing the things that I want to do makes for a much happier life.
- Say yes to opportunities. Notice a free competition in a magazine to win your favourite beauty products? Enter it. The first time that I ever took this piece of advice I won £100.
- Accepting my face and feeling beautiful without makeup is a crucial step to self-acceptance. It’s hard to love yourself if you think that you’re too ugly to even walk to the local shops without your warpaint on.
- The parents were right not to spend their hard earned money on fads that only lasted five minutes: Expensive surf brands like Quicksilver when you don’t even surf, designer skate shoes for school, Tamagotchis, Disney costumes that are outgrown in six months, mini disc players, high-end headphones that end up broken in the bottom of a school bag…
- Having a clean tidy room is amazing.
- Travel is essential for both broadening your horizons and for appreciating where you come from.
- I would rather date Aiden than Mr Big. True love is not something that should be confused with lust or melodrama. Just because you had a big fight followed by a kiss in the rain (I’m thinking scenes like ‘The Notebook’ and ’50 Shades of Fucking Grey’), it does not make you soul mates. I used to be team Mr Big, but what did Carrie really have in common with him, other than that they both loved New York, a high-end designer life and treating Carrie like crap?
- Exercise is good for the soul as well as the body.
- Always make the time to catch up on an amazing novel.
- You are never too old for Disney toys.
- Enjoy being ID’d because there will come a time when you want nothing more. I have only been ID’d once since returning to the UK and I have found myself checking my face for wrinkles.
- If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t get out of your own head, do something for someone else or listen to someone else’s problems.
- You’ll never stop learning and you will never have life completely figured out. Happiness is all the rage lately, have you noticed? It’s mentioned across the blogosphere and in self-help books like a beautiful homeland to be reached and lived in. But it isn’t a place, it’s a process. Life is a process. I cannot wait for when I am 30 and read this list back – I will definitely have 20 more items to add , and I may even scoff at one or two things.
What life lessons have you learned over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments below.