26 things that I have learned in 26 years

Diary writing

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.
  4. A cup of hot tea is one of life’s greatest pleasures + a cup of tea makes everything better.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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…”
  8. 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”.)
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Cats are amazing.
  12. Fairy lights and scented candles are basic bedroom essentials.
  13. Being smart is awesome, not nerdy. Ignore bullies and those who want you to play down your intelligence for the sake of being cool.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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…
  18. Having a clean tidy room is amazing.
  19. Travel is essential for both broadening your horizons and for appreciating where you come from.
  20. 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?
  21. Exercise is good for the soul as well as the body.
  22. Always make the time to catch up on an amazing novel.
  23. You are never too old for Disney toys.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.



  1. says

    Debs, this is brilliant. I resonated with *so much* of what you wrote here! My favorites were … #4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 16, 20, 26! YES YES YES!

  2. says

    Enjoyed this a lot, particularly:
    ” 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.”
    I can completely relate. And while I’ve stopped letting the label “introvert” prevent me from going after things that don’t fit within the introvert universe and using it as an excuse when I’m nervous, I also know that there are things that will probably never appeal to me and that I don’t have to force myself to do them to enjoy life and good relationships.

    • says

      Thanks so much for commenting! For years I tried to make myself enjoy things that I just didn’t enjoy – best part of being an adult is choosing how you spend your time for sure :) Glad you enjoyed the post xx

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