Turning 23 has been the first real time I’ve had to take a second and question where all the time has gone. Gone are the days of lying in bed, pressing my palms together and praying I’d never grow up and that, if I really had to, could I survive on beans on toast for the rest of my life because trying new foods was scary and I lived in fear of throwing anything I didn’t like up. A valid fear, one I have outgrown (mostly). And now I’m 23. Twenty-three. And I know that isn’t old per se and saying anything about ‘feeling old’ makes anyone genuinely older than me groan. I know it’s not actually old, but I guess what I mean is it feels adult and I’m far enough out the other side of university that I feel that intense pressure to gradually have more to show for my life as the years add up.
I’m learning to take things in my stride though, and not listen to the taunting voices in my head that never fail to remind me ‘this sister had done that at this point in her life, this sister had a ring on her finger, this sister had a baby, this sister was earning so and so a year’. It’s hard not to compare and let that fester into my insecurities, but I’m learning and I’m living. Perhaps down a different path, but living none the less. And with an added years experience comes another hoard of sometimes tough-to-take life lessons. So, for the first time on my little nook of the internet, I thought I’d rein in my 24th year with some of my sacred (and silly) life hacks, tips and lessons.
One: Chocolate is the solution to most problems. Or, at the least, it makes the pain you’re going through a fraction more manageable.
Two: People’s intelligence shines through in different ways and, for some, that is decidedly not through exams. No pressure, you’ll smash it in your own way.
Three: Write every day. If you love to write, getting a few words in each day makes coming around to work on that one project a hell of a lot easier, because your mind and your fingers aren’t quite so rusty. Plus, it’s therapeutic AF.
Four: Family are pretty important. Maybe that sounds obvious, but your big group of friends at school, sixth form, uni, etc are there one moment, then hundreds of miles away the next. It’s surprising who ends up dragging you through the darkness when things get bad. You’ll bicker and get on each other’s last nerves, but they’ll always be there in the end.
Five: Apparently, when giving birth, you shouldn’t actually push. Your body does it for you — one to know for future reference, maybe?
Six: Be kind to the people who work in retail. You’ve been there, you know how it is. That goes for those who wait on you and who make up your drinks in coffee shops, too. You know what, to add to that, just be kind to everyone, okay? There’s too much bad blood as it is in this world. Adding positivity into the universe has got to be at least one teeny tiny step towards world peace, right? Okay. So be nice. Harry Styles didn’t bring out pricey merch for you not to listen.
Seven: Crossing one leg over the other whilst having a poo works almost as well as propping your feet up on a stool — for those times when you don’t have a stool to hand. I gotchu.
Eight: Leave your eyebrows the heck alone. Put the tweezers (and the razor — I see you) down.
Nine: See a film you’re excited about at the cinema. Throw caution to the wind and see it more than once if you love it with all your heart. But don’t bother if you’re not a butterfly-inducing level of giddiness, because it’s stupidly expensive and it’s not even that comfy. Watching a film at home with blankets and fajitas is so much better.
Ten: Read lots of books and challenge yourself with classics. They may seem daunting or, god forbid, you might think them boring. But they’re not and you’ll feel pretty darn smart for getting through them, too.
Eleven: You should probs also re-read more of your faves.
Twelve: Print your favourite photos and stick them all over your walls.
Thirteen: Be unapologetic in what you love. Be loud and proud and screw guilty pleasures. If you enjoy a certain band or muscian, book, film, whatever. Don’t hide it for fear of being judged. Being passionate about the things you like is super cool and attractive. You’ll find your people and won’t have to work tirelessly to hide, because that is exhausting and wasteful of your precious time. I’ve seen too many people doing it and it is probably one of the saddest things I’ve witnessed. Love what you love.
Fourteen: Be an effin’ feminist. An intersectional one at that.
Fifteen: Continue to educate yourself beyond school exams and your bachelor degree. Whether you continue institutionalised education through higher education, take courses, attend night school, or simply crack open a book or switch on an informative TV show, continue to consume and soak up knowledge. Learn about the things that interest you and become an expert. There is no limit to your education as long as you remain open to it and relish in the perspective and insight it gives.
Sixteen: Heartbreak is inevitable. Let it run its course and bask in the sun in the moments before the tipping point. Like most things in life, you’ll appreciate happiness and love more when you have the bruises and battle scars to show for your journey.
Seventeen: Friendship break-ups are kind of the worst, sorry. You’ll argue until you’re weary with some friends and sometimes that won’t be enough to fix it. Sometimes they’ll walk away and that’s tough. Sometimes you’ll have to walk away first and that’s even tougher. But know this, people come into your life for a little while and you’re besotted. You feel connected and the time you have together is at such a high you’d never dream of falling back down. But as quickly as they arrived, they leave, for one reason or another. And sometimes all they leave is pain or anger or confusion, or a combination of the three. But sometimes they walk away and you realise, in some way, they’ve changed you or pushed you. And no matter the bitter taste they might have left in your mouth, you have to be at least grateful that they were there for a split second, if only to help you transition into your next chapter. This applies to both friendship and romantic loves, fyi.
Eighteen: It’s also important to note that some people are just plain shitty and leave no trace of value to your life once they’ve buggered off. You won’t need help working out the difference, it’ll be obvious. They’re toxic, so don’t be afraid to cut out and get rid.
Nineteen: Get to work on self-love as soon as you feel your invincibility slip. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you love you for you. Cleanse your social media and unfollow celebrities and bodies and people who make you feel bad about yourself. Workout and marvel at what your body can do. If nothing else, remember it picks you up off the floor each time you hit rock bottom — walks, speaks, eats. It has a poop, for goodness sake, and it goddamn lives. Don’t for a second forget how incredible that is.
Twenty: Money will never be a waste spent on travel or, the next best thing, a book (in less you go away with someone who turns out to be awful — been there, done that). See the world through your eyes or the perspective of someone else’s and never stop buying plane and train tickets.
Twenty-One: Be less afraid. Throw yourself into things and put yourself out there. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Life is too short to be full of regrets.
Twenty-Two: Treasure your grandparents and make the time to listen to all their stories. They won’t always be around, so don’t miss your chance. They’re bound to have some real corkers to share.
Twenty-Three: Believe in yourself. Believe that you’re a unique, bomb-ass human being. Believe in your dreams and go out and achieve them, or die trying. Hannah Montana once said, ‘Life is what you make it, so let’s make it rock’. Hallelujah!