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Twenty Things I've Learnt In My Twenties.

1 November 2020 1 comment


Any birthday would have been strange during these extraordinary times, but turning 30 last week was a particularly surreal affair. Not one that I'm officially recognising by the way - I'm going to stay '29+1' for another year in the hope that maybe by this time next year, things will feel a little more ordinary.

I like posting about the trivial on here, it's escapism, but it's also a lovely way to collect thoughts and memories so here are a few things I've learnt in the past decade (oh my):

1. The importance of wellness and finding things that make you feel at peace.

2. 'No' doesn't need a justification, nor an explanation. I think when I was younger, I had anxiety trying to think up a reason that the other party would accept, for saying no to that night out I couldn't be bothered or didn't want to go to, or whatever else the occasion was. But it really needn't be like that.

3. Positivity and a positive attitude is a choice. And likewise is the reverse. I definitely believed that my attitude was a result of the good or bad things that happened to me. If something went my way, I could be happy, and reversely I had every reason to wallow in self pity and negativity should something bad happen. But a positive attitude is a choice, regardless of your circumstances and it's something I'm still trying to force myself to remember.

4. Dark chocolate > any other chocolate. I used to prefer milk, who was I.

5. You just have to keep going. I've learnt this rather the hard way I think, as over the years I tried to deal with my family life and my father's illness through comfort eating. I used food and sugar as a crutch for not being able to understand and process my feelings, and in the process have ruined my teeth, and my body. You just have to be able to cope. And not be tempted by food, alcohol or anything else in excess because they never solve the problems, only add to them.

6. You don't have to like the things everyone else likes. I think I discovered this fairly early on in my twenties, as I found out that actually I don't enjoy many of the things most others might enjoy. I don't like films, nor coffee, nor alcohol (other than a good cold glass of Tokaij or mead), nor mid-century modern furniture.

7. Nor does everyone have to like you. This I definitely struggled with, perhaps because I was happily 'vanilla' during my school years and never had to contend with disagreements or not being liked. But it's impossible to please everyone, and nor would I want to try and do that - it's far too much of a drain on my own energies! Ru Paul said it well - what others think of me is none of my business. 

8. Letting go of things or people that aren't benefiting your life isn't just OK, it should be encouraged. Again, sort of tying in with above, we don't (or I don't) have the time, energy nor inclination to entertain something or someone that is a drain on my life - if I can help it that is. And whilst it may not be a pleasant experience to let them go or walk away and I do think maybe dad and a consequent rejigging of my priorities has hardened me somewhat and made me less patient - I do think that in the long run, once the dust settles, it's usually worth it. I feel more at peace walking away from things now.

9. Perfection doesn't exist and living in limbo is OK. Boy did I need telling that all the damn time. Perhaps I still do. This one stems back to dad again, as most likely a lot of these realisations do. The trouble with a long-term and degenerative illness like his, is that you never get closure. It's like an almost life-long grieving process as you slowly lose the person you knew and loved, as all of the positive and happy memories are erased and replaced with your daily frustrations. Made all the more difficult by the fact that I'm innately a hard and fast perfectionist. But I've learnt that you can still sort of make something out of living in this purgatory. Not because it's ideal, but because it's necessary.

10. Prioritising health. I never cared about health when I was a teenager. I've specific memories of crash dieting myself down to a size 6 in my teens thinking, 'it may not be healthy but at least I'm skinny'. Now I realise that life is short, and your health matters, maybe the most of all.

11. Success comes in different forms (and not just the ones your Asian 'tiger-mom' has in mind for you!) You can't live for someone else's timeline and everyone's journey is a unique one that's affected by completely different life experiences. And that means things happen (marriage, children, buying a house etc) at different times for everyone or, sometimes, not at all.

12. Everyone is just mostly concerned with themselves. I saw a brilliant CBT therapist a few years ago for anxiety and one thing that he said that stuck with me is that most people, ultimately, are too concerned with their own lives and problems to be concerned with your insecurities.

13. Skincare is full of fads (And good skin comes from within anyway). The sheer number of skincare products available is mind boggling and new, supposed 'wonder' ingredients are being discovered seemingly daily, but the older I get, the more stripped back I want to be with my skin. Ultimately: wash your face, exfoliate every now and then, use a good SPF, hydrate with some basic and gentle, and as you get older, try a vitamin C/retinol. 

14. Forgiveness is for yourself. It's not about the other party. Forgiveness is allowing yourself to accept your own peace, because the feelings of resentment/frustration/otherwise is only detrimental to you. There's a Buddha quotation/Chinese proverb: Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it any someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

15. I *really* like sweet and savoury together in one mouthful. Salted dark chocolate, apple and cheese, melon and ham, medjool dates and bacon, grapes in a green salad.

16. Communication is everything. It's amazing what we can handle if given the chance to communicate and be communicated with.

17. Document your memories. Life is short and you never know what's going to happen. Even aside from that sentiment, it's just lovely to be able to look back and reminisce on forgotten moments. It's like the feeling you get hearing a song you haven't heard for about 15 years, but only exaggerated.

18. Appearance matters less. We're all so much more than that and I think that's something I realise more and more as I age.

19. It doesn't matter if you still don't know what you're doing. I mentioned it earlier that each of our lives are hit with a unique set of experiences and obstacles and I expect that will continue no matter our age. There's an awful lot going on in my life, so I don't expect I'll ever have it completely figured out - and I'm learning that is a-ok.

20. Be kind.