Yesterday I turned 28, which means I am inching ever closer to having lived on Planet Earth for three decades, and in celebration of this and as an attempt to put pen to paper on a more regular basis I thought I would write about ten 'things'. They might be things that I have learnt about myself, things I have experienced, pieces of advice or comfort shared with me, or just my own rambling thoughts. They come from no authority other than a desire to express myself honestly and whilst I'm hoping you'll read it and find something to take from it, this exercise is as much a reflection for my own purposes, as it is for sharing whatever wisdom I think I may have accumulated in my life so far.
1. The time will pass anyway... I cannot remember where I first heard this saying or from who, but I do remember it feeling like someone had flicked a switch and momentarily stilled the constant murmur of anxiety that usually accompanies my everyday. I am guilty of harbouring a surging panic with regards to getting older; and have wasted countless hours fretting when I could have been living. We are never as young as we are right now, and whilst it's exciting to project our imaginations into all the various outcomes of the future, it is perhaps more exciting to realise that wherever we see ourselves in 6 months, or a year, or ten years, the time between the 'me that exists now' and the 'me that will exist then' will pass regardless of my attempts to claw it back or urge it on.
2. There is no such thing as 'Grown Up'... Speaking of getting older, I can remember so vividly the devastation felt as a child upon realising that one day I would trasform, like some hapless human caterpillar into a fully 'ADULT' butterfly. I bawled and lashed out at the prospect, terrified of the day I could no longer be a child while my parents smiled knowingly. They knew what I know now - that no one ever really 'grows up'. We mature (slowly), we take on responsibilities (some earned, some forced), we play different games by different rules with higher stakes, and learn to exist independently (often with difficulty). But I am not sure we ever truly 'grow up'. At the end of the day we are not adults at all, just tall children holding beers (or in my case cold rose clattering with ice cubes) having conversations with strangers about things we don't understand.
3. There will always be someone prettier than you... I was not a stereotypically pretty teenager, and for that I will be eternally grateful because instead of spending my formative years snogging boys and being invited to the coolest parties I actually developed a personality. This may sound harsh but I honestly think theres an equation that takes how hot you were aged 15 and minuses it from how successful/funny/talented/driven/*insert other adjective here* you are by the time you reach 21. Cross multiply it with a little rejection, and divide with a healthy dose of insecurity and it alway seems to lead to the same answer. If you make being pretty (or hot, or fit or anything of that type) your 'thing' you may turn every head in the room, but you will never silence it, capture it, or make it erupt with laughter. The moment you realise that there will always be someone prettier than you in any given room, you start to actually enjoy the party.
4. I often feel like I'm never reaching my true potential... As the first child of baby boomers and a member of the millennial generation I was told for as long as I can remember that I was 'special'. I've grown up with an innate self-belief that I am going to do extraordinary things, that I can achieve anything I want to achieve and be whatever or whoever I dare to dream of being. If you're reading these few sentences and quietly thinking to yourself "yeah, but thing is I actually AM special?" - Welcome to the club. The truth is that 10 yr old me would be disappointed... nay, DEVASTATED to see that, aged 28, I have not become an international pop-star, written a bestselling fantasy book series, met the Queen, tackled climate change, bought my dad an Aston Martin DB5 Hardtop to thank him for my education and built a hospital for stray dogs... but that's ok. Perhaps, during my school years I overachieved, and then the moment I was free to actually chase my dreams I began to feel like even my finest efforts were barely scraping the surface. I can't decide if it's a phenomenon of my generation, or if I'm actually just barking mad to be repeatedly hurling myself at the door of making one of these dreams a reality. I don't have an answer, and I'm still coming to terms with the realisation that the only thing I seem to do with any real consistency is underachieve, but I sense I am not alone in feeling this.
5. Books and music are the food of the soul... There is little else that has enriched the solitary moments of my life as much as these two things. If you don't read or listen to enough music, start now! Presuming I've got around 70 years left on this planet, and I read a book or listen to a new album once a week, I only have time for 3,640 of them. Given that I've yet to read all 37 of the complete works of Shakespeare and considering the Beatles wrote and released 12 studio albums that's basically a years worth of material that I'm genuinely worried I may never be able to experience. WHY IN GODS NAME DID I WATCH ALL SEVEN SERIES' OF EX ON THE BEACH!?!?
6. Being vulnerable means being powerful... ***DISCLAIMER - this one is #Deep so skip if you've a tendency to vom-in-the-mouth***. I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree, but to me emotional honesty is one of the most compelling and empowering skills a human being can learn. In my mind, vulnerability (not to be confused with weakness) requires great strength. Exposing our deepest, darkest needs and sensitivities can often involve overcoming great pain. And to tell someone your true feelings...? Well that's quite possibly the most terrifying ordeal you could imagine. But, my experiences of being vulnerable and exposed and unguarded and of emerging on the other side have been worth every moment of crippling embarrassment and shame because instead of building walls I have tried to build foundations (I just laughed at how pretentious I sound re-reading this but I'm going to keep it in because I'm trying to be honest and it's exactly the kind of sickeningly motivational thing I'd want to read at 4am after ten G&T's and an emosh night out.) To conclude with the words of the great Maya Angelou, "People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget the way you made them feel..." So 'feel' unashamedly, and make everyone around you feel something too.
7. Speaking of which - I have too many feelings... My closest friends will laugh at this one because it is too true. I cry at anything (literally ANYTHING), and tears can mean any number of things. I cry when I am frustrated, I cry when I am ecstatically happy, I cry when I look at an amazing landscape or a photograph of my grandfather. Its not even worth touching on books and films because that's a given. All bets are off. I cry when I am inspired and I cry when I am heartbroken - big fat wailing tears that have me silently screaming into my pillow and hiccuping for hours afterwards. At least two or three times a month I am a blubbering mess, and these bawl sessions are accompanied by a smattering of light eye-leakages on a weekly basis. I feel a lot of feels yo.
8. Friendships are hard work... I've read an awful lot on social media recently about 'cutting negative people out of your life' or 'letting go of those who don't contribute positively', and for the sake of argument I'd like to counter that position. In all my 28 years I have only 'lost' two very close friendships, and they were both so traumatic that the thought of letting go of anyone else makes me feel physically sick. Too often we appear willing to put up with the most incomprehensible mountain of shit in a sexual/physical/emotional relationship (myself included), yet we are slow to acknowledge that friendships require as much 'hard work' on occasion. Whilst I'm certainly not advocating putting up with a top-notch twat of man in the name of 'working on it', or clinging on to people who were never really true friends in the first place, what I'm trying to say is that we cannot expect our closest friends to be all things, at all times, in all places, else we set them up for failure. Maybe I'm just as much of a hopeless romantic when it comes to friendships as I am with men, but I know I'd rather work on my friendships until I drove myself mad, than sacrifice a single one of them. Then again... my friends are diamonds, each and every one, so perhaps I'm biased.
9. I am not good at letting go... I have only recently begun to come to terms with the fact that there are certain feelings, certain memories, certain moments that have etched themselves so deeply into my psyche, through my living of them and through my constant re-living of them, that they may never leave me. I am not good at goodbyes. Simple sentences uttered in fleeting moments stick with me when most others would have let them slip by silently. I re-play, re-imagine, and re-visit my recordings with an almost masochistic rigour and can still recall every heartache I've experienced like opening my favourite chapter of a familiar novel. I am like a dotty old botanist doggedly capturing, cultivating, bottling and labelling my feelings; displaying them neatly in my mind, so that I may at any given moment reach out to examine, unscrew the lid, and breathe the heady scent of nostalgia. I am not good at letting go... and I love it.
10. I AM SO LUCKY... I have been extremely blessed in life. There are no two ways about it. I have a loving family, both immediate and extended, a safe and stable home, a brilliant education, and when I look back at my life so far I see an extraordinary abundance of joy. Writing this post and taking the time to think about the advice I would give when facing adversity has made me realise that in the grand scheme of things, I have barely faced any at all, and for that I am so grateful. I am especially grateful for my friends (and I include my family in this bracket because we don't get to choose our family and yet I would choose each and every one of them again if I could). From those with whom I have shared bath times and first birthday parties, to those who have walked into my life only recently bringing with them a sunshine I never knew was missing, I cherish them all and I am so lucky. I know that if anyone reads this it will be you, dear friends, so if you've reached the bottom of this post, thank you. Thank you for believing in me, for supporting my dreams and keeping them alive with me. Thank you for consoling me whilst I cry on the regular, and for joining in on occasion! Thank you for knowing me since I was a baby and walking beside me all these years. Thank you for coming into my life so recently and for giving me even a small amount of your precious time. Thank you for the unfaltering love, the constant laughter, the thousands of shared memories and for giving me the security of knowing that we have so much more of all these things yet to come. I am so lucky to know and love you. I am SO lucky.