My twenties were everything I could have wished for: a decade riddled with as many glittering opportunities, ill-suited crushes and defiant friendships as it has hideous insecurities, crippling lows and overwhelming self-doubt.
Here’s everything it helped me learn on the way to turning thirty…
1. Your gut instinct is probably the most valuable asset you have. It’ll make you feel reckless and impulsive, and will often make little sense to anyone else. But she is the pathway to sheer and utter brilliance and you should trust her. Because trusting her is trusting yourself.
2. A baby bottle filled with hot water and then wrapped in a towel and placed directly between your legs makes a great make-shift device for easing the symptoms of cystitis.
3. It’s OK for friendships to ebb and flow. They don’t have to be constant for years on end – you can see each other every day and then not see each other for a year and then come back together. That’s the beauty of solid, strong, true friendship, it can handle life getting in the way.
4. If you stop for an hour, a day or a week to recharge because you’re mentally ill, physically ill or just fucking tired and over it, the world will not stop and your life will not stop. Resting isn’t an addiction, allowing yourself to rest doesn’t mean you won’t ever get back up again. You will as soon as you’re ready, trust in that.
5. If you wake up in the night with a runny nose, there is no greater hack to getting yourself back to sleep then sticking the corner of the duvet cover up your nostril and letting it take care of the rest.
6. Sometimes situations and circumstances feel so overwhelming that you fear they will engulf you whole. Bad news, bad break-ups and bad anxiety can all make you feel like you’re surrounded in fog with no way out, that there is no way out. They can be so deeply intense that your every waking breath is suffocated by the knowing that they are there. But there is life after these things, you do eventually, somehow, move forward. They become background noise, they become your past and not your hellish present. No matter how all-consuming a situation or emotion, remember it can’t possibly last forever.
7. You are not the only person who uses the camera and flash on their phone to try and take photos of spots, lumps, bumps and cysts in places they can’t see.
8. The more time you dedicate to reading actual books, the more content you’ll feel within yourself. It takes you away from social media, chores and repetitive thoughts circling your brain and offers respite from the noise around you.
9. You can water-down yourself to save people from hating you, or you can throw your true 100% self into the world and watch people fall in love with you. You are a better version of yourself once you distance yourself from the idea of being liked by everyone because, and here is the big spoiler: it’s impossible. If someone doesn’t like you and you think about it daily, it ruins your happiness, if someone doesn’t like you and you never think about it again, it blurs into the background and never enters your life again.
10. There are very few life situations which aren’t made better by putting on a tracksuit, ordering takeout and sitting on the floor with your best friends. (Never the sofa or a table you understand, it must be the floor).
11. No matter how attractive and cool you feel in any given moment, you will look back in ten years time and wonder WHAT THE SWEET HELL YOU WERE THINKING. No eyebrows to be seen and concealer as lipstick? OK you creep.
12. Prioritising self-preservation is incredibly important. It doesn’t mean you’re selfish or that you put up ridiculously high walls, it means that you value yourself and your mental health and your sense of worth, and that makes you stronger than you know.
13. On day three of your menstrual cycle your period will stop and you will assume that it has finished, IT HAS NOT.
14. Life is really too short to eat a tin of chopped tomatoes with salt and pepper for dinner for the sake of skinny. Firstly, you’re magnificent as you are, and secondly, never waste an opportunity to eat something delicious.
15. There are very few FUCK WHAT DO I WEAR social occasions that aren’t best solved by a long-sleeved midi dress, a pair of trainers and a red lipstick.
16. It’s natural to question your relationship – whether it’s right, where it’s going and if it’ll last forever. But the moment that questioning crops up between every other thought in your head, that’s when you’ve reached the point of no return. That’s when big changes need to happen.
17. Following what makes you fulfilled and what makes you happy is really fucking important. Listen to your brain, listen to your mood and listen to your emotions. Dedicate more time and energy to the things that give you that buzz deep inside your soul, to the things that spark passion and excitement, because those are the things that make your life worth living.
18. Vegetables are actually really nice. You just gotta learn how to actually cook them in a way which isn’t just ‘whack em in some boiling water and hope for the best’.
19. Once you become an actual grown-up, and not just a teenager posing as an actual grown-up, you realise that no-one actually gives a shit whether you have stretch marks or cellulite, what your labia looks like or whether your nipples are big or small or light or dark. We’re all just people.
20. Recognising patterns in your behaviour – whether it’s in your menstrual cycle or how you feel at certain times of the year, is one of the sweetest kinds of self-care out there. If only because it means you might actually treat yourself with some kindness some of the time.
21. You should never ever throw away your oldest, most adored cuddly toy. Even if they were kindly gifted to you by an ex-boyfriend. Because there will come a time when you will need to sleep alone in an unfamiliar house and will will CURSE YOUR PAST SELF FOR NOT LEAVING YOU WITH A SAFE NIGHT TIME PROTECTOR.
22. It’s OK to change your mind. Whether that’s your mind on your personal style, your views on political parties or whether or not you like Marmite. You’re constantly evolving so it makes sense that your view on things do to.
23. Showering, getting out the house and buying a coffee which is lovingly made by anyone who isn’t you, is the ticket to instantly feeling 1% more like you can make it through the day.
24. You are allowed to let people go and it’s OK to feel pain over letting people go, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the right decision and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad person. Sometimes walking away and closing the chapter is the only way to find the fresh, calming solitude waiting for you on the other side.
25. You are never too old to eat chicken dippers and potato Smiles, build sofa dens, watch Disney films or enjoy bright coloured gel pens. Ever.
26. The moment you stop bitching about other people and challenging the negative thoughts about others that are conditioned to crop up in your head, the moment you actually start loving yourself exactly as you are (and become a better person in the process). Everyone deserves the right to look as different or the same as they choose, and is has absolutely sweet all to do with you.
27. The easiest way to work through tricky emotions rampaging around your brain is to write about them. To let your hands attempt to gain some sense and order over the chaos my inner monologue is dealing with. Whether you share those words or not with the wider world is unrelated.
28. Re-living situations from 15 years ago in your head just as you’re about to fall asleep is not a useful practice, nor is trying to work out how the version of you now, having learned everything she’s learned, would react differently if she were to go back in time. But hey, it’s nice knowing everyone else does the same thing too.
29. If someone hears you doing an emergency poo in a public toilet, your world will keep on moving and you will not be shamed on the front page of every newspaper the following day. We all poo, it’s cool.
30. We don’t know all the answers and we don’t know what the universe has in store for us next, but it’s exciting to think of all the glorious rushes of happiness that instantly fill your soul with warmth and happy tears that we know nothing about yet. Trust that there are spectacular things waiting for you that are greater than any of the things you could have ever planned for yourself.