A couple of months ago, I turned 36.
That’s a big number. And one I was a little scared of. I am inarguably closer to 40 than 30 for the first time ever. I am officially a grown up. I am the age my Mother was when she got divorced – and I’m not even married yet.
But, surprisingly for me, 36 has not been at all negative. For the first time in my life, I feel at peace with myself. I’m genuinely happy. I have self confidence, self worth. I have a plan. I don’t profess to know everything, of course, but I do know what it is that makes me tick; what I will and will not accept; and what I need.
I’ve learnt a lot over the last 36 years. And while I wish I could rewind time and impart this wisdom to my younger, idiotic, reckless self, I can’t. But I can share it with you. And promise any of you young’uns reading that getting older is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, it’s kind of awesome.
So here you go. take from this what you will…
- People change. No matter how much you want them to stay the same. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Sometimes, that person you couldn’t stand when you left school can end up being your best friend in later years. Allow people the chance to grow, give people room, don’t pre-judge on the past and give everyone a second chance.
- On that note – DO give everyone a second chance. But be careful about 3rd, 4th, and 5th chances. When someone shows you who they are, believe them
- Always be kind. But don’t believe you can fix everyone. And don’t spend all of your time trying. Fixing broken people drains you of your own energy and usually ends up a negative experience for everyone. Show love, offer help, guide them in the right direction when you can – but don’t take it all upon your shoulders. Unless you’re properly qualified, fixing people isn’t actually your job.
- Be generous, but not to a fault. Friendships can’t be bought, relationships shouldn’t be about showering people with gifts and loans, and you should never get yourself in debt for anyone else. Except maybe your children.
- Pick your companions carefully. You are a reflection of the closest people around you. If you don’t believe someone is behaving healthily, or if something becomes toxic, step back and give it some room. Don’t let bad behaviour drag you down.
- Don’t rely on anyone to give you everything. This goes for happiness, security, financial stability. Work on your own happiness, well-being and career. You will be more valued by others, and yourself, if you look after YOU. Relying on others usually only leads to resentment or co-dependency. Not cool.
- Friendships require work to work. From both sides. They will have their ups and downs, sure, but you should never be the one making all the sacrifices. If you feel used or disrespected? Communicate. If nothing changes, it might be time to re-evaluate.
- You will have your heart broken. Absolutely. Probably more than once. In the end? You’ll look back and be thankful. You will learn truly valuable lessons and take so much away from a failed relationship. But don’t let it make you bitter. Remember that holding on to anger and hurt only hurts you. Take the time to heal, and then look back on the positives. There will be some. The hurt doesn’t last forever, I promise.
- Trust people. Even after you’ve had your trust broken. Because there are good people out there. Don’t be foolish, but do be open to the possibility that not everyone is out to hurt you.
- Learn how to communicate effectively. Whether you are a quiet or a loud person, expressing your point of view, in whichever way is best for you (words, notes, whatever) can only be a positive thing. Work, relationships, home-life, will all improve if you learn to say what’s on your mind in an effective, calm way.
- Learn about other people. Their cultures, their religions, their needs, love languages and their beliefs. Understanding people can break down many barriers.
- Learn who you are. This is one of the most important lessons for me. I spent about the first 32 years of my life scared of who I might be, pretending to be like other people, following the crowd because I was afraid to stand out. Standing out is cool.
- Don’t be afraid of not being liked. As long as you are being true to you, and kind, and not deliberately hurting people, let go of caring what other people think. If people like you for you, FANTASTIC. If not? Why would you want people who don’t like you in your life anyway??
- Don’t shit on people when you’re doing better than them. What does it matter? You might have a perfect job, or a great relationship, or more money. It doesn’t make you better. And believe me, that can all end in an instant. If you’re kind to people when you’re doing well, they’re more likely to be there for you when you’re not.
- Travel. TRAVEL TRAVEL TRAVEL. Whatever your budget is, travel. Jump on a train, or plane, or plan a road trip. It doesn’t matter, just get out there. See something. Anything. Everything. You’ll learn more about life this way than any other.
- Don’t get into debt over material things – and don’t be jealous over what others have that you think you don’t. Learn to be grateful for what you do have – once you’re happy with that? More will come. Possessions come and they go. People. Relationships. Values. They’re the things that last.
- Understand when to let something go.
- Follow your heart. I spent years quashing my talents and passions because they didn’t “fit” with who I thought I wanted to be – and wouldn’t earn me enough money. Believe me, doing something in life that fills you with joy is worth more than any figure in the bank. And you might surprise yourself by earning more than you thought.
- Learn when to say sorry, and when not to. Sorry is one of the most overused words in our language, but isn’t said enough when it matters. We say sorry to people who bump into us in the street, but struggle saying it when we’ve wronged someone we love. What is that all about?
- CALL PEOPLE. Meet up. In this world we live in, we hide behind technology, spend hours on social media, and forget about actual, human interaction. Put down your phone and play with your kids. Put down your phone and talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Unless you’re using it to call someone you haven’t seen for a while. Then use it to call them to arrange a meeting, and then PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE.
- Don’t be afraid of therapy. If you have something that you need to work on, work on it. Bottling things up for years halts your personal growth, ruins your relationships and can cause some serious depression. Learn to use talking therapies (and there are many different kinds) when you need to.
- LEARN. Whether you’re academic or creative, there is always something new to learn. Read books, take classes, do work experience, do whatever it takes to learn about the things that interest you. This opens up so many more possibilities in life.
- Dance. I spent years standing with a drink in the corner being afraid to dance because I thought I couldn’t. I can. You can. Even if you can’t, it doesn’t matter. Dance anyway. It’s good for the soul.
- Don’t always rely on Western medicine. We fill our bodies with chemicals and drugs when sometimes, natural, alternative routes are better for us in every way. Explore holistic therapies, even if there’s nothing too wrong. Massage, reiki, yoga, acupuncture; these sorts of things can be life changing.
- Remember your imagination. One of the most joyful things as children was letting our creativity run free. Forget the boxes we’re placed in as we grow older, and use your space how you like. Whether you write stories, or paint, or just dress in colours, remember how it felt to be free as a child and run with that – even if only once in a while.
- LOVE. Don’t be afraid of it. Wrap your arms round the people who light up your world, forgive silly faults, open your heart and show real love to the people who truly matter. Remember to tell them you love them and appreciate that they’re in your life. You don’t know if one day the chance may sadly pass.
- Learn how not to be selfish. There are so many ways to do this. Give to charity. Volunteer your time. Help someone across the road when you’re in a rush. Actually listen to a friend when they’re talking, and offer your shoulder when they need it – even when (especially when) it’s not necessarily convenient for you. We all have our “stuff” going on. Yours won’t always be the biggest, so learn when to recognise that you should put you second.
- Eat clean and drink water. I am not suggesting you are perfect and that you should never treat yourself. Jeez, I would sell my toe for a cheeseburger. (Would anyone want my toe? I doubt it). But at least 85% of the time I cook healthily, eat my veggies and take care of my body. It really is the only one we have, and when it starts to fail, you’ll regret taking it for granted. I speak from experience. A damaged body is no fun to live in.
- Make mistakes – but learn from them. I was a horror when I was young. I lived large, I partied hard. I fucked up (royally sometimes). But now as I’m older, not only can I look back and laugh at my adventures, I also know that I wouldn’t do half that crap again. And nor do I need to. I’ve done it, and learned from it. (Some of it was a lot of fun though).
- Jump in. Life will throw you a lot of opportunities, and most of them should be taken. You won’t regret a lot of them, and each will teach you important lessons. If you live a vanilla life and never take risks? You may well love to regret that.
- Look up! I’ve been giving this same advice for years. We miss so much in life by looking down at our feet, looking down at our phones, or walking blindly not really looking at all. Wherever you are, stop and look around once in a while. Look up, especially when you’re in London. There’s some beautiful stuff up there.
- Learn what suits you. Don’t wear what your friends wear, or copy their make up, or follow the crowd. Study magazines for people with the same body shape or colouring as you and see what suits them. Try things on, with people you trust, and learn what works on you. When you have the money? Visit a stylist or personal shopper, and visit a make up counter to get their advice. You can become a different person, both visually and in the confidence stakes, just by being the best version of you.
- Have fun. There is nothing in life more satisfying than belly laughs. So surround yourself with people who make you laugh til you pee yourself a bit. Once you find your weirdos, don’t let them go.
- Find your tribe. This is so true, both in personal and work lives. Finding people who can mentor, support and believe in you, and who share experiences, is one of the most empowering things in this world.
- Allow the universe to do some of the work for you. I have learned over the years that if you believe the worst will happen, it usually will. And if you think good things and really believe that fantastic things can happen, and do whatever you can to facilitate that – those fantastic things often land in your lap. It’s like magic.
- Learn what love is, and what love isn’t. It took me 36 years to get there. You may be luckier than me – or you may not. Don’t ever let someone tell you who you can be, and please don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing you are not worth the moon and the stars*.
*BUT DON’T BECOME A FUCKING PRINCESS. Respect goes both ways!
So there you go. 36 lessons it took me a cool 36 years to learn. In summary, I guess, the overall lesson would be that if you are good, and kind, and work hard…life will be good to you right back.
You may all be much younger and much wiser than me, you may know much more – but I’ve enjoyed learning these lessons and have been happy to share. If they resonate with you? Cool. If you disagree? That’s cool too. See lesson 13, I guess 😉
Do you have any life lessons you swear by? Do any of these resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts & any advice you can offer…we all have so much to share! Comment in the box below, tweet me, or talk to us on Facebook.