Half lying on my unmade bed, listening to the guardians of the galaxy soundtrack and surrounded by the maelstrom of rubbish, books, and dirty clothes that is my Uni bedroom I’m trying to think of what to write.
I’m 20 years old.
I have been walking, talking and breathing on this earth for roughly a quarter of my expected lifespan but it really doesn’t feel it. Now I know there isn’t some magical button that gets pressed on your birthday and you automatically grow taller, become mature and know everything there is to know about being an adult but with all the hype surrounding birthdays, you’d think there’d be some sort of difference?
1. The age old cliché of age being just a number is ridiculously true.
I know people who are old beyond their years and people who are the human embodiment of the phrase ‘young at heart’. I know people who are both mature and childish at the same time. But who made seriousness the benchmark of acting like an adult whilst running around and screaming is solely something children do? Why can’t a group of 40 year olds play tag or stuck in the mud? Why are children seen as too young to know about the world? And who decides when we graduate from too young for something to too old?
2. Do your best not to bow down to peer pressure
When I hear the words ‘peer pressure’ I do not immediately think of alcohol or drugs or smoking, they’ve never been appealing to me. Oh no, I think of the year 11 woodlands trip my school took us on as a break from our GCSE’s. That and a tonne of regret.
Woodlands is where I got my first boyfriend. He was a good friend and funny but… I really wasn’t romantically interested in him. When he asked me out I definitely should have said no and I really wish I had, but at the time I felt really bad for him. He had been persuaded to ask me out by his friends and mine and all of them were crowding around us. Just watching. I didn’t want to embarrass him in front of everyone we knew but I also didn’t particularly want to say yes either.
If I could go back in time to change something it would be to tell my younger self to, nicely, turn him down despite the amount of other people present. And the same lesson applies to anyone who is in a situation where they’d rather not do something that everyone else wants them to.
3. In the wise words of Zombieland (a must watch movie btw) “Enjoy the little things”
There are an infinite number of little joys in life that tend to get overlooked because we’re busy or stressed. That should change. Take stupid pictures of you and your friends, have solo dance parties in your room because you love that song, walk slightly slower on your way uptown because the weather is perfect. Enjoy your life.
4. Say “I love you!” to yourself
My sister used to do this all the time, our mum caught her once staring into the mirror, blowing herself kisses and saying things like “you’re so beautiful” and “I love you”. At the time it was extremely funny but there was, even if she didn’t realise it, a sort of wisdom to her actions. I have written a whole blog post about this one so you should totally read (how to love yourself).
5. Be open to learning new things
None of us are omnipotent beings and so its safe to assume we don’t know everything, besides learning things is fun and entertaining if done in the right way. Learning is also your responsibility. If someone near you gets diagnosed with an illness or suffers from poor mental health or comes out as asexual, genderfluid, non-binary or transgender and you don’t understand, then learn about it. Ask that person questions, talk to professionals and experts, read books on the subject, watch documentaries and become the expert in that area yourself.
6. Whatever you do, for your own mental wellbeing, stay away from online political arguments.
I make this mistake time and time again and every time my faith in humanity dies just a little bit. Just, if you can help it then avoid them like the plague.
7. Forgive, Forget, and move on
Obviously, I’m very aware this one is a lot easier said than done and might take a while but honestly, you’ll be happier. You don’t have to like the person, or talk to them, or be friends with them and you’re not forgiving them for their benefit but your own. Holding onto baggage and negative emotions is damaging. Personally, I write a letter to the person in question and write everything down, what happened, how it made me feel, how it affected me and my life then I rip it up and do my best to just stop thinking about it.
8. OWN THE WEIRDNESS!!!
The weirdness is what makes you unique. The weirdness makes you infinitely more interesting than those who try to fit into the cookie-cutter mould. Own the weirdness!
9. I know that, as a whole, we human beings kind of suck but try to love your fellow person
We fight. We insult. We hurt. We pollute. We kill. We discriminate. In the face of all the wrong things we do, it’s all the more important to look after and care for each other. Doing something to improve the lives of homeless people, donating and volunteering with food shelters, paying for someone else’s drinks or simply holding the door open for people or letting them on the bus/train/etc first. If everyone did at least one small thing everyday to make someone they don’t know smile the world would be a happier place.
10. Smile more
This one is an obvious one. Smiling has so many health benefits AND it makes those around you happier. It’s a win win.
11. Read, read and read again
I’m a big fan of reading. Smaller books, huge thick books, colourful books full of pictures or those full of words that cause a picture in your mind’s eye, novels, biographies, factual and information books and political books. The ability to learn new things or be completely transported into a new world is an experience everyone should get to have.
12. School sucks, exams suck but learning is eternally beautiful
You already know my opinion on learning but what I haven’t mentioned yet is how much I dislike the current school system. In the future no one is really going to care about your GCSE results, very few people are going to pay much attention to your A Levels and even degrees aren’t always given much weight with some employers. Exams cause unnecessary stress and are not a good way of gauging someone’s learning. In short, school sucks.
13. If you want to do something….DO IT!
You’ll forever regret it if you don’t.
(Disclaimer: I am of course only referring to legal activities, DO NOT murder anyone or anything along those lines)
14. You don’t have to be good at something to enjoy it and do it regularly.
I’m not that good at ice skating or drawing. I am neither terrible nor exceptional at taking photos or singing. Who cares? I enjoy doing all these things so why should I stop?
15. Avoiding all things politics is privilege at it’s worst
I know people who don’t like to talk about or read the news if it involves anything political. These same people vote for whoever their parents vote for and refuse to listen to other alternatives because they don’t like talking politics as it leads to arguments. Of course this is their choice, as part of living somewhere with a lot of freedom and democracy they are allowed to live this way. The problem is POLITICS AFFECTS EVERYTHING. The NHS, buying tampons and sanitary towels, going to university, what goes into the national curriculum, homelessness and housing as well as countless other things. If you avoid politics like the plague, then you better be prepared to deal with the fallout of not doing your part to change it, not to mention the fact that your rejecting a right that people die for…
16. Feminism is not: man hating /failing /cancer /misandry /unneeded
I could probably write an essay on this, but I won’t. Actual true feminism is, in essence, equality for EVERYONE. Yes, we have people who are extremist but whilst they are the loudest they aren’t the majority. It’s the same for Islam or Christianity or any religion, movement or political party. For people who genuinely don’t understand or want to know more I recommend reading around the subject, anything by Laura Bates is always good.
17. You have time to make mistakes
Everyone is worried about getting everything right the first time they try it. You wouldn’t expect to be a black belt in kickboxing when you go to your first lesson, or instantly know how to play piano the minute your fingers touch the keys so why expect that of other areas in your life?
18. Healthy relationships need a healthy amount of space
This is something I learned once I moved out to live in university accommodation. My relationship with my parents hasn’t always been amazing, we were always arguing and butting heads over differing opinions. This is especially true with my mum. At the same time we were all living in a four bed house between seven of us all between the ages of 42 and 10. There was a lot of stress and no where to escape to. Now, we get along better than we ever have because we’re not constantly under each other’s feet. This can be applied to any sort of relationship because no relationship is going to go well if you’re constantly in each other’s faces.
19. …But unhealthy relationships need to be left entirely.
I don’t think I need to add anymore to this.
20. No person is better than another, no country is better than another. We’re all human and differences should be celebrated not condemned.
I’m just going to leave this here….