Hopin’ my 20 somethings won’t end,
Hopin’ to keep the rest of my friends,
Prayin’ the 20 somethings don’t kill me, don’t kill me
Moving swiftly on: I’m about to turn 21! I’m super scared to be old but at the same time, a lot of my idols are older than me, and a lot of them have written or spoken regularly about not fearing the ticking of the clock and the turning of the years. So on the whole I do have my rational head on, 21 is young enough, not that I have a choice in the matter of course.
I recently went back and reread Chloe’s blog post “12 Things Every Girl Should Know” over on Marble Beauty and it got me wanting to create something similar to go into my 21st year of life with. I think it’s to reflect upon both your wins and your losses at any given opportunity, so here are my 21 things I’ve done, learnt, or tried and failed at before turning 21:
1) Fell in Love (LAAAAAAME)
One of the biggest events of my time at university has been falling in love for the first time. It’s played such a huge part in my life over the past two years and it’s helped me to grow, develop and learn things about myself and other people. Admittedly, it has not been an entirely positive experience (see next bullet), there have been constant ups and downs and inbetweens but looking back I’m not sure I’d change a thing. Sam has played an integral part in my growing up and I have done the same for him. Falling in love will help you mould into the strongest version of you whether that comes from positive or negative experience. It was something I resisted for a long time, afraid to get hurt or to hurt somebody else, but I’ll never regret letting myself fall in love with Sam and I’m beyond grateful he fell in love with me too.
2) Had my heart broken
BOYS SUCK. Nah, I’m kidding, we all suck. As I just said, I avoided falling in love for so long through fears of getting hurt or hurting another, and not long after I finally gave in, I got my heart broken big time. That was about a year and a half ago now, and speaking truthfully, I’m over it. Yes, it knocked my confidence, and yes I sometimes still get a little pang in my chest if I think about what happened too much but mostly it made me realise that there is little you can’t come back from. Your mind and body are a lot stronger than you give them credit for and only when your bounds are tested for the first time will you realise how resilient you can be. Heart break is an important experience for toughening you up and igniting your ability to forgive and forget, regardless of whether you do it for your own benefit, theirs, or a little bit of both. Don’t shy away from love through fear of heart break, to some extent the two go hand in hand and you can find strength in both too.
3) Travelled alone
Ok so I haven’t really “travelled” alone but I recently did go om holiday for the first time on my own. I went for a short city break to Toulouse in France as a little practice for this summer, when I will be going to New York on my lonesome, and then joining a Contiki tour around America and Canada. I was so pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of the independence during my time in Toulouse and I barely felt lonely throughout the stay. It was really refreshing having time to do exactly as I pleased in a brand new place where people spoke a foreign language and got trams instead of buses. I loved my time in Toulouse and it’s made me so much more confident for America, which I was always excited for but also very nervous. Managing your time, money, eating and exercise habits without even a second thought towards what somebody else’s opinion was the most freeing feeling, and one that I recommend to as many people as possible. On another level, the sense of achievement I gained from planning and living the trip independently was huge. Even the little things like getting through security alone and finding the place you’re staying on your own feel like massive achievements.
4) Became well acquainted with Factor 30 as a minimum
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, I really really really wanna keep my skin safe! Do me a favour and picture this: It’s Friday, the weather’s been nice all week and you’ve been buzzing to clock out of work for the weekend to spend the whole time drinking and eating in the sun with your nearest and dearest. You’re determined to go back into work on Monday with a golden glow about you and you wear as little as possible to soak up the rays all over your body. Your desire to be a bronze goddess in the short term overtook your desire to look and feel young and safe in your own skin in the long term and you ended the weekend burnt, dreading walking into the office tomorrow looking like the tomato you are. This is such a typical anecdote, and it’s happened to the best of us when growing up, but there is a point where you have to learn to put your health before your physical appearance, before you do some real damage. Luckily for me the whole “beauty is pain” thing has never meant much to me, and my low pain threshold won’t let me put up with that bullshit for too long. I felt the wrath of sunburn and sun stroke early in life and I made the decision to nip it in the bud. Wear factor 30 minimum kiddos, you’ll thank me later when your skin doesn’t look and feel like leather.
5) Faced confrontations with close friends
Confrontation with friends is my worst nightmare, I know that the majority of times sustaining the friendship means more to me than winning the petty argument does and so I’ll avoid it at all costs. I also have had fears in the past that if I pursue the argument, the opposing companion will decide their friendship with me has expired and I will die friendless and alone. However, in recent times I have grown to recognise a worthy bicker when I see one. As a human being I have opinions and values and I have recently figured that avoiding standing by them could be a) encouraging me to keep friends that I’m not well suited to or have a toxic relationship with and b) chipping away at my being. If I don’t stand by my values and opinions, soon I will no longer be able to claim them as my own and I won’t know where I stand, what I care about, and what type of people I should be surrounding myself with. I’m not saying I think picking arguments with your friends is healthy, rather that if somebody you care about says or does something that doesn’t sit right with you, and you think about it more than you perhaps should, talk to them about it. Open up a discussion about the roots of their actions and try to put yourself in their shoes. Also encourage they put themselves in yours. Try to keep the tone of conversation as mellow as possible and don’t get personal where possible. But I’m sure by the end of your spat, both parties will have taken a good look at one another and themselves and will feel a lot better about the situation at hand.
6) Looked after a plant/killed a plant
Lol, sorry Steven… To be fair to me, I didn’t *completely* kill my beloved potted plant, I more dehydrated him to within an inch of his life, and then realised the error of my ways and nursed him back to health. The point is, I’ve practiced nurturing, I have known responsibility for another’s life and for said responsibility to become all too much (how hard can it be, the poor plant needs about 2 waters a week for Christ’s sake!). I think it’s safe to say I’ll hold off of kids for the time being…
7) Tried (and failed) to know and admit when you need to swallow your pride and apologise
Hi, it’s me, the gal who literally just explained to you how to deal with confrontation. Just here to admit that I can rarely admit I’m wrong in the heat of the moment. This is something that is magnified with the people I’m closest to; my family and Sam. I try so hard to keep a rational head in an argument, and most of the time I very nearly succeed, then something will make me snap, and I will use it against the other person as an excuse to deny any wrong doing on my part. It’s a big flaw of mine, and something I’m always working on. I just hate being in the wrong!
8) Learnt how to drive
I very clearly recall the week preceding my 17th birthday, reiterating over and over again to my parents how little I desired to go on a driving lesson on my actual birthday. Thank god they made me do it anyway! 4 years ago now to the date, my mum pretty much forced me into a stranger car with a strange Frenchman with a pizza tray he would proceed to use as a steering wheel-come-clipboard. Now one of my favourite parts of the day is getting in my little Corsa, Gwen, and getting myself where I need or want to be independently, and being able to extend favours to friends and family through the means of a lift when they need one. I feel my most calm and collected when I’m behind the wheel, and that’s something to say for the girl who failed her first test for hesitation beyond forgiveness.
9) Earned the rights to the title of “Most Bruised Person” at any one time
Honestly, ask anybody I’ve known over the past 5 years who they think of when they’re asked who bruises easiest; I’m going to be their girl. I’m pretty much a walking, talking peach and I’m also the clumsiest person you’ll ever know. What a title to live with.
10) Developed a taste for gin
I remember the first time I ever tried a gin and tonic and I thought that it tasted like perfume. But with age comes wisdom and more sophisticated taste buds. A good Hendricks and tonic with a slice of cucumber is a second favourite of mine, coming in close behind the humble and huge glass of red.
11) Drank too much and embarrassed myself
Wow, not sure I need to say more here, other than falling asleep stood up in a club will get you kicked out way more often than running around with your friend knocking drinks off tables…
12) Found the types of exercise I enjoy
As a kid I really wasn’t the sporty type, I hated team sports through fear of letting the side down and being shouted at until reduced to tears, I walked every single cross country, and to be honest even walking to school was a deadly chore. It was only in sixth form that I discovered my love for exercise. Now I have a nice little bank of exercises I can turn to for every mood or goal. I love HIIT cardio because I like the adrenaline of sprinting, and swimming because of the nostalgia. Weights are my trusty friend at all times, and group classes like spin, circuits and Les Mills Body Pump always leave me feeling super bright. I also now LOVE to run outside whenever the weather tempts me and I need a little fresh air and time to myself.
13) Searched for solace and advice in my closest friends and allowed them to do the same
I currently live with 6 of my friends, all of which I’ve met at university and have bonded with both individually and as a group. We have all spent 3 years so far away from our families, fending for ourselves as much as possible in Southampton and while I’d love to say it’s been easy as pie with no bumps in the road, I’d be lying. We’ve each experienced highs and lows throughout our time living together, and we’ve had to learn to reach out and lean on one another. This is something I struggled with at the start, relying mainly on my mum and school friends for emotional support. I also know a couple of others who did exactly the same to start with. But over time barriers have been broken down and we’ve looked to one as we would family members or childhood friends. The strength we have been able to find in one another is something I never expected to experience with people I’ve known for such a short while. I have a similar relationship with my school friends (or what is left of them). We are closer than close, even though we are all at different stages in our life and may not speak every day, we have little shame with one another, and will never fail to be there for any of the group that needs that extra ounce of support. I love my friends and the counsel and solace I have found in them so intensely. They mean the world.
14) Stopped weighing, started measuring
Best decision ever. My weight fluctuations are ridiculous, so I find measuring myself a much better way to track my progress in the gym. Plus, measuring yourself allows you to visualise specifically where the fat is dropping and the tone is coming in. Tape measure for life.
15) Built up some (small) savings
I’m very lucky to say that I’ve been in some form of job since the age of 13 and I’ve had parents that taught me the art form of saving your pennies and budgeting. It is thanks to this that I now have a healthy amount of savings behind me for when I leave University and embark on the big scary world beyond full time education.
16) Respected and adored my parents
I don’t know about you, but growing up sparked bits of distance and resentment towards family members, my parents especially. This isn’t dramatic, I’ve always remained close with both of my parents, but there was a certain point where I wanted to break free a little more than I was able to, and for that I blamed them. During this time we would argue a lot more and I’d groan at the thought of spending a day with the family. This also came from a lack of understanding of why they were the way they were. We each pick up our flaws through experiences that leave marks on us for all to see. But without context, these marks can be perplexing and frustrating at minimum. With time, experience and honesty between both parties, I’ve gotten to know my parents a little more over the past years, and have grown to understand their afflictions, appreciate them too, some I’ve even inherited. This has brought me closer than ever to my parents and now I respect them beyond belief and they’re two of my favourite people on the planet to spend time with.
17) Grown closer to my brother
When we were little my brother and I were close, but with age we grew apart a little. He grew up a lot quicker than me and in a massively different crowd at school to me. But I finally feel like he’s mellowed out a little and I’ve grown up a lot and we have more in common now than ever. A couple of my fondest memories are times spent with my brother, admittedly they’re mostly patchy, drunken memories, but I’ll also always treasure re-writing the words to “Tragedy” by Steps when we were little and going to our first concert (Busted, obvs) together.
18) Bought myself flowers
I bloody love flowers. And sometimes, nobody else is gonna do you the honour. So don’t you ever go without something because it’s supposed to be given as a gift, especially by a romantic partner. You’ve got to look after yourself before you expect anybody to try and look after you (other than your mum, she’ll always always be there) so don’t feel self-pity in actions like buying yourself flowers or taking yourself out for a cocktail, find pride and joy in it; you know your own worth and you’re treating yourself accordingly. You go girl.
19) Gained work experience
As I mentioned before, I’ve been in some form of employment since the age of 13, and every single job role I’ve filled has challenged me and helped me to grow in a different way to the one before it. I’m a very hands-on learner, and the work experience I have gained throughout the years has been indispensable.
20) Nurtured my love of reading
Books are my favourite. I read as far and wide as I can manage and I doubt I’ll ever be bored. What is there to get bored of? You’re literally experiencing as many real or fictional people’s viewpoints as possible. Through reading, you can hop around into different forms of existence from the comfort of your own bed with a cuppa, how comforting.
21) Stopped apologising for nothing
I know not far back I said I struggle to admit when I’m wrong, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. When I was at school I developed a dreadful habit of apologising for doing literally nothing: laugh too hard? Apologise. Accidentally touch somebody? Apologise. Have a red face? Apologise. Talking to a friend who has been hurt by somebody else? Apologise. I dunno, it was weird and it’s something that, to an extent, has followed me through life and has been really difficult to shake off. I still do it occasionally when I feel a little uncomfortable or regret having done or said something, but I’ve stopped doing it so regularly, I think because I’ve realised I shouldn’t have to apologise for being myself. I am not a burden on the people who choose to spend time with me, they love me as much as I love them. Stop feeling inadequate, they like you.
Wish me luck in my 20-somethings!