Another birthday has come and gone and I always get reflective and melancholy around this time – I’m pretty sure it’s been this way since I was about seven so it doesn’t make a whole heap of sense or hold a lot of gravitas. I’ve learned a lot of life lessons in my years, and thought I’d share in the hope to learn some more lessons from people who are much smarter than me.
1 – You will meet people who get you.
In high school all the adults told you that come uni, you’d meet people more like you than anyone in your small town. These new people would have wide open minds and big dreams and together you’d have the world at your feet.
That won’t happen.
At least not in the first few years.
But slowly, slowly, gradually you’ll get there. You’ll go from ragers at 17 with 100 people invited to one day sitting down thinking about who to invite over for birthday drinks and realise that the friends you can now count on your fingers are the very people you can spend days on end with, or not talk to for months and pick up where you left off as if no time had passed, or talk to about the entire universe and its meaning, or drink with until four in the morning gossiping about cringeworthy blog posts and making flatbread.
You’ll find your ride or die. When you do, hold on tight.
2 – You’re going to get smarter, and braver, and become the person you want to be.
When you were a teenager, you’d often write in your -diary- journal about knowing the kind of woman you wanted to be, but not knowing how to get there. That’s not gone (yet), but when you think about the years since graduating, you’ll see how far you’ve come with what you’ve learnt, your opinions, the snap-judgement – or lack thereof – when you meet people you wouldn’t have usually associated with. You’ll find yourself doing things your teenage self would never have even thought possible for you.
And that will feel incredible.
3 – You must travel.
Sometimes upon returning home you’ll think about the $30K you saved for your six month solo trip and wonder if it would have been better spent on a house deposit than a fleeting experience. But you can’t do that. It’s something that you had to do, and something you will continue to have to do.
Those itchy feet and birdlike feelings will return and you’ll still have a yoga mat and a sleeping bag in your car for just in case.
Travel is the biggest teacher, which has its pros and cons.
Sometimes you’ll learn things about yourself that you don’t really want to, but you’ll also always have that time on that bus on the south east coast of England that brought the most incredible clarity and realisations about life, the universe and everything which remains your mantra on bad days. Or the time that Spain was kicking your arse and everything was going wrong the way that everything goes wrong all at the same time and then you saw that painting you’d studied in school and the security guards had to kick you out of the art gallery because you stayed there all day without realising.
Travel. Just go.
4 – You’ll get your heart broken.
It will tear you apart, and with the torn-up scraps of flesh you’ll build yourself again. This time with all the cracks filled with gold.
5 – It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you deal with it.
Some of the best people you’ll ever know are the ones who have had been dealt the shittiest hands – but you’d never even know about it.
6 – Retain your naivety for as long as you can.
People will give you things if you just ask. Find that person’s email address. Send them that email. Start that business with no thought of funding or business plans or what ROI or USP means.
If you knew all those things, or stopped to think about what could actually go wrong, you’ll never do it.
Stay hungry, stay foolish.
7 – Actions speak louder than words.
The more you hang out with ‘business’ people, the more you’ll hear all these wonderful ideas for projects that never, ever come to fruition. Talk is incredibly cheap. And boring.
8 – A lot of boys will say a lot of things they don’t even mean a little bit.
9 – Girls will, too.
10 – Give away the things that you need.
You know those days where you really need an extra dose of love or encouragement or inspiration? Give that to other people. You’ll receive what you give freely, whether that’s positive or negative.
11 – The places where you struggle are the places you have the most to give.
You are the expert in the field of where you struggle. Anxiety? Divorce? Time or money management? Even the act of other people simply knowing that you struggle in a similar way to them will be more reassuring and helpful than you could imagine.
12 – If you can help teach someone something, do it.
People who worry that teaching someone else will put them out of a job are not as good as they think they are at that thing.
13 – You create your own luck.
There is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time, but a much bigger thing is having the know-how when you’re in that once-in-a-lifetime situation.
The biggest thing of all is creating those once-in-a-lifetime moments for yourself. See “naivety” and “just asking” and “being brave”.
14 – Things don’t always happen for a reason.
Especially not in the short term. Don’t waste time looking for the deeper meaning. Shit happens, find a way to clean it up.
15 – Women’s intuition is never wrong.
About places, people, situations… anything.
16 – It’s okay to be different.
You spent way too long worrying about being different from your outgoing, confident and happy-go-lucky mother and brother. Family trips with other families always saw a lot of time alone in your room, utterly drained and much happier with a book or writing in your journal.
It will take you far too long to realise that you aren’t any lesser, you’re just different.
When you finally figure that out, a whole damn lot of your past will make more sense.
17 – You need to eat twice as many vegetables as you currently are.
DARK GREEN LEAFIES ESPECIALLY!
18 – Do what you love.
Maybe not for your job – not everyone can be that lucky, and even a passion can turn into work when it’s your livelihood at stake. But you need to do what you love, every day. Sing, paint, walk through nature, listen to music… joy nourishes your soul.
19 – You can’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter 20.
And you definitely can’t compare your behind the scenes to someone’s social media highlight reel.
20 – Forgiveness is a gift you have to give yourself.
Cue Carrie repeating, “You have to forgive me Aiden!”, only this time it’s you, at yourself.
You’ll harbour guilt about the shitty things you did when you were younger, or how terrible a friend you’ve been recently, or how much work you should be doing. The only way to move forward and get better is to forgive.
21 – You’ve survived 100% of your worst days. You can get through one more.
You remember the worst day of your life? When you didn’t think you could possibly continue? Guess what, you did. You can continue through this one, too.
22 – You’ll never have enough time do read all the books you want to read.
Life is too short to keep reading books you don’t enjoy. Same goes for bad wine, uncomfortable massages, sleazy guys with cheesy pickup lines and terrible sci-fi movies.