Monday, 22 May 2017

30 things on my 30th birthday

I don’t know how, but this week I turned 30. I KNOW. I’m not okay with it either. Luckily, I was super spoilt and it was genuinely one of the best weeks of my life (update on that soon) so I’m kind of okay with it, but I STILL don’t know where my twenties have gone.  

Somehow, both slowly and quickly, the years since I was a teenager have flicked past and now I’m getting to the point where people are going to start giving me those ‘over the hill’ joke birthday cards,  and there’s nothing much I can do about it. And although I don’t particularly dread getting older (it is, as Maurice Chevalier once said, better than the alternative) it does make me think about the last time I changed decades (in my second year of university – I made my friends wear pink for the day and I wore a tiara – yes, really) and what I’ve learnt since then. So here are a few select nuggets of advice that I would tell my former self. 30 things I’ve learnt in 30 years.

1. You can get sunburnt. Literally everybody can. Saying ‘I have olive skin, I just tan’ smugly is going to come back to bite you when you fall asleep wearing SPF 6 in Gran Canaria after a long night out and burn down one side of your body like a piece of streaky bacon, and spend the rest of the holiday wearing a jumper and fourteen layers of foundation and leaping up in pain whenever anyone touches your shoulder. The graduation songs are true, kids. Wear. Sunscreen.

2. You are going to do things in your life that will make you want to tear your hair out in embarrassment every time you think of them – things you think of at 3am that will make you want to get up and hang yourself with the bedsheets because you can’t believe what an absolute moron you are and you’re not sure you can live with yourself for a moment longer. You will make jokes that fall flat, you will wave at people you don’t know by mistake, you will trip up in front of builders, you will exaggerate stories loudly to people after four glasses of wine and refer to the cottage you stayed in in France as a ‘mini chateau’. This will not stop. So rather than constantly beating yourself up because you aren’t perfect, you might as well just take a deep breath and go back to sleep resolving not to do anything embarrassing ever again, even though you definitely will. 

3. Remember to order a big garlic dip with your hungover Dominos pizza order. Saves you fighting with your significant other over the tiny one they supply with your wedges.

4. Free drinks with work are a wonderful thing, but they are never, EVER worth the entire day you will spend wondering what you said to your manager during a 45 minute conversation that you can’t remember at all.

5. Time will never pass as slowly again as it does during Double Maths on a Wednesday afternoon. Even on your worst days, you’ll find yourself looking at school children passing you on the street and thinking ‘god, at least I don’t have double Maths with Mrs Emery today.’

6. Write things down. Keep a diary. One day you’ll look back at your silly childish thoughts and smile and wish you’d written more rubbish.

7. You do have opinions. You do care about politics, the environment, music, film, literature. Pretending to be stupid is doing yourself a disservice. Pretending to like everything in order to make people happy actually makes you confusing, as if you have no opinions at all. Have opinions, state them.

8.  But equally, you don’t have to make your opinion your personality, or come down staunchly on one side and refuse to ever be swayed, like ‘Well, I said I was a Liberal Democrat who loved horse racing and would never drink milk when I was 17, so now that is who I am.’ Changing your mind doesn’t make you weak, it makes you rational. 

9. All your relationships will shape you in some way, on some level. You will never leave them the same, and you will learn from them and so on. But what one boy said to you when you were 17 years old does not and will not affect you for the rest of your life, and you don’t have to worry. You’re not damaged, you’re not unfixable. You won’t ‘never trust again.’ Like scars, it fades.

10. Don't scrape mould off bread and eat it. It tastes disgusting and bread costs about 79p. Walk to the shop, you lazy sod.

11. People will surprise you all the time. They will let you down, or come through when you least expect it. The only real question that needs answering is – do you believe that, deep down, they’re on your side? If the answer is yes, don’t ever judge them too harshly. They might screw up, they might drink five vodkas and be sick on your mum’s carpet or flirt a bit with a boy you said you liked or cancel on your pizza date at the last minute. But unless you are perfect, you will do all these things too at some point in your life, so let it go.

12. Facebook friends, Instagram/Twitter followers, blog readers – these are all just numbers behind a screen, without depth or meaning. Focus on these numbers and you face a slide into the abyss. Hitler had millions of followers, Jesus had 12.

13. If your hair is brown, then ultimately, it’s going to be brown. You can fight all you like, but you are never, ever going to have Claudia Schiffer’s hair. I’m very sorry about that.

14.  Washing your bedsheets might seem like a bit of a pain, but there is nothing – NOTHING – more satisfying in life than getting into a freshly-made bed with clean hair and clean pyjamas. Also, you can buy new ones from ASDA for like £18, so don’t keep using the same ones with the nail polish stain on that your Mum bought you when you first went to uni in 2005.  

15. Sometimes, when you think you’re dying of a rare and undiagnosed form of cancer that just causes weird stuffy headaches, boredom and fatigue, you probably just need some fresh air. Take your mum’s advice, have a pint of water and go for a walk. 

16. There are so many choices in life that sometimes you might feel a bit like Sylvia Plath sitting under the fig tree. The thing to realise is that you don’t have to definitively come down on one side or another and you can change your mind all the time. So if you want to dress a bit rock n’ roll and get pissed in the day, that’s fine, it doesn’t mean that you’re now committed to being Keith Richards and that you’ve got to turn up to your sister’s wedding drunk and wearing a leather jacket and be sick on a bridesmaid. Just…do whatever feels right at the time.

17. Putting a bit of bleach down the loo makes you feel domesticated and also makes the bathroom smell nice.

18. Call your parents when you’re happy and share your good news, or just when you’re on the bus and you want a chat. They love you. Don’t only call them when a light on your dishwasher is blinking and you don’t know why.

19. If something looks bad on the model on ASOS, it's going to look bad on you, no matter how much it's been discounted in the sale.

20. People don't actually notice your shoes first so long as they're clean and you don't wear trainers to a job interview.

21. On most nights of the week, you’re doing the right thing by making yourself go to the gym and then cleaning the kitchen  and then eating a salad. But some nights, you’re doing the right thing by getting in the bath and then drinking two glasses of wine in your pyjamas. Give yourself a break.

22.   The first time you go to Glastonbury, don’t go too hard on the Wednesday – it’s a long old slog. This is pointless advice because you will get overexcited and go mental, so just make sure you take at least three days off afterwards to recover. Also, ignore those ‘what to pack’ lists but do take a really sturdy anorak, a bottle of vodka, plastic cups, and more pairs of pants than you think you need.  

23. If you ever think you’re really broody and want a baby, watch the episode of ‘Sixteen and Pregnant’ where Leah has twins.  

24. Getting engaged is about you and your partner and you will feel like the two of you are in a bubble of happiness and love, and it is beautiful, and you can spend that time selfishly however you like.

25. Getting married is about everyone in your life and you will feel like you and all your family and friends are in a bubble of happiness and love and you will never want it to end. And if that means doing it a bit differently to your Pinterest board ideals because your Mum thinks it’s bad luck to wear red nail polish on your wedding day or because your sister doesn’t want to wear a yellow dress then please know it is worth it to see them happy on that day and that you will never regret it. Everything on your wedding day is perfect anyway because it’s your wedding day, so don’t fuss too much about things like decorations for the table on the way in.

26. If you start trying on a dress in a shop and it seems much too small, DON’T try it on, because there’s nothing worse than the moment when you think you might never get it off again and what are you going to do? – Will you have to get it cut off? Will the sales assistant have to pull it off you, showing everyone in the Topshop changing room your My Little Pony underwear? Will you have to BUY it and pretend this is what you wanted, to get it scanned at the till LITERALLY ON YOUR BODY and then leave the shop in a dress that patently DOESN’T FIT? 

27. Don’t avoid being in photographs. When you first see them tagged on Facebook they might make you want to cry, but nobody else is thinking ‘WOW, look at her fat back,’ or whatever it is you can see, and in a few years time, you’ll realise they aren’t that bad after all and maybe you actually look quite nice, and it’s nice to look back on. Equally, be a good mate, and if you look amazing in a photo but your friend looks a bit like Boris Johnson in a wind machine, at least crop them out.  

28. Make the effort to be thoughtful. Text old work mates and organise drinks on Wednesday nights and actually go. Send personalised Moonpig cards when people get engaged or move house – they cost like £3 and you know yourself the bubble of pleasure you get when you receive one. Leave little notes for your partner with silly drawings on. Send good luck texts and Facebook birthday messages and sponsor people doing 5k races. Little things that mean a lot.

29. If all else fails, watch the Inbetweeners and eat pizza. Trust me on this one. 

30. Everything keeps getting better. Slowly, incrementally and without you really noticing it, your life improves in depth and richness, the things you thought mattered fall away and you’ll find out what makes you happy. And sometimes the happiest moments of your life, the moments when you realise how much it all means, aren’t the ones you expect – they aren’t nights out with champagne or amazing holidays to exotic locations, they’re sitting on your sofa watching Masterchef with your head on someone’s lap, or just sitting in your local pub with your best friends and your sister, laughing till your stomach hurts. So don’t think that because you’re not famous or rich or a model that you can’t be impossibly, inexorably happy. You can be. You will be. I promise.


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