I turned twenty last week. Stepped into the next stage, next decade of my existence.
I have memories of all worths for my life, past scenes of good and bad. My first ten years were pretty standard. I went to school, my parents broke up. I had playground squabbles, listened to shit pop music, loved the colour pink. I had hair cuts and watched funny videos online. Played games and had family troubles. It was mundane and simple and enjoyable. I was diagnosed with diabetes when I was seven which meant my childhood had a bit of a disruption; becoming chronically ill as a child changes everything.
Hitting adolescence is something I remember very well. That leap into mind-fuckery. It was almost like a light switch being flicked; EVERYTHING changed. All of a sudden I was conscious of how my thighs rubbed together when I walked, how my belly rolled when I sat down. How important it became that my skin was clear, and my teeth were white, and my hair was perfect. Out of nowhere, I just fucking hated myself. It was a slap to my uglyfatdisgusting little twelve year old face. It was consuming.
Due to my brain being a bit of a bully, I didn’t go out much. I became homeschool in my third year of secondary and it was a huge, positive change. I started practicing yoga, doing meditations and exploring alternative methods for self-care. I began healing myself, just a little bit.
I started going out more and getting dolled up which meant I got served wherever I ended up. I’d always drink too much, something which has been quite a habit throughout my teenage years. When I was sixteen I decided I wanted to go back into education and started a music college, as I have played the keyboard since I was six. I moved to north west London and my life exploded. I made loads of amazing friends and memories; it’s one of the most cherished times of my life. We were off our heads for basically all of it, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Even on the darkest days, life was just pure fun. I’ll never again live with such little responsibility. It taught me a lot about the world.
I’m now going to university for creative writing, have given drinking up this new year and don’t do drugs like it’s the nineties no more. I can speak on the phone without having a panic attack and don’t give a shit about what happens to my hair when it’s windy.
Through travelling, reading, loving and hating, sober and soused antics, dark and light feelings and good and bad times, I have learnt a lot in my little twenty years. I thought I’d share some of it here:
1 No one thinks you’re as shit as you think you are
This is something that took me a long time to realise. Just because you have an insecurity, doesn’t necessarily mean anyone else has even thought of that part of you, let alone in a bad way. People may not understand you all the time, they may not agree with you always, but very rarely does anyone think you are just total and utter shit. But you are capable of thinking you are much worst than even that, I know I spent so many years in the same mind state. Only when I truly listened to those around me, who loved me, did I see that it was only Me who hated Me. Start really hearing the things people say to you, the compliments and the adorations. They mean it, they wouldn’t say it if they didn’t, and it’s true.
2 Go outside. Stay in.
For years I felt guilty that somedays I just want to sit inside. I just want to be in my own space and bloody wallow in it. I thought, if I started feeling low, I had to go frolicking around in green fields, sniffing flowers and waving to squirrels. FUCK THAT. You can do that on days when you WANT to do that. Sometimes, you just need to hang around indoors and get back to your senses. That is the way I am.
Others I know need to be outside when they dip. And I encourage it all the same. Do what makes you feel at peace, and comfortable. Someone else’s comfort means nothing when you are uncomfortable.
After your mood starts to stabilise a little bit, however, go do the opposite. If you’ve been indoors for one day, spend the next outside. Vice versa. This can be really hard, and I’m still working on making that second day one outdoors, but it is so worth it.
3 Tell those you love, that you love them. Always
This is so important for me – the daily reaffirming of love. Before bed, and before hanging up the phone, are my two needed times of “I love you”. Anytime else is a bonus.
Life is too short to not tell your loved ones that they are loved ones, and it should be our most confident and vital admitting. I love you. Just say it.
4 Be grateful for everything that’s good in your life
Seriously think about everything that’s good in your life. Yes, fair enough, some people can’t afford even food at the moment. There is no need to feel guilty for what you have, that others don’t. But you should be grateful for all of it, nonetheless. And there are plenty of opportunities to help those less fortunate, so feelings of penitence over what you have are redundant, and only cause you pain.
Gratitude is one of the most self-fulfilling feelings to cultivate. As soon as you start nurturing gratitude, the more plentiful your life will become.
That being said, you do not need to feel grateful for the crap parts. Just because you are privileged, or have acquired some amazing bits and bobs, doesn’t mean there’s no shit. Yin and yang, baby. Identify the good things to be grateful for, and work out the kinks of the bad bits.
5 Don’t put up with anyone who treats you like shit
Enough said, really. For years, out of loneliness, I have dedicated my time to arseholes and put up with a lot more than I should’ve. It has lead me to write some brilliant poems, and learn some brilliant lessons, but it has also broken my heart, in cold and vicious ways. Now I can identify the red flags, and everyone’s red flags will be poked into different traits, and can run a million miles in the opposite direction. This doesn’t mean I harbour myself to myself, though.
You can easily fall into the trap of trusting no one if you are on constant lookout for these little crimson banners. Sometimes someone is having a bad day too, this doesn’t mean they are a psychopath-sociopath-narcissist-manipulating-nutjob who is going to ruin your life. It might just mean they’re grouchy from a long day at work.
And just because someone treats you like shit, it doesn’t mean you have to cut them from your life. It may be resolved by communication, or any other method that can point out, to the person, that their behaviour is hurting you and needs to change. Never stand for being treated like shit. Never.
6 Work hard on the things you love doing
I spent years working hard on something I love; writing poetry. I did it pressure free for over a decade, just writing poems because that’s what I loved doing and that was reason suffice to do it. Find something(s) that you love doing, and do it (them) with all your mite. The smallest reward they can achieve you is joy, and isn’t that the biggest prize in life?
Don’t slack off just because the task is enjoyable. Life should be just that, so focus energies on the good stuff. It’ll make the bad not seem as exhausting.
7 You don’t need everything figured out straight away (I’m definitely still working on this)
I have wanted to do a million and one different jobs from being a surgeon to a makeup artist to a vet to a singer to a yoga teacher. You name it, and I’ve probably fantasised about doing it. It left me feeling quite lost for a long time. I have played the keyboard since I was six, doing my grade exams and finishing with an associate diploma with the Victoria College of Music when I was 17. I started a college for music performance, which I graduated from when I was eighteen, and after years of thinking music was the definite avenue I was going to venture down, suddenly I didn’t really know which way to turn at the crossroads. I was daunted by the pursuit of music. I loved, and love, it so much but I wasn’t a hundred percent on it being my lifelong strive. I have written poetry since I was around seven or eight years old, and have always turned to it like a diary. It was all private writings throughout my early teen life and I only started sharing certain pieces in my first year of music college. I started thinking that perhaps I could transfer my skill of writing poetry to lyrics, and did so in a few cases. I loved it. I started to see that writing was more to me than just to spill my feelings out, it was a vital component of my creative life. And it isn’t life, for me, if it isn’t creative.
I took a gap year after finishing college, and have never felt more stranded in my life. I felt all this pressure to know what I was doing and I didn’t have a fucking clue. All my friends had gone off to uni and I just sat at home thinking of different ways to succeed, but never putting any of them into action. I had the idea to apply for a few universities to study creative writing and just see what happened. Then things started to change. I started to find a direction, a specific focus and goal I was heading towards after I accepted one of the offers.
And things still aren’t totally figured out for me. I can see the blurry shape in the distance where before I was blinded and even this small clarity has awarded me a sense of direction, which has lead to a feeling of peace. The pandemic has changed work life tenfold, so the future is always unclear and the present is ever moving. Who knows, next year I may say “Up yours writing, I want to be an accountant.” But I think this is something I can predict with full certainty, is never going to happen.
Que sera sera.
8 A fuck up is the best way to learn
I’ve scarcely learnt my biggest lessons by dancing through tasks with ease. It’s been the filthiest, most tiresome, gut wrenching shit that’s got me. The most embarrassing, shameful, disgusting crap that drew me in and spat me out more knowledgable than I was before. You’ve got to crawl through the gutters to skip along the strip.
9 There’s no shame in liking the things you like
Whether it’s the type of music you listen to, the kinds of food you enjoy eating, the style of clothes you like best, represent it all with unbudging pride. There is only one you in the world, and it shouldn’t have to compromise what it likes just because an outsider doesn’t understand it.
I’ve spent years ashamed of myself. Embarrassed to like this TV show or to listen to that song, or to want to do this today or that another. It is a tiresome process and you only end up on a downward spiral. Once I started becoming more of an exhibitionist with shouting my likes and dislikes from the rooftops when I was around seventeen, the more comfortable I grew in myself. The more I created spaces to grow and evolve, to change my mind or set my belief or idea or preference in stone. The more I allowed other people to understand me, the more I understood myself. And the more they enjoyed me, as I allowed them to confess their likes and dislikes alongside me.
Being ashamed of yourself can be so destructive as it can effect every aspect of your life. Start by revealing the little things; maybe what you had for dinner last night, even if it was raspberry jam on roast chicken breast served with a side of green beans and washed down with a glass of milk. Own that shit.
10 Get all the illegal shit out of the way before you turn 18
I spent a lot of my adolescence locked inside the house, watching other people have fun on TV or social media. I would drink a lot, and when I did go out, I drank so much I forgot even bloody going out. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen that I really started living a more adventurous life.
And it was really only a good few months into eighteen that it dawned on me that that adventurous lifestyle could now get me in a lot of shit. But, in the crazy few years preceding my legalised adulthood, I had eradicated most of my lust for rebellion in an age where the penalty wasn’t as harsh, and could calm down and look back on all the illegal shit I did before turning eighteen with a cringing anxiety and a wipe of the forehead for only being caught a few times, and never getting into any serious trouble.
Rinse it from your system, have fun, then doing it all still anyway just more quietly.
11 Art is vital
And don’t trust no one who says it ain’t. Read a book, look at a painting, listen to a song. Write a book, paint a picture, record a song. Just never live a life without art.
12 Eat the fucking cake
I spent basically all of my teen-hood strategising ways to lose weight. How to be skinny, how to stay skinny. It was pretty much all I thought about once I turned twelve. I was unwell, and I didn’t care. I had one goal, which was to be thin, and I felt like I would stop at nothing to achieve it.
Through therapies and work, I managed to recover the understanding of how food is vital for your body to survive. I felt guilty and embarrassed but slowly by slowly I learnt to love food again. (I am putting all of this in simple terms. If you are struggling with an eating disorder – please seek help. Life is so much more worthwhile when you recover, I promise.)
Now I will always eat the fucking cake. I look after myself, and try to maintain as healthy a lifestyle and diet as possible, but I always keep in mind that the world won’t end if I eat a slice of sugary sponge.
13 Put a bit of slap on and get dolled up
If I’m not going out somewhere, I will be wearing pyjamas and a pair of Crocs. Even if I am going out, sometimes it’ll still be in the previously described attire.
I can often end up wearing the same scuzzy style for a while. I don’t put on makeup for weeks or do my hair up fancy or wear shoes that aren’t slippers, and I start feeling crap about myself. Start feeling really insecure, because I forget how great I feel when I get dolled up. It can almost be an instant cure sometimes, to go all out when you go out, and you can reverse any insecurities that mounted up during your period of loungewear-extravaganza.
It really does work. If you haven’t done yourself up in a while, put on your nighttime makeup, get on some glad rags and go out. Even if it’s just to the Co-op. You WILL feel better.
14 Social media might be the reason why you’re getting nowhere
I have used social media since I was a child. I’ve had a Facebook account since I was about seven, I created my first Instagram when I was eleven, Snapchat when I was twelve and I’ve used most of the other sites throughout the years too. My whole world has been online; just like many others my age, we know social media like we know each other. It is just a fact of our lives.
I don’t want to know the accumulated hours I have spent mindlessly scrolling through crap on my timeline, but I can summarise it with one phrase; a fuck ton. And I didn’t care about that. I enjoyed seeing what other people were up to, who’s dog was a good girl at the vets, who’s really drunk on a Friday night, etc, etc.
It was only in 2019 when I hit a deeply low period in my life, when I realised how much time I was spending on my phone compared to doing anything that would lift me out of my months long funk. I decided to delete everything, there and then, and my life has blossomed ever since. The night I deleted the apps, I felt so lonely. It was really strange. I still have numbers in my phone to call and text, but there was this detachment to my world that I felt. Each night got easier, though and suddenly I just had so much time to do things.
It really can make a huge difference in your life, to remove social media from your routine and only partake in it as a leisure activity. I’m not saying delete it all and become a hermit, just to be conscious that it may be why you’re not actually getting anything you want done, done.
15 Be proud of yourself, even for the little things
You don’t have to win gold at the olympics to be proud of yourself. There is no threshold to pass in regard to feeling good about something you have achieved; every little victory counts. This is something which, for me, takes constant reminding.
One of my biggest achievements this year has been changing the bin bag. It would send me into a panic attack for years before; I couldn’t even touch it without feeling sick, my pulse increasing to speeds of canter and having to rush off to wash my hands. It was on a day where I was feeling confident and calm and strong, so I decided to at least try doing it. And I did it. And I washed my hands vigorously after I did it. But I still did it. And now I do it. I can do it. And I am so proud of myself for doing it.
To others who have never been scared to change a bin bag, this may sound ridiculous. But to me, it was terrifying, and I faced that fear and it has changed my life, even if it is in a small way. Every time you overcome something, down to the tiniest, most minuscule triumph, be proud of yourself.
16 Sometimes you don’t need any method to the madness
If someone ever observes you performing something you enjoy, and asks “What the hell are you doing?”, just know, you don’t need to answer that. You don’t need any method to the madness.
Sometimes if I have a poem manifesting, I can be in mid-conversation and my brain will be louder than the person chatting to me. I have this glaze in my eye, this twitch in my legs and this bend in my neck, where the poem is kicking to escape. I probably look crazy on the outside; on the inside every sense is working in overtime to produce this piece of writing. And every time the process is different, even if that contrasted approach is tiny. I have no method to the madness that is birthing inside of me. It can be truly wild and purely exciting. And the steps don’t need to be justified.
Other times, I will serenely slip the words out and create a poem in a mild and peaceful manner, with total method and little madness, but to me this is part of my process that also doesn’t need justification or explanation. If it works for you – go for it!
I’ve learnt to trust my intuition and follow my own lead. Sometimes I will take myself the wrong way and that’s okay. I am ultimately just trying to learn what works best and that means experimenting.
17 Good friends are good friends are good friends. Cherish them
Being lonely has been a recurrent theme in my little life. I have felt it so viciously that I’d of probably considered being mates with Satan before. And in fact, I have been friends with a few devils as symptom of this loneliness. Accepting bad company over none is something I’ll never do again. Good friends are round the corner and when they come, you’ll forget you ever started dialing Lucifer’s number to invite him to drinks in the first place.
Just as you expect others to make an effort with you, you have to make an effort with them. Friends don’t appear out of blue air and stick around just because they’ve been labelled a pal, there is an exchange that takes place within a platonic relationship. “You give a little love and it all comes back to you.” as they sing in Bugsy Malone.
If you are lonely, I really recommend getting out there. It can be so daunting to slam your way into society, looking for others to befriend you, but it is the only way to do it. And once you’ve met a couple similar individuals and form a camaraderie, you won’t care about how foolish you felt going into it.
Good friends should always be cherished and never forgotten or mugged off. Emphasis on the word good.
18 If you steal from others, that means they’re allowed to steal from you
This is true. Whether you’ve nicked their lighter or their girl/boy/friend or their life savings, you are now fair game to be their victim. Just the way it works.
The same goes for emotional theft. If you’ve pinched their smile, they’re well in their right to knock all your teeth out.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Equality is achieved, first and fore mostly, by our own actions. Goodness will be reciprocated, but never forget that badness can be too.
19 If you don’t like where you are, you are free to leave. And it’ll fucking hurt to do so
Why spend time somewhere you don’t like? Out of duty or awkwardness or whatever reasons, I have put myself in positions that made me feel uncomfortable and regretful. And I never even needed to be in them in the first place. Now I know, I am the decider of my own destiny, and I have the end say in what I do and don’t do. Just because someone else feels comfortable in that place, doesn’t mean you will and vice versa.
If you are in a home, a relationship, a job, a form of study, etc. and you are not happy, you are totally free to leave. Just keeping this in mind while I’m doing things, has brought a sense of peace and freedom to the task. It can often even give me the power to suddenly enjoy it.
But with this knowledge, it doesn’t mean that when you do walk away, it won’t hurt. One of my friends broke my heart, they hurt me and shat on me from a great height, and I knew I had to walk away as I didn’t like where I was in that relationship. It sounded easy in strategy and theory, but the process was gut wrenching and difficult and it left me shattered and it was only me who could pick up the pieces. Now, I am a better and happier person for walking away, but in that moment, it hurt like a bitch. You have to make decisions in this life that are not always easy but will benefit you in the future. Evaluate everything; strip back all the bullshit and only keep the things that add value to your life. Simplicity is clarity, and clarity is happiness.
20 Life ain’t always beautiful, and that’s what makes it interesting
I think the most important thing I’ve learn in the last two decades of my existence is that life isn’t always beautiful. It can be really harsh, really dark and really exhausting. It can be hateful and belittling and sometimes feel malevolent. But that’s what makes it interesting.
If it was wonderful and happy and lovely all the time, it would be boring. We would have limited imaginations meaning limited art and limited creativity; two elements of life that are so important, and endless. We need the yin and the yang, the contrasts, to understand each side.
For goodness there must be evil, for light there must be darkness, for sound there must be silence. I am happy with the balance and it means that lessons are to be ever learnt and poems are to be ever written and hate to be ever resolved.
Life isn’t always beautiful, no. But there is always something interesting going on, and that’s good enough for me.
WIAEA (What I Am Excited About):
Song: Everyone’s Free To Wear Sunscreen by Baz Luhrmann – An amazing piece of writing, with so many inspiring points and fantastic observations. I try to listen to this every time I feel a little spiritless and it reminds me how complex and unique and brilliant life is.
Book: On Writing by Stephen King – Even if you’re not a writer, reading this book can still have a huge effect, I feel. He is a man who has worked really hard, tells it like it is and is so dedicated to his creativity, you can’t help but be totally in awe of him and motivated to be dedicated to your dreams.