As often happens around birthday time, you reflect on getting another year older. This year I was thinking about how much I love being the age that I am. I often heard growing up that your 30’s are the best years of your life, and I have to say I agree. I have learnt a lot, experienced my share of things (maybe more than my share to be honest), but still have youth on my side to put this learning to a lot of use. I thought I would write 13 key points (one for each year) that if I could go back in time I would tell 20-year-old me…
- It goes on. You will experience times that are hard. Times that are really hard. And at the time it will feel as though your world is caving in, that things are useless. They are not. This will pass. Wake up each day and start again, and slowly but surely things do get better. What was once all consuming will eventually become a distant memory. So even during those tough times, remember to keep waking up, it gets better. It goes on.
- Keep moving. During those years of late nights, too many drinks and too much fast food exercise fell down the priority list. As you get older it gets harder to build muscle, and increase cardio fitness, so keep doing it throughout. You know you are a much happier, peaceful person when you are exercising so keep it as a priority. Because it really is keeping you as a priority.
- Do you. People will push and pull you throughout your twenties and early thirties, placing expectations on you, giving you advice and influencing your decisions in a range of ways. You will want to impress some, not want to hurt anyone and be worried at what others might say about your decisions, behaviour and actions. The thing is, people will leave your life, there will always be someone who disagrees, and you are not that important in another person’s world. No one lives with your choices, except you. This includes attending events out of obligation, even when they make you feel shitty. Don’t go. Who says you have to? This goes for everything that comes your way…Worry about yourself first. Do what makes you happy.
- The good and the bad. It is important you surround yourself with people that lift you, inspire you, make you think or challenge you, ultimately spend your time with people you want to be more like. Ensure you have friends who are there for you during the hard times, but also the good times. Some people struggle to be happy for you when things are going well, notice this. These people thrive on negativity and prefer to have you pushed down in order for them to feel good. Weed these people out. You have so many amazing people in your life, you just do not have time for people who aren’t positive, share your energy, contribute to your growth and just simply make you feel good. You know who needs to go.
- Don’t try and fix people. This is different to supporting, guiding and helping people. But you need to accept people for who they are, what they bring, the experiences they own, their insecurities and vulnerabilities. If you can’t accept them for who they are, this is on you to decide the position they hold in your life. This is also the same for not trying to fix all situations. Some things are just shitty and all people want and need is for you to be there and to understanding this. You will learn this through your own journey when people want to offer you positive words of “it will happen when the time is right” and telling you about the people they know who have had positive outcomes, this frustrates you beyond measure, because they can’t fix it, but they can be there. Apply this learning yourself.
- Feel. All your feelings are valid, they are not good or bad, they just are. Enjoy the happy times, excitement, sense of pride with achievements and light bulb moments. Simultaneously, you need to lean into the discomfort, reflect on the anger, understand the guilt, use the sadness and feelings of it not being fair…and learn from it all. Even when you are not feeling good, the fact is you are feeling. This is part of life.
- Say it. Often you will think you don’t want to offend anyone, or ‘rock the boat’ etc. by telling people how you feel. But do it. Tell people how you feel. If you love someone, tell them. If something is said or done that upsets you, explain why something hurt you. If you don’t communicate honestly, it is pretty unfair to get angry or upset with others for repeating the behaviour they have no idea is hurting you.
- Understand. You can’t always understand what people are going through, but you can always be understanding.
- Don’t compare. Do not waste your energy looking over your shoulder, this energy would be better invested into growing yourself. Our situations are all different so there is no point in comparing, and as you will learn, you never know what is really going on behind the external façade that people put up. Often those that present the picture of perfection are those who are struggling the most.
- We are different. Oh it is such an obvious three words, yet you will continue to be confused, shocked and mixed up by people’s words and behaviours because you project yourself onto them. How one person reacts to something is different to another, and unless someone explicitly tells you why they said or did something, all you have is an assumption. So don’t over think, don’t project, don’t make assumptions, and just ask. Appreciate the differences in people. Actually appreciate them, don’t make them be, or want them to be like you.
- Listen. The older you get the more you realise that listening is so much better than talking. You already know what it is you have to say, so listen to what others say, and learn from them. Give attention to others, their ideas, their stories and their truths. At the same time, listen to yourself, what is it you really want, what is your body telling you, what is your gut saying – give attention to all of this too.
- Dogs heal. The best thing you will do is get your dogs. At a time of heartache, they help ease the pain, make the rollercoaster a little more bearable and give you the sense of what it is you are missing.
- Live a pleasurable life. I was going to say “Have fun” or something similar, but then I realised that is not what I want you to do, it is too narrow. Getting pleasure out of life means to ignore the housework and lay in the sun with a book, cancel that early morning run because you are going to dance until the wee hours, soak in a hot bubble bath, laugh with your girlfriends, watch romantic movies and cry with your besties, drink too much wine, talk until the sun comes up, jump on a plane just to be with someone you love, and yes, very importantly make sure you physically get pleasure! Whatever it is for you at the time, make sure you are getting pleasure from life.
I really could list so many more things, but those are the 13 that really came through strongly when thinking about what I know now that would have been helpful 13 years ago.
What would be the one thing you would tell a younger you?
Mel H x