Tomorrow (UK time) is my 24th birthday.
In the last few years of my life, after graduating university last April and deciding that it would be a good idea to leave home, move to the other side of the world and (try) to be a proper adult, I like to believe that I have learned a great deal about the world around me.
This time last year (almost exactly) I had lived overseas for 2 months and had been offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to come back and live in the UK to work full time. It feels like more than a year ago; this whole year has just rushed by, full of intensive highs and lows.
Basically, this last year has seen me grow more as a person than the previous 23; why wouldn’t it? I know that sometimes I harp on about living abroad, leaving everything behind and my new life here, but to be completely honest, it is really the most difficult thing that a person can ever do (in my humble opinion, just ask anyone else who has flipped their life on its head like me and see if they disagree). Expat life is incredible – but it changes you forever.
Last year I thought I knew it all. I thought that I had everything figured out. I thought I experienced it all, but I had no idea. Nothing prepares you for what relocating half way around the world can change. Life is short, people change but all we can do is decide what we want from the time that we have got.
Through heart-wrenching losses, amazing gains and all the in between, my understanding of the important things in life have culminated through my experience; what a way to summarise that in my favourite way possible – another one of my lists! (my apologies if some of these overlap – just means they are super important!)
Twenty-three things I have realised in my 23 years on earth.
- You are responsible for your own life. At any given moment, you have the power to create one that you can be proud of. Where you are is no one’s fault but your own, but you can gain support from other people to change.
- Things always have a funny way of working themselves out, whether you spend time obsessing about them or not.
- Happiness is non-negotiable. If whatever you’re doing doesn’t bring you joy, make you smile or laugh until your abs hurt, it has no real value.
- Waiting on an opportunity to be handed to you is like watching paint dry. You could be waiting forever. You’ll be a lot happier and better off creating your own.
- The way someone treats you is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves—and that’s never a problem of yours, even if you think it is. Haters are going to hate; all that matters is how you deal with it.
- Quitting isn’t always a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s best to resign from a job or relationship so you can get on to what’s meant for you and find what your happy is. You shouldn’t settle for second best.
- Being gentle with yourself is important (I know I need to take this advice more often). You may not be exactly where you want to be just yet, but instead of focusing on your shortcomings, showing yourself more grace in those difficult moments is an essential part of self-care. Do it often because it is the pillar of growing up.
- When you decide to go against mediocrity, there will be many moments of loneliness and doubt. It all just comes with the territory. Pushing the boundaries is the only way that you will grow into the person you are meant to be. Even if it’s scary.
- If someone doesn’t “get” you, they just don’t. Don’t waste too much time trying to explain yourself, your life or your goals to win someone’s support, but always be humble and kind. Everyone from the CEO to the cleaner is worth the same amount of your time.
- Everyone won’t always agree with your decisions. Go with your gut instinct anyway because at the end of the day, you’re the one who has to live with the outcome—not them.
- Travelling every chance you get expands your awareness and makes you a well-rounded person. And let’s be fair, who doesn’t love getting their passport stamped? Travel makes you learn your place in the world; realise how small you really are and empowers you to take on anything life throws at you.
- Life isn’t a competition. There’s no such thing as being ahead or behind someone else. Keep your eyes on your own life and don’t compare where you are to others.
- Happiness starts from within. You can’t depend on someone else to give you something only you can provide for yourself. Although good coffee is a great precursor of happiness.
- There are no coincidences in life. Everything and everyone you encounter is a direct manifestation of how you think, speak and act.
- Remember that you don’t know everything about a person’s life. Everyone has their own battles and people’s Facebook feeds aren’t an indication of how they are actually feeling. Don’t jump to conclusions. Be sensitive.
- Make sure that the important people in your life know that they are important. Make sacrifices for them, check in on them, do the little things – they are the most important. Don’t take people for granted; they won’t always be around. Regardless of how far away people are or what inherent roadblocks you have, keeping in touch is hard, but you need to be the one to make the effort.
- Take things a day at a time. Don’t stress about the future or how things will turn out years down the road. Focus on the now; the moment is so beautiful and you shouldn’t waste it.
- Dating, much like most things in life, makes zero sense. There’s no formula for love, or life, for that matter. Embrace the idea of getting to know someone. Their likes, dislikes, their family, real aspects of them. It may work out, it may not. Recognise when you have a real connection with someone, and try to hold onto that. You will come to realise that you find love when you aren’t even looking for it; often it hits you in the chest so hard that it wakes you up to believing it is actually possible to find someone decent. Golden rule is not to rush.
- All feelings are valid. This is something I’ve more recently adopted into my mantras. No matter how you’re feeling, it is valid. Do not let someone tell you otherwise, but try not to take your feelings out on others.
- Embrace your individuality. Do not adapt yourself to fit the stereotype of what you think society wants you to be. We’re all different. That’s what makes life so amazing.
- Trying something and failing is still 10 times more productive than doing nothing. The amount of ‘I’m sorry your work isn’t right for out publication at this time’ emails I have received kind of makes me feel a little bit ill, but I know that I will get there eventually. Keep those rejection letters and emails coming, because one day it will all be worth it.
- Sunshine is important. Make sure you take the opportunity to soak up some rays. You’ll realise how much you miss it when it isn’t there (basically what happened when I moved to the UK).
- It’s all going to be okay. Even if it isn’t right now. You are more resilient than you think. It is important to reflect on how far you’ve come and not lose sight of how far you’ve still got to go.