This week marks my 28th birthday, and one of the first birthdays in years I’ve been willing to acknowledge.
You see, at the ripe old age of 26 I found myself properly single for the first time since I was about 14. Though I’d had different boyfriends, I’d never been single for longer than a couple of months my entire adolescent and adult life. And thanks to that whole mentality of female worth being tied up in traditional values and the ability to “find a man”, I felt like getting to 26 and having no boyfriend, no real career and no idea what I was doing, meant I was a proper failure.
Never mind that I’d survived the break down of a serious relationship at a very young age, and that after years of floundering I’d finally realised (again) what I knew at 14: I wanted to write for a living. It didn’t matter at the time that I had a degree, was close to finishing a Diploma, and had travelled a reasonable amount for someone who left the country for the first time at 20 and never earned very much money. None of those milestones or achievements mattered to me at 26, because I was suddenly in my late 20’s, alone and scared for the future.
Fast forward two years, and I’m excited to celebrate my birthday again. It’s not because I have a boyfriend again, or my career is on track (I still don’t write for a living, but I’m not giving up on it again). It’s not because I finally got off my ass and moved across the world, fulfilling a dream I’ve had since a little girl. It’s because I realised it doesn’t matter how old I am, there’s not a checklist for success or happiness.
It doesn’t matter what you’ve done and where you’re going as long as you’re always learning from it. And so, here are a few select things I’ve learned in 28 long-but-too-short years on this earth: some very important and some really not!
- You can’t please everyone, even the people supposed to love you no matter what.
- You’re allowed to change your mind about an issue. Being stubborn helps no one.
- Kindness and concern will come from strange places and not always from who you expect.
- There is a difference between real friends and those out for themselves, learn how to recognise the difference.
- Falafel kebabs soak up alcohol pretty well, but the best hangover cure will always be Red Bull sipped slowly and a big old bowl of pho.
- Dry shampoo is a lifesaver and quite possibly the only beauty product I’ll actively and consistently endorse without prompting or shame.
- Always carry spare band aids and tampons.
- You’re allowed to say ‘yes’ to things; more importantly, you’re allowed to say ‘no’.
- People will confuse kindness for weakness and shyness for complacency. Speak up for yourself, and stand up for what you believe in.
- There is a very small section of the population who look good with dyed black hair. I am not one of them.
- Beware the people who love to talk about themselves, especially when you need to talk about yourself. They are not your ally.
- Don’t stop talking if someone interrupts you, even if you have to repeat everything you said. Make yourself be heard.
- Never shave your vagina. Just don’t, it’s not worth it. Literally, do anything else.
- If you have to get rid of your vagina hair, (because you want to, not because someone told you to) use cream or wax.
- Never sleep with someone who seems upset that you have hair on your vagina.
- Never sleep with someone who tries to tell you what contraceptive to use on/with/for your vagina and ignores or argues with your requests for a certain one.
- Drunk girls in the bathroom you’ll never see again are the best friends you’ll ever have.
- Magnesium is the god of all vitamins and I will swear by it as a cure for everything from menstrual cramps through to sleeplessness.
- There is a difference between friends worth fighting for and friends worth letting go. Have the insight to tell the difference.
- Run a literal mile from anyone who thinks rape jokes are funny, claims the wage gap is a myth or blames anyone for their abuse, assault or violation.
- Sometimes, in certain situations, you will have to bite your tongue. Others you will bite it when you shouldn’t have. Both are OK, as long as you learn from them.
- In business, get everything in writing. Never wait around for spoken promises that may never come.
- I still don’t know who they designed the majority of swimsuits for and I don’t think I ever will.
- No one should be allowed to be in charge of your happiness except you.
- Fashion of the moment is a time and money waster if you don’t have a passion for it (which I don’t!). Pick things that are simple, comfortable and right for you, regardless of whatever the trend is at the moment.
- Not everyone will agree with you. Pick your battles.
- People will try to make you feel bad about the harmless things you like, such as your taste in music or your penchant for wearing a lot of eyeliner. Fuck them.
- Good things come to those who wait, but don’t wait too long. Better things come to those who fight for them.
When all is said and done, getting older is pretty terrifying, but I think (for now) I’ve come to grips with it. Just make sure someone checks in on me when I’m 30, just to make sure I’m still OK…
What about you? What are the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt in your time? Tell me below!
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