Exactly a month ago today I turned 23. My birthday fell on a Saturday with rare perfect Mancunian weather and everything about that day was highly unusual. Perhaps because of all that’s been going on lately, you know, the C-word I’ll refrain from mentioning, it was the first time in a while I didn’t freak out in my mind about the fact that I was a WHOLE year older. I’ve always had a lot of thoughts on growing older and the fear of having to suddenly act like a ‘grown-up’ never really helped. This year, however, I didn’t have any of those usual concerns in the back of mind and I’m certain it’s because the current reality we live in might have put a lot in perspective.
Waking up to the knowledge that I couldn’t just do the usual things I would on a birthday or host a dinner in celebration made the whole day feel a little weird. There was a strong feeling of longing for what I once had as well as a realisation that I didn’t appreciate how lucky I was to be able to have those ‘simpler’ days.
I’ve been learning a lot since the first week in lockdown about both myself and the world we live in and maybe these lessons are what we should take away from this mess when it’s all over. At the age of 23, right now more than ever, I’m certain that life is a collection of ups and downs and every day is an opportunity to learn something new.
Here are some 23 things I have learned in my 23 years pretending I have clue what I’m doing.
1. If you make decisions with the sole purpose of pleasing others, you will constantly search for validation and happiness but won’t find it.
2. Nothing lasts forever. Anyone can leave you, anyone can walk away and never look back. You might be the one to walk away, but sometimes chapters have to close and you’ll learn to accept that.
3. Saying no is not mean. Saying no is not selfish. Saying no to keep your sanity intact is strength and there’s power in that.
For the longest time, I was a people pleaser. Perhaps at my core I still am sometimes, but that is something I’ve been working on for years now (Click here for my thoughts on The Art Of Saying No).
4. Life will forever throw curve balls your way. That will never stop; after you get ahead of one problem another will appear from nowhere. Issues might appear simultaneously in thousands whilst scars that never healed might hurt again. You are stronger than you think so don’t lose hope.
5. Disability doesn’t mean inability and whilst everyone might not understand that you have to understand that to thrive and reach your full potential.
6. People may judge you by your appearance, but remember, that doesn’t, and will never define all you are.
7. Almost all good TV shows get bad after the fourth season – the bad ones even long before that. Maybe I’m watching all the wrong ones, huh?
8. Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
With social media, it’s extremely hard not to feel the pressure to conform and be like everybody else. We’re constantly looking at people’s highlight reels we often forget to celebrate our own individuality. They are them, you are you, so do you – shamelessly, bravely and joyfully.
9. The best conversations are the ones that make you pee your pants laughing, and while you might never remember what they were really about, you’ll forever recall the feeling that poured out loud laughs and careless happiness.
10. Travelling will give you knowledge on things you didn’t even know existed and it will teach you to look beyond what you can see in plain sight (Click here to read the five lessons I learned from travelling and living abroad).
11. No matter how many flights you catch, the view from an aeroplane window will forever be breath-taking and will remind you of how small you really are in the grand scheme of things.
12. New York City is as dreamy as I thought it would be. Not as accessible though, but that is another battle altogether!
*If you’d like to read about my trip to NYC last September, click on the links below:
Candid Diary #3: On The Plane To New York
New York – Day 1: A Dream Beginning
New York – Day 2: Times Square And A Simple Magical Night
New York – Day 3: China Town, Little Italy And Up Top Empire State Building
New York – Day 4 (Finale): A Rainy Day At Central Park And Ruined Plans
THIS-ABILITY: How Accessible Is New York City? The Simple Question That Made Me Anxious
An Honest Guide To Wheelchair Accessibility In New York City (A Tourist Take)
13. Even if it frightens you, do it anyway! I’m learning this one every day, as I feel like the fear of failure often stops me from even attempting certain things. I’ve never regretted trying something that made my heart beat faster, but there are still things I regret never trying and it’s never too late too fix that.
14. Going to the gym as a person with a disability was one of the best decisions I ever made. It taught me that I’m stronger than I know.
15. Adulting is hard af. All of a sudden, you’re thrown into real life and you have to figure it out whilst constantly questioning everything about life. The whole thing can feel like a big question mark and it might seem like the only way forward is to fake it till you make it.
16. Listen to understand not to react.
17. Music is food for the soul.
I want to believe that I was born with my love for music. There’s something about a great tune that can instantly take you back to a lovely time as much as it can break your heart mercilessly. I love how songs take me to their own space and time and there’s rarely ever been a time a track hasn’t changed my mood completely.
18. Long-distance friendships won’t work if you don’t put in the work. Life moves on for everyone and promises won’t always be kept in the long run.
After moving from place to place I feel like I can say I’m an expert in long-distance friendships. I’ve experienced the dreadful withering away, the hopeful naiveté, the painful breakups, the cheerful reconciliations and the long-lasting bonds (Click here to read the lessons I’ve learned from long-distance friendships).
19. Keeping a journal is a super introspective exercise and although you might have never tried it, it’s a great way to reflect on your daily struggles and looking back on your words will make you laugh (likely from embarrassment!) and it will remind you that most problems seem bigger than they really are. In addition, it will be tangible proof of how far you’ve come.
21. Twinnings’ four red fruits tea is their best one. Fight me!
20. Not all friendships must last forever. Some people are toxic and cutting them off might be exactly what you needed to breathe again.
22. Appreciate the little things, because when it really matters, they’ll be all that matter.
I feel like this couldn’t be more important at the moment when we are all learning that our lives can change from one moment or another. I’m learning that it’s the mundane of every day that really does keep us going.
23. You’ll always have more to learn and that’s an inescapable truth.
Situations will pull the rug under your feet more times than you’re ready for, leaving you with a chance to grow and learn a few more.
I hope you found this list insightful to read. Let me know in the comments below what lessons you have recently learned or one that has shaped the person you are today!
Your restless romantic roamer