I recently celebrated my 22nd birthday. (The faint noise in the background is the sound of my kneecaps cracking.) I’m not sure if I feel a whole lot wiser, but I do find that life has imparted at least some of its infinite knowledge to me alongside a whole lot of lower back pain. It’s true what they say: you live and learn. And so, without further ado, here are 22 things I have learned in my 22 years of not-so-serene existence:
1. Despite what society wants you to believe, it is perfectly acceptable and sometimes even recommended to stay in on a Saturday night. When you’re 16, every social gathering holds an irresistible promise, and indeed, the adolescent’s unquenchable thirst for adventure often turns every wine-fuelled weekend festivity and each visit to horrifying hometown clubs into an unquestionably legendary experience. Once you reach the ripe age of 22, however, the teenager’s enthusiasm tempers into a lukewarm passion for late-night commotion. You come to the liberating realisation that not every night has to be the Best. Night. Ever, and suddenly, the prospect of an early one (accompanied by Netflix, a hot water bottle, and a wee pack of Sainsbury’s TTD cookies) does not seem so daunting.
2. Podcasts are a fantastic cure to loneliness and an inimitable source of knowledge, wisdom, inspiration, and hilarity. Some of my favourites include: Dear Hank & John, the useless advice podcast from bestseller author John Green and brother, entrepreneur (and now also bestseller author) Hank Green; SciShow Tangents, an only slightly nerdy science quiz show that will have you marvel at the complexity of human life (and also make you laugh out loud); Off Menu, the podcast from an exquisite comedy duo (James Acaster and Ed Gamble) that is nothing short of delightful; and Drunk Women Solving Crime, which is pretty much what it says on the tin and showcases a fantastic array of talented women in addition to the top-notch true crime content.
3. No matter where you are, no matter how lost you feel, no matter how crap life seems, the video of the tiny turtle eating a raspberry to the Inception soundtrack will always make you smile.
4. Unfortunately, some people are just straight-up bad. Tempting as it may seem, you should not try to search for evidence of the contrary.
5. Most people are absolutely magnificent creatures; don’t let the bad ones convince you otherwise.
6. ‘Everything in moderation’ is a decent rule to go by. ‘Everything in moderation – including moderation’, though – that, ladies and gentlemen, is where it’s at. (For an early twentysomething, anyway).
7. Your stomach doesn’t need to be flat. If you’re a lady, you literally have an extra organ in there that men do not have to deal with. Tummy rolls are LIFE. You may have been sociologically conditioned into believing that you don’t deserve the space you take up in the universe, but you need to be brave and reject that toxic perfectionist BS.
8. Social media is a double-edged sword. If used well, I truly believe it can be a powerful tool and forge an exhilarating sense of community. It also has an indubitable potential to wreck your mental health through its reckless aestheticization of real life. The one really good thing about it, though, is it can be kept under control by you, personally. Make an effort to filter the content you engage with on a daily basis. Erase your triggers and keep it happy, motivational, real, mouth-watering or totally food-free, full of wanderlust or just tied to your own location. This is crucial especially if you, like so many of us, struggle with body image: follow people that don’t hide their imperfections and encourage you to embrace your own. Chessie King (@chessiekingg), Mary Jelkovsky (@maryscupofteaa) Jess Megan (@jess_megan_), Chidera Eggerue (@theslumflower), Bryony Gordon (@bryonygordon), Lucy Wood (@lucyjanewood) and Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) are my personal Instagram favourites; a little bit of scrolling and you’re sure to find your own crowd of brilliant people.
9. Most people have fully internalised self-hatred and self-criticism, and some will find the whole idea of a young woman loving herself ludicrous and condemn you for what they call ‘overconfidence’. Remember it doesn’t come from a place of malice and don’t hurt them back for it.
10. That said, you *do* have to be mindful of the times when you do indulge in overconfidence. Don’t ever do it ironically; it’s a slippery slope that doesn’t lead to good things.
11. Cherish the people you love. Send them texts saying you’re grateful they’re alive and that you get to spend time with them. Buy them Sainsbury’s cookies if they’re having a bad day. (This post is not sponsored, by the way.) Even if they’re gone for a while, always welcome them back with open arms if you decide they’re deserving of your affection.
12. For the love of God, please do not, ever, under any circumstances, drunk cycle. I have tried this for you: a now-faded but still visible chin scar, and way too many pictures of me attending Clare May Ball ’18 with what I can best describe as a gauze beard, is all I got out of it.
13. Sometimes, it’s good to romanticise the hell out of life. Imagine you’re in a film as you walk down the street. Smile for no reason. Say things only people in novels would say. Lose yourself in your lover’s ocean-blue eyes. Dance like tomorrow’s a social construct.
14. Other times, it’s best if both your feet stay nice and safely on the ground. Look both sides before you cross the road. Slap yourself (gently) in the face and see the poison hues in those deep blue eyes. Tuck yourself in before sunrise so you can wake up excited about what tomorrow holds.
15. Sleep is boring, but it’s really flippin’ necessary. Fixing your relationship with rest is key for your wellbeing. Insomnia is a bitch but it doesn’t last forever, deep diaphragmatic breathing that kickstarts your parasympathetic nervous system can do wonders for sleep problems.
16. “Know your fight is not with them / Yours is with your time here, / Dream your dreams but don’t pretend / Make friends with what you are. / Give your heart and change your mind / You’re allowed to do it / Cause God knows it’s been done to you / And somehow you got through it.”
17. Women’s clothing sizes are a steaming pile of bullcrap, you don’t need to take them seriously.
18. Being miserable does not make you special, it only makes you miserable. How you feel is not part of you. Don’t wear your sadness like a crown, don’t be afraid to see who you are without it.
19. Never be ashamed of loving things and getting excited about them. Yes, I AM literally in love with Sam Fender’s incredible layered vocals and I WOULD literally step in front of a train for Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Platonic passion is one the best and most harmless positive feelings in the world, if anyone tries to take it away from you, drop your copy of The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde on their toe.
20. Texts are just texts. They’re pointless and unproductive and therefore unlikely to get you very far, but the good thing is they also won’t do much harm. If you send a couple while drunk, don’t apologise in the morning. So you slid into someone’s DMs in a booze-induced stupor, big deal. At least you gave them a nice little ego boost.
21. Things often feel dramatic, overwhelming, monumental as they happen. With time you’ll realise they hardly ever are. Distance, in time and space, can transform the most gut-wrenching and torturous of experiences into just a beautiful lesson. Have patience for life to wash away the pain.
22. You’ll often be tempted to let certain feelings guide your actions. You’ll act out of jealousy, anger, pity for others, pity for yourself, shame, obsession; while not inherently terrible, none of these will give you the same sense of satisfaction and progress as when you let love take the reins. And to quote some of my favourite people again, ‘I don’t mean Roman candle-fireworks-Hollywood-hot-pink love. I mean, “I-got-your-back love”’. The ‘quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing’. The thing ‘you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.’ Search for this love, hold it in your heart, put it at the centre of your existence. Let it guide you in peaceful collaboration with your mind and experience. Channel it when you feel lost, mourn its absence, be cliché and OWN it. Don’t let the bastards get you down.
Written by Ditta Demeter