Thinking About Thirty Things I Have Learnt

In just over a week I turn thirty, and the last year – well, the last few months in fact – has been a period of learning, a period of stabilising.

I don’t think we ever stop learning – I know I never will. My blogs are so reflective because I really do believe that there is something new to grasp, to realise, around every corner. Life is a huge journey and those people who claim to have it all figured out… hmm, I don’t think I trust those folk.

As thirty seems to be a pretty big milestone and I love any excuse to publicly reflect about my own life, I wanted to share thirty things I have learnt in my first thirty trips around the sun. Here are thirty things I would go back and tell my twenty year old self.

  1. Your time is so precious and so are your emotions. Don’t waste them on things or people that don’t really matter to you deep down.
  2. Growing up, everyone tells you to jump at opportunity, but it’s sometimes better for you to say ‘no’. Constant ‘yes’s can be overrated and potentially damaging.
  3. The people around you are more important than you realise. Don’t get so carried away with work that you don’t make time for close friends and family. They’ll bring you the most joy and bring you back down to earth when you most need it.
  4. Live the life you want to in terms of following your dreams but remember to take it slow. Cramming loads in and not making time to stop for a moment will be detrimental to your health and happiness.
  5. Rarely trust the systems and the rules you’ve been told to follow. These days, loads of us are writing our own rulebooks.
  6. Dreams from your childhood will come back to haunt you (in a good way). What did you want to be when you were younger? Is it too late to give it a shot? Is it something that will come back to haunt you in another thirty years?
  7. Question everything. Some things are massively overrated and just because everyone else is doing them it doesn’t necessarily mean they are good for you. Want to give up alcohol? Stop eating meat? Your life, your rules, your choice. We’re all scrambling around for the answers – don’t let anyone ever make you feel like you can’t challenge them or be curious about learning new things.
  8. Don’t compare your life to anyone else’s, especially not random people on social media whose lives you glimpse into but whom you actually know nothing about.
  9. Spend more time with your parents and grandparents because once they are gone you won’t get that chance ever again and you don’t want to live with the feeling that you didn’t make the effort to get to know the people who created you. Without them you wouldn’t be here.
  10. Judging other people only brings you down, not them. If you find yourself feeling hostile towards someone and their life decisions, it probably says a lot more about you than them. Why do you feel so angry towards them? Acceptance, empathy, understanding and compassion are underrated and I wish I had found them sooner in my own life.
  11. Busy is one of the most horrible four letter words in the English language. If your life is busy it’s going to fly past in the blink of an eye with no time for your to stop and think about what you want to do with it and why.
  12. Look after your physical health. Eat well, exercise, get outside. Don’t run yourself into the ground. Get plenty of sleep.
  13. Look after your mental health. Seek help, talk to friends, don’t let thoughts control you but learn to control your thoughts.
  14. Treat yourself as you would treat others. Would you tell your best friend that she’s ugly, worthless, crap at her job, unreliable and annoying? Don’t speak to yourself like that, then.
  15. Have an open mind, welcome advice – it doesn’t mean you have to take the advice but the process of opening your heart and ears to another human being can bring good things for how you feel about yourself.
  16. Remember to switch off from the digital world (it’s not real life). We’re becoming increasingly addicted to social and digital technology which can effect loads of things in our life in a negative way without us even realising it (for example, relationships, mental and physical health, free time available).
  17. It’s never too late to: change your career path, find a new partner, change your habits, embrace new lifestyles, try new hobbies and more.
  18. Everyone is in the same boat. As the central character in our own stories we often forget that all those people around us are human too, they also experience similar challenges and emotions to what we do.
  19. The world we live in is undervalued and we are slowly killing it. Whatever you can do to help earth, nature and the environment will be thanked by your future generations.
  20. Your body is a blank canvas and you can do whatever you want to it, not matter how extreme or ‘different’ it may seem to other people. Make those decisions for you and embrace your individuality. DO NOT do anything for your physical self “because everyone else is”, “I saw it on Pinterest”, “my friends told me to”, and so on.
  21. Look to the past (read classic books, watch great movies), look to the future (be conscious of the implications of your decisions), but most importantly, just try to be here in the moment, before it passes too quickly.
  22. It’s OK to change your mind about something. Don’t feel regret or embarrassment about who you used to be. It’s a journey, we are all learning, everyone makes mistakes and grows into new versions of themselves.
  23. Money is not more important than having good down-time, good people, good physical health, good mental health and the general good experienced doing something you really love. It’s OK to take a huge pay cut, be self-employed, go part-time, volunteer, take time off work, and so on. And if you change your mind about it once you’ve tried it, that’s fine! Don’t apply for a job just because “it’s more money”, “it’s a step-up” or because “it will look good on my CV”. Imagine waking up to do something every single day just for those small reasons, not because you are truly happy doing it? That’s a difficult thing to live with.
  24. Create your own set goals – they don’t have to be the ones society has told youto have. Collecting loads of savings, owning your own home, paying off your student loan. These are really, really, really difficult things and I am not sure I will ever tick any one of these off the list. And that’s OK. I’ve found happiness in other things and am not going to spend time stressing about it.
  25. You don’t have to travel half-way across the world to broaden your mind. There’s often a pressure on us to “do the travelling thing”. You can find exciting projects, activities and hidden worlds in your local area. Explore your woodlands, get involved in a new hobby – there are always new things you can try on your doorstep that don’t cripple your bank balance and holiday allowance. If it’s making you feel shit, stop following all those Instagram influencers who get paid to travel the world. You are not them. You will never be them.
  26. Just try stuff. If it doesn’t work out, that’s cool. Nothing is forever. You can move to different areas, quit jobs, give up things and move onto others. Part of life is sampling what is available to see what takes your fancy.
  27. Remember to keep perspective when you think you’re having ‘a crisis’. Are you living on the streets? Are you living in an un-safe country with no clean water and life-threatening war and disease? A huge percentage of the world is. I know we do have a lot to fix in the UK, yes, but we are also pretty damn lucky and need to remember to be grateful for what we do have.
  28. Take time to yourself to reflect on how you’re doing so far. You don’t want to wake up in thirty years and realise there was something you wish you’d done but never fully engaged your brain with the possibilities. Some of the answers only reveal themselves in the silences.
  29. ‘Be true to yourself’ is actually quite a complicated statement, because ‘yourself’ is not a static thing. You will change and change is healthy. There’s no one single version of you to refer to as it’s always in a state of alteration.
  30. Never forget that this is supposed to be fun. I spent the last few years of my twenties coming to terms with the above 29 lessons and now I’m ready to let them go and live my life. It’s good to analyse but take the lesson and move on, have a side-splitting-wet-your-pants-can’t-breathe-from-laughing time with the people in your life. Create memories with them, smile, enjoy it.