29 rules about being 29 to my 21 year old self

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Image by pixabay

29 is an odd age, not quite done with yours twenties, but yet to fully embrace the maturity of our thirties, it’s the quintessential limbo age. While I am not an ordinary 29 year old English girl (I’m a student, still living with my parents); I think most millennials have had to share a lot of similar experiences based on the political and economic climate of the last ten years. Making us 1. much more resistant to embrace the lifestyle of our parents and 2. creating our own paths and the straight forward one might not necessarily mean the easiest. The world has changed a lot since I was 21 in 2009, and I like many others in my age bracket I’ve had to adjust to that world.

  1. Have a plan, but don’t be frigid with it.  Career aspirations, travel plans, family goals -have them, sure! But just remember that as you get older and change so does your to do list.
  2. Educate yourself. You’re never too old to learn a new language, pick up a new skill or go back to university. I hear a lot of excuses that just sound so much like giving up. Strive to be that 90 year old who graduated from college because she had always wanted an education.
  3. Be open to different views. I was quite stubborn when it came to my liberal viewpoints but as I get older I remember everyone has different experiences and rather than roll my eyes (because I was so right) I’ve learnt to listen.
  4. Travel, travel, travel. Even if you don’t have the money to go to exotic places, take a different route to work, save to go to Paris for a weekend. Go to a different part of your own country, speak another language, dress like the locals, make memories.
  5. Stop comparing yourself to others. When I was 20, I often compared myself to colleagues, to famous people, to family and wondered how I was doing. Your life is not a competition, get to a point where you’re happy with and start competing against yourself.
  6. Embrace heartbreak. I’d often put off relationships. I hated the idea of someone having some mystical power over me, but that’s not living, hurt and pain are just another part of growing up.
  7. Spend time alone. In my early twenties I spent so much time trying to impress people, wanting everyone to like me that it became so tiring and stressful. I enjoy my own company as much as chatting away with my best friends. Everyone needs downtime.
  8.  Don’t be afraid to be out of your comfort zone. Whatever this might be, we can’t stay in our comfortable fortified armours, we need to take our helmets off for a better viewpoint. Change careers, do that presentation, travel alone; be comfortable with being a little afraid.
  9. Don’t put up with nonsense. Like so many people in their early twenties, I hung out with people that I didn’t necessarily like or had much in common with because I felt pressured to be in certain social circles. Now, I’ve learnt quality time with your best friends is much more worth my time than hanging out with a bunch of strangers at a party,
  10. Tell people to fuck off (figuratively). When the occasion calls for it. So many times I had sat patiently listening to people put me down, dismiss my achievements, pressure me into another drink, or pressure me into situations. Everyone understands fuck off, it’s the universal phrase for ‘had enough of your bullshit’.
  11. Dress like you want to dress. Because your own happiness means more than what other people think.
  12. Put your earphones in. When you want to blank out the world. Being plugged into the world and what goes around in other peoples lives can be a waste of your time, and frankly everyone needs to space out for a while.
  13. Read the day away (or Netflix it away). While I was in my early twenties, I felt like I had to be doing something every minute of the day. But now sometimes I just take a day off and enjoy the luxury of nothingness.
  14. Carve out your own path. Love your job? Great, but don’t feel like you have to commit to a career just because your reaching your thirties and it’s the safer route. Experiment with skills and interests and you might end up being more fulfilled.
  15. Get 8 hours sleep. I’ve always enjoyed sleep, but as you get older, it feels like you have less time. But eight hours is essential for general functional behaviour during the day.
  16. Embrace the ageing process. By that I don’t mean start shopping at Wallis, I mean learn from your mistakes. Say your age with confidence, because if you weren’t born with miraculous good luck you’ve probably gone through a lot of shit. The older you get, the better you become with dealing with said shit.
  17. Invest in health and beauty. Keep hydrated, shell out for a good conditioner, eat healthily, buy a good moisturiser and go for runs and join the gym. It’s investments your future self will thank you for. But I now have an irrational fear of being dehydrated.
  18. Plan your finances. I’m probably the worst person to ask for financial advise, but gone are the days when I was paid from my job in Tokyo and inevitably end up living on instant noodles because I spent my salary in three days. It’s taking work, but I’m a lot better.
  19. Start a new hobby. You don’t necessarily even have to aim to become better, just enjoy it. I love my hobbies, I rock climb (from 25) and practise Krav Maga ( from 27). It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m a pro at any of them, but I enjoy them and I feel like it’s money and time well invested.
  20. Don’t smile (for other people). Smile because you want to, not because a knob in a yellow hard hat tells you to.
  21. Embrace change. An inevitable part of growing up. Since my early twenties, I have become more open minded to people, and it’s those very people who have helped mould me into who I am today.
  22. Write things down. The strangest thing about being 29, is looking at my old journals, there are months missing, large chunks of my life that I didn’t record. But looking back it’s almost cathartic to see how much I’ve been through and how much I’ve changed due to those experiences.
  23. Embrace love. In any form it comes (friends, cats, boyfriend, girlfriend, dogs etc), for the last 28 years I’ve try to avoid it at all costs, because love can get in the way of important decisions, but as they say ‘It is better to have loved than not to have loved at all’.
  24. Let go of old grudges. I don’t mean go to ex-nemesis’s house and ask for forgiveness for every time you tripped them up in the hallway (trust me I’ve never done that). But I mean let go of those old feelings of hate, anger and forgive (be it yourself or them). Past negative feelings have as much pain as the ones in the present.
  25. Keep your friends updated. Because life sometimes gets in the way of life. Send that email to a friend you haven’t spoken to in ages, but is very dear to you. Friends understand that life gets in the way and a ‘hey how are you?’ Facebook message can go along way.
  26. Avoid ‘what if’ thinking. When I arrived back in the UK after four (or was it five?) long years in Japan. I honestly kept thinking ‘what if I left earlier?’ When I was in Japan I developed an interest in history and archaeology. If I had left earlier I would be doing my masters at 23 and not at 27. If I had avoided the perils of financial journalism I would be doing my PhD instead. So much of my energy concentrated on hypothetical situations
  27. Get friends from all ages. My best friend during university was in his thirties, while I was 18, my best friend now is in her fifties. One of my closest friends is 21. Older people are not necessarily the epitome of wisdom and the personification of maturity. They make mistakes, they need advice and guidance. While younger people have some of the best advice to offer, a fresher perspective is needed. Younger people in some respect have life much harder than us nearing our thirties; they have higher university fees, they live in the world where Brexit and Trump is the (mature) popular view meaning their insights are just as valuable.
  28. Listen to your mum (or dad). If you’re lucky to still have your mum in the picture, listen to her even if you know she’s wrong.
  29. Continue (and be okay with) making mistakes. Even in your forties, fifties, sixties you’ll make mistakes (from what I’ve heard). You’ll say the wrong thing, you’ll splurge on the wrong thing. You’ll possibly end up with the wrong person. But that’s just life, and unlike in my early twenties I won’t sit down and analyse every single mistake, every single bad choice, as that’s not living that’s stagnating. As we get older, we improve, we give less of a shit, we progress, we take responsibility for our mistakes and the likelihood is we become who we are suppose to be.
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When the world is telling you to be alone

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I was sitting on my bed per usual stroking my cat Lily when she decided enough was enough and swiftly jumped off my lap. The rejection stung for a mere 20 seconds and I got on reading my book. That’s something I’ve always respected about cats, when they want to be alone, they make it happen. No worrying about people’s feelings, no second guessing.  I used to be like that, when I wanted some alone time from the bustle of my life I took some time away from it. I would travel alone, climb a mountain, read a book, anything that allowed for those precious moments on my own.

Don’t confuse being alone for loneliness. I enjoy one but not the other.  Breaking up with friends, even if you haven’t fought, or splitting up with a boyfriend can leave you feeling lonely. I was rebounding from both. The problem wasn’t necessarily either, but this overwhelming obligation to go finding new friends and a partner almost immediately. You see being in my late 20s I’ve heard the phrase ‘you’re not getting any younger’ a lot. Despite my reluctance to ever be tied down by a husband or children, those words start to wear on you. The worst part is you start to believe that you should be following what society is ordering you to do.

However society and the world are not the same thing. As I aimlessly went from date to date, the world was giving me strong hints that I wasn’t ready to settle. Job offers from abroad started to appear in my inbox.  Friends living in different parts of world extending invites, my father at almost 82 reminding me it’s my life and telling me diligently on his hospital bed about his regrets for not experiencing more from life. I kept ignoring the signs, until one day lying in Bloomsbury Square appreciating the London sun while listening to The Cure’s Just Like Heaven, a final attempt to elevate my spirits, a student from South America asked me for directions. He was meeting friends at The Museum Tavern, I directed him the best I could with my broken Spanish. He thanked me back in English, not before saying ‘everyday is an adventure in London’. That’s when it hit me, I had lost the adventure in my life. My depression, lack of self esteem and excitement was down to my routine, the shear boredom of repeated days. When I got into that routine, I felt the time slip through my hands and it frightened me. No. It terrified me.

Then I went back to the library, opened a tab up and started searching for interns abroad, cheap plane tickets, field schools, anything- just adventure. And when I do find it, I’ll make sure to make the most of it.

Rule no.1 don’t fuck up

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So I’m sitting in A&E with a bag of ice on my head wondering where have I played out this scenario before? Was it that time in Tokyo I got so battered that I fell to the ground head first on the subway? Or was it that time when I was playing a game of rounders in secondary school and got distracted by that weirdly attractive IT teacher? Whenever it was, I had clearly fucked up many times before now.

I’m used to being the one that accidentally spills their morning coffee on their new Zara blouse or CCing in that person I had called a wanker in the email. Reply all is not your friend. Actually I think they should delete that feature immediately it would save so many careers. I’m so used to ‘fucking up’ that I’m constantly aware of my next big mistake and I don’t even need to drink four or five G&Ts to do it.

The odd thing about being an adult (not even young adult I’m just adult adult, which I’m sure  because of some sexist societal expectation is mildly terrifying) is that these fuck-ups are being racked up against you by self-righteous friends, exes, family (the list is endless). For those people it shows your lack of responsibility,  maturity and this is one is only for the ladies -elegance.

Now I’m not saying we should allow ourselves to be complete messes, inept of taking ownership of our lives or careers, but what I am saying is that we should be allowed to fuck up (occasionally) and for it not to held against us at every corner. We are human after all (or most us I assume).  I’ve made my inner peace with a lot of my past mistakes, for overspending (investing as I used to call it), overdrinking,  for being too honest, for not being honest enough. I refuse for those mistakes to keep hanging over me, like a credit card bill I haven’t paid yet. Forgive and forget is a cliche, not because it’s true but because people sometimes need it.

Can you fall in love after a day?

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‘Six months from now, we’ll meet here,’ those are the parting words Jesse tells Celine after spending an incredibly intense day with her in Vienna. They promise each other to meet at the same spot in six months. Instead of dismissing it as simply a holiday fling, they recognise their love after just a day. During their time together they had connected, chatted about the existence of a god, reincarnation, death, and their failed romantic relationships then consummated their love in a public park. The first time I had watched the film (almost 10 years ago) I was left wondering: is it possible to fall in love after just a day? Is it totally plausible to meet someone,  connect on a deeper level and then realise that they’re your soul mate, love of your life, possibly even  life partner? The 19 year old me was a total sceptic but nevertheless kept returning to that movie and its sequel Before Sunset.

The truth was my 19 year old self loved the concept of Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise, but as the years went by I realised I was more like Tom from 500 Days a Summer. But how do you define love or being in love? Does it matter if someone feels the same way? Does the depth of that love change when it takes longer for romantic feelings to develop? I’ve always wanted the sort of love that Celine had for Jesse.  Then it miraculously happened,  we met in an unconventional way but after the first exceedingly awkward ten minutes, we delved into social identity, travel, and archaeology. We would sit in the pub and talk for hours while slowly getting more and more drunk, we ‘d discuss the universe, parallel dimensions, photography, anything going. The next few days were invigorating, almost like I had only started living at 28. And like Celine, I can pinpoint the very moment I had fallen in love, he was standing in the kitchen talking on his phone and he looked up at me. I’d known him the grand sum of three days. Like Celine and Jesse I knew we would eventually part ways, I was too neurotic, while he was too laid back. Remember, the saying is not staying balanced in love, it is falling, losing your self to love.

Duration doesn’t matter,  it was surprising to me that I could have such intense feelings after three days despite being in long-term relationships that had lasted more than a year. Often it is that simple because being “in love” has so many variables including longevity. Being in love is such a beautiful thing and while it can be all-consuming and most definitely destructive, not everyone gets to experience that raw and deep connection. The experience is dramatic, intense and overwhelming. There are a lot of crazy choices you’ll make in life. If you get the chance, you should definitely allow yourself to be open to falling in love like Celine and Jesse… Even if it only lasts a day.

Never regret change

There are a number of reasons why I wanted to make this post. Looking back at previous posts I was surprised by my overall anxiety. I’ve spent most of my life concerning myself with the need to make changes to my life, to feel like I’m always progressing and not regressing. It’s destructive, because progression shouldn’t be forced, it needs to be a natural result of your experience. I had a mini crisis regarding my current life choices a few months back, while I was on a dig in Spain profusely vomiting from heat exhaustion, lying on my bed wondering if I had made a huge mistake. We all have those moments, where we meditate on our live choices. We look back and wonder if that was the right thing to do, was splitting up with him or her what I really wanted? Was quitting that job financially short-sighted? But after thinking it through for a long time, I can honestly say we should never regret making choices that change our lives for the better. Especially conscious choices to improve our lives.

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Looking at Aztec codices

When I was living in Japan as a journalist and later in London, I was depressed because when you get to the bare bones of it; creativity and writing are not mutually exclusive. I had known for awhile that I wanted to venture back to university and take a degree in archaeology. But at 26 I was reluctant, societal expectations for a woman my age is not to go back into education. Most women cave under this enormous pressure; they feel like they have to comply by this timeline that they don’t necessarily want to follow.  The importance of doing what you want regardless of others is a sentiment I’ve held onto dearly throughout life. Unfortunately it has and always will make me somewhat of a social pariah.

I’m in my second year of my time at University College London and although I’ve had moments of overwhelming anxiety mostly monetary I’ve not faltered. You are always going to be letting down someone in your life, just don’t make it yourself; everyone owes it to themselves to live a fulfilling life, whether that’s family or a career, or just a life of pure adventure. Making changes to ensure that you are happy even if they don’t follow certain societal expectations is critical to being true to yourself.  These changes haven’t been easy, there have been negative reactions, there have been assumptions about my reluctance to join mainstream society. You must block out those voices, never regret positive change. 

London? We need a word

What happened to you? You’ve become clamourous, and I’m not sure I like this new personality change all of a sudden. Or is the honeymoon period finally over? Do we call it quits now? I don’t want another ex, it was hard splitting up with Tokyo. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over this break up.

The truth is we are getting irritated with each other, I can no longer stand your fast-pace lifestyle and I’m sure as hell you think I’m getting a little boring. I just can’t keep up; your cereal cafes, toilet bars are getting a little ridiculous and your schedule a little hard to keep with. You have good traits too, I mean for every porridge cafe, there’s a cat cafe.

But your quirkiness seems false, as if you’re trying to hard to impress the new guys. I’m kind of getting sick of you playing up all your good points and brushing aside your faults. We all have them and its okay. It’s okay to be a little misunderstood, at 27 I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be fully understood. And you’re what pushing 2100? Or something like that?

Let’s talk faults, you’re getting rowdy, a bit too big for your boots per se. There was the Olympics and you throw a good party I’ll give you that but you also overspend.  And you don’t delve into your own pocket enough, you borrow, borrow borrow and then spend, spend, spend. Sometimes I’m wondering when I’m going to get all this money back that I invested in all this glam.

I’m not trying to rub your nose in all of your faults. You do have good ones, remember that day when you held that shindig for William and Kate? Or when you made all your museums free? Score one for you. You’re multicultural, you have friends from all over. Unlike Tokyo you’re pretty accepting of all their cultural particulars as well. That’s awesome.

London: Liverpool Street

London: Liverpool Street

But London, this competitive streak you seem to be having with New York has to stop, your once beautiful face is full of craters, cranes and smoke.  It’s painful to see you go through this downward spiral, just because of a little insecurity. I know New York is your younger, more popular sister. But let it go, don’t try to keep with the youngsters; be who you are, be that beautiful crafted storytelling older sister, we love to have around for a pint. Not this pretentious overspending, sometimes obnoxious New York mannequin. You’re better than that.

Keep Exploring

There are a lot of things I wish I could turn back the clock and change. Obviously we can’t. We just have to deal with what graces we have in the present and move on. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Going back to university has been tough and not only because the last few years of my life have been about jetting around the world with my best friends. I’ve never been one for routine; I actually despise it. The worst thing about routine is it makes us placid, lazy and boring.

At Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire

At Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire

It’s true, routine makes me bored and to some extent –boring. So I’ve been tackling this boredom with trips around the UK. Just like I did in Japan, when the world was getting too repetitive and depressing. I’ve seen the wonders of Scafell Pike, Yorkshire and Sussex. I never knew there was so much to discover in my own backyard. Climbing mountains, exploring ruins, meeting the locals will always be imperative to who I am.

Being the person who lets life’s pass them by, is not a blessing: it’s a curse. Being aware of your own mortality is quite scary but can also be very liberating. What I’m saying is don’t be that boring person, live without regrets, live like everyday matters, live for today.