It’s funny. As a kid, you plan your birthday all year. You know exactly what you want to do (McDonalds party anyone!). You spend weeks ringing everything in the Argos catalogue and leaving it on the kitchen table in what your six year old mind believes is a truly subtle hint. You spend the days before whispering and giggling, feeling like some kind of queen as you make the final decision on who will be invited (to be honest, my birthdays were always my two best mates plus horses, but the discussion still needed to be had.)
Then you get older. You start ‘forgetting’ your birthday. You dodge the ‘how old will you be’ question, and mumble “Er..you know, twenty…er…”
A couple of years ago I spent my birthday with strangers. I had recently moved to a new city into a houseshare, with my new course starting on my birthday day. I didn’t know anyone, had no idea where I was, and was fully prepared to enjoy a low-key day with a couple of Facebook messages.
Those strangers changed my perspective on birthdays.
Having only met me the previous day, those wonderful, kindhearted strangers took the time and effort to give me an amazing birthday – we’re talking decorations, delicious breakfasts, beautiful cards, the lot. We were all busy that day – our course was starting early in the morning, we were all exhausted from moving in, and still in the very new, apprehensive stages of friendship. But they opened their hearts and their homes, and made me feel so incredibly welcome. I still well up when I think of that birthday, and the wonderful people who came into my life.
It made me realise. Like can be tough. Like, really tough. We’re all hectic and rushing about and always, always “too busy.” But we shouldn’t be. There is always time for others, and there should always be time for yourself.
As I sit here on the brink of another birthday, I am inevitably nostalgic. I wanted to share 26 of the things I have learned in 26 years on this wonderful planet.
- Strangers can be amazing people if you give them the chance, and can turn into wonderful friends – as seen by my story above.
- Whites and colours can be washed together – I give you colour catchers my beloved readers. Life is too short to be separating your knickers.
- Breathing is everything. When it all seems too much, take a few proper, deep breaths. Fill your lungs and let it all out. It’s amazing what that can solve.
- Same with tea. I have yet to find a situation which cannot be helped by tea and a biscuit. Maybe its the comforting routine, or the fact that tea is actually magic.
- Being kind is more important than being right (unless you’re dealing with a crazy homophobic facist dictator or similar).
- This too shall pass. When things are rough, it feels as though they will never change. But you know what? The wheel of the year keeps on turning, the planet keeps on spinning, and day always turns to night. Things will get better.
- A good skincare routine is everything – I use a cheap, basic moisturiser and it has changed my life (Astral if anyone is interested.) But I do it literally every day, twice a day. It’s my religion.
- Speaking of: it is not worth falling out over politics or religion. Tolerance and respect is everything.
- At the same time: don’t be a doormat. You know what is right and wrong. Stand up and fight like a goddamn alley cat for your beliefs.
- There is no shame in doing nothing – sometimes you just need a day to laze about, regroup and catch up with yourself. Life is busy.
- When all else fails, beans on toast will be there.
- Yoga. That is all. Everyone should do yoga all the time. That bus driver? Do yoga. Ninety five year old lady? Do yoga. Hench, six foot five body builder? Yeah, you do yoga too. Life changing.
- No-one is ever going to hand you the things you want, you have to go out and fight for them. Don’t waste time waiting.If you try something and it doesn’t work, try something else. You don’t get to go back and rewrite scenes which have passed, you can only make the next one better.
- Talking on the phone is still terrifying. Email all the way.
- Never leave a room empty handed. Anyone who knows me knows I am chronically messy, but this helps me to keep some form of order, as does…
- Declutter. Seriously, I hate cleaning. As soon as I win the lottery I am hiring a cleaner (and paying them like £100 per hour, see my next point). I suddenly discovered a brilliant theory: the less stuff you own, the less you have to clean! I am still working on this, but I am now at a stage where most of the stuff I own, I absolutely love. As William Morris said: “Have nothing in your home which is neither beautiful or useful.”
- Be nice to everyone, from CEO to cleaner. I have done some seriously shitty jobs in my life (quite literally), and I have been treated by some customers like something I found on my shoe. Not cool. Just because someone has a six figure pay check as opposed to six pounds per hour, does not make them any less worthy of your time and respect. Some of the people who earn the least work the hardest (#givecarersapayrise.)
- Money is just energy. This is something I’m really working on, but it does help. It’s not real, its an invented medium which we use to exchange for goods and services. Most of the money in banks isn’t even really there. Yes, we need it, but it is NOT the most important thing in life. Time is precious; don’t waste it trying to earn another pay rise.
- It’s ok to say no. You matter. Being a yes man just sucks your energy from your core, and means you do everything half heartedly, instead of what you love one hundred percent.
- Planes are absolutely freezing. Wear layers. Also, take your shoes off BEFORE you get to security, and don’t wear the entire contents of your jewellery box.
- Education is a precious thing, and should be respected. Never ever be ashamed of trying to learn, of asking a question, of being interested. I read an amazing comment which has stuck with me: “Never mock someone who pronounces a word wrong. It means they learned it by reading.” Don’t dumb yourself down; we all have amazing potential if we allow ourselves.
- In your bag, always carry a portable phone charger, wet wipes, sanitary protection, a pen and spare hair bobbles. You never know when you might be a strangers saviour.
- Take photos. I know, I know, we live in a society saturated by social media. But seriously, take photos and videos. I have had some amazing experiences unearthing old videos, and hearing the voices of those who have long left this earth. Placing photos of my siblings and cousins and aunts and uncles side by side and exclaiming at the resemblance. Asking my granddads photo for advice. Smiling as I remember a forgotten day at a theme park with old friends. Take photos.
- Go with the flow. What’s for you shall not pass you by. People come and go, in and out of your life for a reason. Yes, sometimes it hurts like hell, but realistically, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change it. Fight like hell for the things you can change, and release anything which no longer serves you.
- You are a precious, unique human. On a planet of 7 billion, there is NO ONE else like you, and that is your superpower. You are a totally unique cluster of cells and processes and thoughts and dreams. You also have far more power than you think you do, so use it wisely, and do good with your badass self.
- It is none of your business what other people think of you. You can’t change other people, so just try to be the best you. Apologise when you are wrong, and ask how you can make it better. Cry if you’re sad or happy, and enjoy the feeling of being alive. Ask questions, roll in leaves, throw snowballs, play with your dog, answer a childs questions, eat the pizza, do the extra round of shots (not always the best idea…) Just be one hundred percent, unapologetically you, and see what happens. (Obviously the law applies here: “And it harm none, do what ye will.”
- (Just because its crucial). Animals are amazing. Protect them, respect them and love them. They are superior to us in every way.
See you on the other side folks,