The One with The Birthday: 28 lessons in as many years.

Birthdays in your late twenties are kind of weird. While I still enjoy them, I feel like every year brings with it an added pressure to be doing more with your life: this year’s not-so-gentle reminder to achieve. This feeling is, I accept, a result of bowing down to certain outdated social pressures whose threads, though increasingly fragile, remain intact. Like big, unwelcome cobwebs.

When are you going to do all those things you thought you would ten years ago, they whisper.

Who cares you have all those things we said you should have – a stable job, a boyfriend, a mortgage? You still haven’t cartwheeled across a beach in Costa Rica, or volunteered at a husky farm in Finland, they say.

You haven’t learned to surf (and what’s further, surf while the sun sets on an empty beach in Paraguay?). You haven’t walked the Brooklyn Bridge and you haven’t gone to live in Paris for a year like your 16 your old self said she would.

And what does life even MEAN, these cobwebs say, if you haven’t done everything you wanted?

And then there’s the loudest whisper. Quiet, but insistant.

“Life is passing you by.”

You’re not getting any younger, you’re reminded. If you still want kids in a few years you better get a shift on… Time waits for no-one, and you still haven’t done it all…

So in light of my recent 28th birthday on this big old planet, here are as many lessons I’ve learned so far along this winding, beautiful, pain in the arse, breathtaking, gorgeous, painful, exhilarating road of life. When I’m experiencing that Great Millennial Affliction of not being “enough”, or “having it all”, I offer myself the following advice:

  1. You’re here. And as long as you’re here, you’re still in the game.
  2. What you have done, you’ve done for a reason. It was your priority at the time, and it’ll stand you in good stead for whatever choices you make down the line.
  3. What’s for you won’t go by you. You want something enough and you’ll make it happen.
  4. No-one else is you. You are your USP. Use it.
  5. Never compare yourself to others. They don’t have what you do – not the other way round.
  6. Choose your friends wisely. Good ones are surprisingly hard to find, but you’ll know them by the way they bring you up, not pull you down.
  7. On that same token, distance yourself from toxic people. If they’re all about the drama and less about the substance, they’re never gonna be there for you when you need it – factoid.
  8. Be kind to others. You don’t always know what people are going through.
  9. Life is about compromise. Nobody Has It All. Including you. Choose the things that are the most important, and the rest will fall into place.
  10. Nobody else is having an easy ride while you’re struggling. Everyone’s facing some kind of battle – try not to be a martyr.
  11. It’s OK not to be OK. Seek help when you need it. Silence is a killer and taboo is outdated.
  12. Mistakes happen. Learn from them and do not beat yourself up.
  13. Question things. If you don’t agree – say so. You matter.
  14. Let people in.
  15. (But make sure they’re the right people.)
  16. ‘What if’ are two words that will kill you. Unleash your inner ABBA and take a chance on life.
  17. Get a kitten.
  18. You can’t appreciate travel without somewhere to come home to.
  19. Be the ‘yes gal’ as often as is responsible. It’ll lead you on many adventures. If not, it’ll give you stories.
  20. Don’t ever care what people think of you. It’s not about them.
  21. Don’t dwell on what you haven’t yet done. Celebrate the things you have (and there are plenty.)
  22. Practice patience. It can get you to all sorts of places.
  23. Don’t run away with the idea of something. It almost never lives up to the reality. Living in a world of unreachable ideas is the key to heartbreak. Keep your mind open and keep it real.
  24. It’s OK to be a dreamer but don’t distance yourself from reality, or the people who are right in front of you.
  25. Listening to classic road trip playlists can lift your mood massively.
  26. Knowledge is power – soak that shit up and you’ll be so much more prepared to take life on.
  27. Just like how you make mistakes, so do other people. Forgive.
  28. This is one I’m still working on but believing in yourself is paramount to living a fuller life. (Enter R. Kelly, stage left.)
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