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25 Things I’ve Learned In 25 Years

On April 7th (last Friday), I turned 25. A whole quarter-century! Celebrations were pretty tame and standard this year. On the Thursday, Caz and I went to see Ghost in the Shell because I have the biggest crush on Michael Pitt, and wanted to see his face on a huge screen. I know it’s been panned by a lot of people, but I personally really enjoyed it. It was visually stunning, and good at telling the story to people who haven’t experienced the manga.

For my actual birthday, I just went to lunch with my mum, brother, nephew, and Caz, which was nice! I didn’t really do anything huge because I’m saving money for when I go to London in May, which will remain cloaked in mystery for now. I got a bunch of money for my birthday too, so that’s gone towards the savings. I’m really excited! I’m also excited because my Nan bought me tickets to the Harry Potter studio tour in July. I’ve never been, and have wanted to go ever since it opened. It’s going to be awesome!

This post won’t be full of whimsy and positivity and yes, it’s mostly opinions formed by me in my years of life, but I’m trying to be as realistic as I can. Life is rich with positive and negative experiences, and I wanted to try to reflect that when I was thinking about things for this list. I’m also ashamed to admit how long it actually took me to come up with 25 things that I’ve learned. I drew from advice I give people younger than me when they ask for my opinion, and also things that I’ve learned about myself as I’ve grown.

25 things I've learned in 25 years

1. Don’t be afraid to cut negative people out of your life.

For years, I let people treat me terribly because I was too afraid of being alone, or ruining friendships. But eventually, I got too old to pander to people and let them walk all over me. You’re not a terrible person for cutting off people who just drag you down and make you feel miserable. Sometimes, you have to be selfish and ask yourself what this friendship/relationship is doing for you, and if it’s doing nothing but causing pain, you have every right to end it and walk away. It took me so long to learn this, and to accept it as something I could and should do.

2. Study hard, and never stop learning.

I am naturally intelligent, but my problem is that I was complacent and lazy in school/uni. I never had to study so I never learned how to discipline myself when it came to coursework and exam revision. I could have done so much better if I’d applied myself, but because I never had to try, by the time it mattered I didn’t have the skills to excel. I don’t have bad grades, I just never reached my full potential. And I’ll regret that every day. So I tell everybody younger than me to work hard at school/university and be the best they possibly can.

The other part of this one is to never, ever stop learning. I cannot understand or abide people who finish school and then go out of their way to not learn. There is so much wonder in the world, so many different things to know. I’m constantly trying to learn things, evidenced by how I’m a font of useless trivia, and did-you-knows. I’ve been told that makes me interesting to speak to, because I like to pass on things that I’ve learned to other people. I can’t imagine not seeking out new things to learn and understand. I want to know everything.

3. Life never, ever turns out how you expect it to.

I thought (rather naively) that by 25, I would have a decent job, my own place, and know what I was doing in life. It hasn’t gone that way at all. No matter what you want or expect for life, I can almost guarantee that it won’t turn out that way. Priorities also change, so what you wanted at 18 might not be what you want when you’re in your twenties. I’m disappointed that I haven’t been ‘successful’ yet in life, but on the flip side, I never thought I would have spent 2 months in the USA when I was 22. Life is full of surprises!

4. It’s ok to not be ok.

There’s so much pressure to always be positive and not ‘bring down’ other people’s moods, and I feel like that’s a really unhealthy way to think. There’s such a culture of holding back and not allowing ourselves to feel bad about something. It’s completely ok to not be happy all of the time. The people who actually care about you would rather you were honest about how you’re feeling, believe me. I’m not saying to bare your soul to every single person, but don’t hide away from the people who know and love you the most. Additionally (and I’m still working on this one), try not to beat yourself up if you have a bad day. When I’m feeling exhausted and unproductive, I have a bad habit of tormenting myself over it, and it’s really unhelpful. I’m trying hard to be nicer to myself.

5. Instagram life vs real life.

Think about the work that goes into your Instagram posts. I’ll bet you take several photos, get the lighting sorted, filter/edit it so it looks just right, and then post it! We tend to forget that basically everybody goes through this process of selection and editing, and it leads to feelings of jealousy and inadequacy. You must remember that social media is where people show the polished, thought-out version of themselves, and that you are also guilty of doing the same. I’m forever feeling envious of the people that I follow (especially those that get to travel a lot), and I could do with remembering this one myself a lot of the time.

6. Money can go a long way towards buying happiness.

I’m tired of the ‘money can’t buy happiness’ thing. To an extent, it totally can. Money pays for shelter, security, food and drink, health, travel, and nice things. It makes it so that you don’t have to worry about where your next meal is coming from, or whether you can afford to go to the dentist this month. I don’t know, I feel like I’d be a lot happier if I could afford to live alone and travel more. I might be wrong.

7. Water is so important – stay hydrated!!

I’m sorry, I’m a Water Bore. As a kid, I never drank water (and by kid, I mean all the way up until age 20), and wondered why I felt so crummy a lot of the time – I’d get terrible, swimming headaches, and feel lethargic by the end of the day. Since I made a concerted effort to drink at least 1 litre of water a day (2 is my daily goal), my body has felt so much cleaner and refreshed. I no longer get swimming headaches because I don’t let myself get that dehydrated any more.

8. Always be open to other people’s opinions and experiences. Be open minded full stop.

This also ties in with the learning thing. Other people and other cultures are so interesting to hear about. I’m not a religious person, but I love reading about religious belief on an academic level. I like to hear perspectives from people of different race, sexuality, and culture to myself. It makes life so much more interesting and exciting. A lot of the world’s problems are caused by intolerance, and I feel like if people were less narrow-minded, everybody would get on a whole lot better. Don’t belittle others for what they think, feel, or believe in. And don’t let others make you feel like crap for your beliefs.

9. Travel is absolutely worth it.

Ok, I may be biased on this one. I’m at my happiest when I’m exploring somewhere new. I love to travel, the whole process of it is exciting. Planning a trip, the physical travelling, and being in a whole new place with so much to see and experience. I feel like it’s so good for you, body and soul. It also can be linked back to the last point on this list – travelling allows you to learn more about other people and cultures different to yours. It opens your mind and expands your tolerance and understanding. I wish more than anything that I had the resources to travel so much more than I’m able to right now. I feel like there’s a whole world I’m missing out on.

10. Mental health is just as important as physical health.

This one took me forever to learn, because society as a whole still doesn’t hold mental illness up to the same sympathetic standards as physical illnesses. It’s unfortunate. But if you do suffer from a mental illness, the most important thing you have to learn is that it is just as valid as any physical illness. Taking care of your mental health is so, so important – not doing so can actually end up having a physical toll on you, and you stop enjoying life as you should. Take care of your brain as well as your body!

11. You don’t get stuff just because you hope for it.

Life is not easy. Apart from very, very few exceptions, everyone works their ass off to get the things they want. You may scoff at the Instagram model who gets thousands of pounds for ‘just taking selfies’, but you haven’t seen her hustle for years, perfect taking portraits of her outfits, reach out to influencers and brands to get the word out, and all the rest of it. It’s easy to deride somebody who seems to ‘do nothing’ and make a living from it, but more often than not, they’ve put in work every day for years before getting any results. It’s like anything you want in life – a career, experiences, or even just material things. You don’t just get given stuff, you have to work for it and earn it.

12. Be honest, but not brutal.

I despise the phrase ‘brutally honest’. More often than not, people use it as a pass to be a dick, and then as a defence when someone reacts badly. “You obviously can’t deal with the truth!” No, there are ways to be truthful and tactful. There’s no need to be hurtful just for the sake of it. I do think that honesty is very important, though. I find that people appreciate a painful truth so much more than a lie. It’s just more constructive, and I don’t see why people feel the need to lie to others, especially people close to them. Linked to this is to be true to yourself. Be open about what you enjoy, what you hate, and what is important to you. There’s nothing worse than someone who changes their personality to benefit those they’re around at the time.

13. Don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic about what you love.

Have you ever been talking excitedly about something and someone says “Calm down!” to you? Yeah, I despise that. I don’t know when it became ‘cool’ to never be excited or express any interest in life, but it’s really rude to shoot down someone who is talking about something they enjoy. I love it when people are passionate. Even if I haven’t got the slightest interest in the subject, I still listen and learn from them because of how infectious someone’s excitement can be. Apathy is so overrated, and I don’t know why people think it’s a good trait to have. I’m only apathetic when I’m extremely depressed so, for me, it’s a ridiculously negative feeling.

14. I think exercise is horrible and only do it out of necessity.

I will never, ever understand people that talk and talk about exercising and going to the gym and calories and all the rest of it. This is a personal preference – I fully understand that some people have an interest in exercise and sports, and that it’s exciting to them. I just.. Don’t get it. I exercise only to lose weight and try to get into shape again. I’m not interested in it at all, and I don’t enjoy it. I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as having problems with the cartilage in my knees, so exercise actually causes me a lot of pain and misery if I overdo it. Maybe if it weren’t for that, I’d like it a lot more. Who knows?

15. A lot of what your mother told you was right.

Occasionally, I’ll experience something in life and think ‘oh shit, Mum told me this’. It’s so hard to admit that all of your Mum’s annoying sayings and experienced advice was right. But it usually is. If you’re still a young ‘un, I would suggest taking a lot more stock in what your mother tells you. Even if it’s annoying and a drag right now, you’ll eventually realise that she’s speaking from experience and is trying her best to forewarn and forearm you.

16. I never want children, but I love being an aunt.

I’m not maternal. I hear a baby crying in a shop and it just makes me want to get out of there. Small kids annoy me because they’re always sticky and they have really loud voices. I’m not even slightly interested in having children, because all I seem to hear from parents is how tiring and annoying and disgusting it can be. I know that’s not what all parents feel like all the time, but it’s not really encouraging to hear more complaints than you hear good things.

I do, however, love being an aunt. I get to have the kids when they’re fun. As soon as they make a smell, or start whingeing, I can just.. Give them back. And that suits me fine. It’s ok to not want children, even though (especially if you’re female) everyone still seems to think that’s something you HAVE to do in life. There’s nothing wrong with you if you don’t want to be a parent, and it’s gross that people try to make you feel that way.

17. University isn’t a key to the door any more.

This is probably the hardest lesson I’ve learned in my life, the most bitter pill I’ve had to swallow. As recently as the 90s, degrees were a pretty sure-fire way to kickstart a career, or at least get a foot in the door of the industry you wanted to be in. Because so many people now have access to university, degrees are a dime a dozen and the already-strained job market cannot accommodate so many graduates. It’s a sad reality of the current economic climate. I graduated from university in 2014, and I haven’t used my degree yet. I thought it would be helpful, and the beginning to a great career. It’s been pretty crushing to realise that it’s not the ‘key to the door’ any more. It’s also hard to feel like you’ve wasted so much money and time on something that is essentially useless.

18. It’s really hard to make (non-online) friends as an adult.

Unless you’re naturally a very confident, friendly person, you will struggle to make friends as an adult. It’s easier in school or university, because you kind of have to make friends, and there are so many people around you that it’s easier to just strike up conversations. As an adult, especially one who isn’t very confident or doesn’t go out much, it’s really hard. Things are a bit different now, in that it’s so easy to meet like-minded people online and make friends that way. But it’s very easy to get lonely when you just have ‘virtual’ friends. Whether we like it or not, humans are social creatures, and it’s difficult to feel good when you’re alone most of the time.

19. You’re allowed to feel sad about inadequacies in your life, without it being ‘unfair’ to someone worse off.

It really, really pisses me off when people are quick to point out how ‘other people have it worse than you’. Somebody else’s suffering does not negate the way you feel right now. It’s like turning to someone who’s just won the lottery and saying, “Yeah, well Bill Gates is a billionaire – he’s way better off than you.” It’s just a shitty thing to do. If you’re unhappy with aspects of your life, you are valid and you are allowed to feel that way. For example, I’ve been really depressed lately for fully circumstantial reasons. I’m unhappy in my job because I don’t make enough money to move out, be independent, or do anything I’m interested in. Somebody telling me there are people worse off than me is not helpful to me; it just makes me feel ungrateful when really.. Why shouldn’t I strive for more in my life than just scraping by, living in the box-room in my mother’s house? Why shouldn’t I work to better myself and feel happier in my life? My situation isn’t the worst in the world, but it’s the worst to me. How is reminding me of people worse off helpful or constructive? It isn’t. It’s just making me feel worse.

20. Everybody’s just winging it.

Do you ever look around and think that everybody else has all their shit together, and are doing so well and being so successful in life? Honestly, they’re probably just as scared and confused as you are. Most people I’ve met and spoken to, from all walks of life, from all sorts of careers, aren’t quite sure how they got there. Of course, they worked hard and made choices, but most of the time they were flying blind. Nobody knows what they’re doing in life, we’re all just trying to make it somehow. And I find that incredibly comforting.

21. Reach out for help when you’re struggling.

Don’t be a martyr. No matter what you’re going through, there is someone, somewhere that can help you. Even just talking something through with another person can be helpful. This can apply to any situation be it work, social, school, physical/mental health, or home life. If you’re sinking on your own, it’s not a bad thing to reach out for someone to help buoy you up, or give you the resources to help yourself. It’s uncomfortable to ask for help, and difficult to make the leap. But in the end, you’ll be glad you did.

22. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Don’t let people treat you like shit because you’re too polite. Be polite and civil up until the point that they’re not. As soon as somebody starts being abusive towards you, even if it’s just something they’re saying that’s upsetting you, stand your ground. Tell them that it’s not kind and not acceptable for them to be treating you like that. Of course, I’m not saying get into fights and altercations all the time, but if somebody (especially if they’re meant to be a friend/family member) is treating you awfully, you ought to speak up. If you don’t feel safe doing so, remember the last point on this list – reach out to somebody and tell them what’s happening.

23. Not everyone is going to like you.

It’s a sad fact, I know. You’re so brilliant! Unfortunately, not everybody you meet will see that. This one takes a long time to accept, but sometimes people just don’t ‘click’. Unless they’re openly and ridiculously hateful from the off, the best thing is to try not to take it personally. You’re just incompatible (or they have a stick up their ass). There’s nothing you can do about that. If it’s somebody you absolutely cannot avoid, always be polite and cordial with them. It’s not being two-faced, it’s being an adult. It’s making things more comfortable for everybody – no one wants to be in a room with snarky comments and a hateful atmosphere.

24. Don’t take your metabolism for granted!

I was a skinny kid. I was a skinny teenager. Pretty much as soon as I hit 21, I piled weight on. My amazing metabolism deserted me, probably when I needed it most (in university, when takeaways and alcohol were my diet). Now I’m finding it nigh impossible to shift the excess weight and it’s making me absolutely miserable. Please, please don’t take your speedy metabolism for granted, if you’re lucky enough to be born with one. Start getting into the habit of exercising and eating right, even though you don’t ‘need’ to yet. Because one day, it will fail you and you won’t have the discipline to stop getting bigger. It happened to me.

25. There is no time limit on life events

Get a job/career, save up money to buy a house, get married, travel the world, have a family, etc. We still seem to put a time limit on big life events. Like you have to be married by x age, or you’re a useless spinster. Unfortunately, all of these things take more time now, thanks to the recession and subsequent crap job market. Most people in my generation can’t afford to move into their own house; they’re either still at home, or they live with a bunch of other people. Similarly, most people I know aren’t in a long-term relationship because they don’t meet people (I also find Tinder etc are NOT a fix for this). Society is changing a lot in recent years, and I think people need to remember that instead of expecting people to move out at 18 like they could when everyone had a job and the housing market was a doddle to get into.

It took me a long time to write this (I’ve been drafting it for weeks), firstly because it was hard to come up with 25 important things that I’ve learned in life. It was also hard to think of things that could apply to most people, to make this more relatable to read. But it was also difficult because some of these ‘lessons’ have been painful and hard to learn for me. Life isn’t always positive. Unfortunately, I often find it’s far more negative than positive. I’m hoping one day I can turn that around.

What are your important life lessons? Have you learned anything different from this list? What are the experiences that taught you what you know? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Kayleigh x


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