In six weeks time I’ll be forty years old and thus about to enter a new decade of my life. And even though I feel positive and content about the approaching phase I still always find that these particular big milestones turn me into an incredibly philosophical and contemplative person, as well as sending me into a slight panic about exactly *what* I have achieved with my life so far.
I’ve been through many, many chapters and stages of life already. I’ve been an innocent child, a moody teenager, a scholarly student. Then a determined career woman, a new mother of twins and now I’m a blogger/freelance writer. I’ve had, and experienced, some serious highs, as well as some sober lows. I have therefore learnt a lot in those forty years about friends, love, life, work, family and success.
But the one thing that I have learnt the most about is myself. And boy, has it taken me a long, long, long time to get here. As I approach forty years old I feel as though I now finally ‘get myself’, as well as knowing what I want (and need) from this crazy ride called life.
So here, as my new age decade approaches, I present to you the twenty things that I’d go back and tell my twenty year old self. The lessons I’d tell her before she embarks on some big decisions and some important moments in her life.
1. Forget the perfect ‘life plan’ you have in your head of career, house, husband, babies, happily ever after. It does not work out as smoothly or as succinctly as that. Instead, focus on current moments and feelings and concentrate on enjoying yourself as much as you can. Life plans in reality do not work out like they read on paper. Life is not that straightforward.
2. You’ll never, ever buy a bottle of Southern Comfort again. It will forever be the drink that you can’t face after *that night*.
3. You can’t control everything in your life, and that’s okay. You can’t make your body get pregnant the exact moment you want it to, you can’t stop men behaving in a certain way. You can think that things will be just fine (because they will) and those things out of your control will eventually work out in their own way.
4. Be kinder to your parents. Of course they’re flawed, but when you are a middle-aged parent yourself you will realise how hard raising a family is, the overwhelming feeling of love you have for your children, but that equally, you can never do the right thing. Your parents love you. And they will loyally stick with you and support you through every single fuck up you make along the way.
5. Enjoy being able to hold your bladder all day and all night without it even crossing your mind. One day you won’t be able to pop to the corner shop without needing a wee first.
6. You will try many different fashions, outfits and styles throughout the years and still end up feeling most comfortable in a pair of jeans and a good knit.
7. Stop taking make-up off with baby wipes. You’ll only end up forking out a lot of money on skincare later on and curse your younger self for not giving a damn. It only takes a few minutes to cleanse, tone and moisturise.
8. You have a fabulous body (despite what you now think). Look after it, embrace it and cherish it, for it will do amazing things later on in your life, such as growing two new lives, at the same time.
9. Even though you don’t pursue a career in writing, because you don’t feel as though it is going to give you a stable job, nor do you have any idea of how to break into it, you will end up doing it via another form, one day. It’s your passion and deep down you know you feel drawn to it. Don’t ignore it. It’s part of you and even though you’ll try many other vocations you will still end up coming back to it.
10. Your relationships with men will always be complicated because you are too. The best relationship you ever have with someone else is when you learn to be happy with yourself first.
11. Enjoy running for the bus without effort, because one day you will run and your knee will go.
12. Friendship is so important. Cherish it; put it high up on your priority list. Yes friends will come and go from your life, and you may let some go that you shouldn’t have, but you will eventually realise that friends are crucial towards making you happy. Don’t be afraid to let them in. Don’t always cancel on plans because they’ll get fed up and stop asking. You absolutely need female company in your life; they will enrich it. Some will make you laugh out loud, some will be good listeners, some will be your rock, some will simply be good for banter. But you can’t navigate your turbulent and tempestuous life without them.
13. Laugh more. Do really stupid things. Learn to take the piss out of yourself, a lot. Be exceedingly silly. Humour will get you through life in the best way.
14. Spend some time alone. You’ll end up finding more about yourself than bouncing from one relationship to another and being confused about who you are as a person. It’s okay to be on your own; it isn’t scary. You’re a really capable woman and you’ve got this.
15. Those small and trivial hangovers that last only a few hours on a Sunday morning suddenly begin to cultivate and become something that take so long to recover from that you can’t even be bothered going out and getting smashed in the first place. Yes, really.
16. When you finally meet the biggest love of your life, you’ll be glad you found him, because he was so worth it. He’ll come along right at the worst moment though (when you’re settled with someone else) and won’t be at all what you thought you were looking for.
17. In twenty years time you will still be obsessed with cheese, Christmas, pop music, taking photos and the countryside. You still won’t be able to sing.
18. Trying to strive for perfection is tiring, boring, dull and arduous. It also doesn’t exist. Ever. You never stop looking and you never, ever feel complete. Instead, focus on improving your happiness and of the people around you. Do you want to be remembered for how clean your home was, or how good your tan was? Or instead how you cared about people, enhanced and improved their lives and how much joy you brought to others? Be a good person. Stop striving so much for the superficial and materialistic parts of life, and instead put energy into relationships and love.
19. Read more, watch more, listen to more. Take it all in. Culture is something that will develop you and your mind. Make it part of your life.
20. If you do mess up (and you will), that’s okay. Just pick yourself up and move on. Everyone gets things wrong. It’s what makes us all human. But do learn from these mistakes. The mistake will not define you; what will define you is how you take those errors, learn from them and use them to become a better person. And you will turn out to be a much more improved, happier and well-rounded person as a result of everything you experience and go through during the next twenty years.
Love, Jess x