20 things I learnt in my 20s
On Saturday it will be my 30th birthday and when I think back to the beginning of my last decade I am both exactly the same and totally transformed. 30 is a bit daunting if only because it feels like the decade where you become a 'real' adult. Ok I got married in my 20s and that's quite a grown up thing to do but mostly being married consists of Dan and I behaving like children and occasionally doing necessary responsible things.
My 30s is growing my business, having a family, currently doing up an actual grown-up house with a proper garden! Ironically, how old did 30 feel 10 years ago as I ushered in my 20s at a pub down the road from my university halls. Although it all seems so daunting, when I reflect on what I have learnt and how far I have come since those more laid-back days I have to admit I'm probably more prepared than I realise.
I am almost over-whelmed with excitement at what this next decade will hold and instead of trying to imagine it, or set myself goals for the year ahead, I thought I would remind myself of how much more I know now than I did 10 years ago. This list is far from advice, but just a collection of the main things I have come to see in the unbelievably exciting, roller-coaster of a decade I called my 20s.
Dan and I will be spending the weekend with my family and besties in a beautiful house in the country, with lots of wintery activities and a little party (photos to follow).
I hope you enjoy my musings and have a wonderful weekend too. Let me know what the biggest lessons of your 20s are and those of you already in your 30s, I'd love to hear how awesome it is!
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff. For most people your 20s is the time when you first really experience loss, grief, a tragedy that makes you look at the world in a different way. Each experience is so unique but for me the lasting mark it has left is this. If you won't remember it in a year, it isn't a problem.
2. Never under-estimate the importance of drinking enough water. This is one of the many pieces of advice that adults give you as a child, but oh how true. It's really only in the last couple of years that I've truly appreciated how wonderful water is and how much we actually need every day.
3. Trust your gut. It is there for a reason and it knows. If only our mind had half the knowledge our gut does. If you have 'that feeling', don't ignore it.
4. Most people are doing the best they can. In most cases people are just behaving in the only way they can. Even if they're mean, weak, selfish, remember if they knew how to do it differently, they probably would.
5. Your natural hair colour is probably nicer than you think. I don't have the most striking hair colour. Once upon a time it was really blonde (see photo above, aged 2) now it is not so blonde. So since I was 17 I added the blonde. It's only in the past couple of years as I've visited the hairdresser far less often that I've discovered my natural colour again, and yeah I still have some bleachy ends to add some brightness but the natural colour I've got is nowhere near as bad as I had thought.
6. You literally are what you eat. Another cliche that turns out to be true. I've spent a lot of my twenties learning about health and food and the relationship they have and it's one I cannot ignore.
7. If something really matters, go for it. You will succeed. There will be lots of things in life you fancy doing, or like the sound of but if something really matters to you, if you have a dream, that dream is worth pursuing. I have come to realise that determination is the one thing that will make the difference between being where you are now and where you want to be in the future.
8. Two ears, one mouth, Emily. Inevitably a lot of the lessons on this list are things my parents taught me and I only really came to realise by myself with time. This one comes courtesy of my Dad 'Two ears, one mouth Emily'. The only man in a family of very chatty women. I'm definitely joint first with my Mum. It is possibly the simplest and greatest piece of advice on this list. You know what you think, but how will you ever learn, grow or show respect for others if you can't truly hear what they think. Thanks Daddy.
9. Doing something for another person is usually the best way to get over your problems. Altruism makes you happy, even if you're not that happy to begin with, and if you're helping another, you're not thinking about your own worries. Sometimes this gives your mind enough of a rest to figure it out or forget about it.
10. There is beauty in ever age. I suppose none of us will really know this for sure until the end, but as I've grown I have realised that moments should be cherished and not wished away. Nor should we fear the future. Who knows how wonderful it might be to know everything you will know at 70?
11. Always take your make-up off before bed. Just a good idea. Let your skin breathe. It will thank you.
12. Both comfort and style matter when getting dressed but definitely don’t forget comfort. When you're 15 comfort and dressing don't really have a relationship. Maybe that's because your comfortable in everything. I don't remember. However past your teenage years being too cold is unpleasant, as is having wet feet or not being dressed for your environment. So whilst I will always shop with my style in mind, I will never get dressed without my comfort in mind.
13. Fear will probably always be there but you can choose to believe in love. Fear; totally inevitable, occasionally imperative, mostly annoying. We are so rarely afraid of being eaten by tigers or being drowned in a flood that fear puts its energy to other more pointless tasks like the fear of getting fat, or the fear of not being liked, or rich or a success. All in all very tiring, but also a natural instinct unfortunately redirected. I spent a while trying to fight fear but it's fairly clear it's not going anywhere for any of us, so flooding your mind and heart with love, every time you feel the fear seems like a more practical solution.
14. Buy cheap, buy twice. Even five years ago I wouldn't have spent very much money on anything. I didn't have very much money, but then I don't have very much money now (we just bought a house) but what's also changed is that whilst I can still appreciate a cashmere jumper or goose down pillow as much as the next person, I don't really love stuff anymore and I'd certainly rather have way less, high quality stuff than lots of anything. When you've moved house every year for three years you soon start to realise that most possessions are just more stuff to carry and tidy.
15. TV is definitely a waste of time. It's such an easy way to relax in the evening, even though I'm not sure it's actually that relaxing but boy does it rob you of the time you want to be spending on other things.
16. Move every day, your body really wants you to. I have a desk job, at home, and am very guilty of not actually following this lesson, but I do believe it to be true. We weren't made to sit.
17. Planning can get you a lot of places, but planning is almost never how the truly great stuff happens. It's so funny to realise how almost all of the things I am truly grateful for have happened entirely of their own accord. I won't say by accident because I don't really believe in accidents. So yes, I'll make a business plan and definitely a project plan for the renovation, but I know my life will be busy taking shape, whilst I'm making these other plans.
18. Sometimes it’s just better to say nothing. I like to talk (see 8) and I almost always have an opinion but I have learnt recently, courtesy of a husband with lots of opinions, that sometimes my opinion doesn't need to be shared and saying anything will just end in tears.
19. Whenever you find yourself being unkind to yourself, think about your five year old self. Would you say that to them? You are still that person and always will be. I've thought about this much more recently. How often do I judge, scold or criticise myself? How often do I create standards for myself that I cannot or do not meet and then berate myself. This must stop. We must be more gracious and realise that we are doing our best and that in the end people will remember how kind and happy we were, not how much we achieved.
20. Hold yourself to a standard of grace not perfection. I deliberated about adding this final lesson, because in truth I'm not sure I've learnt it yet. This one is my personal Everest and probably is for many of you reading. I don't know quite how to live by this motto but I do believe that on the other side lies a happier existence. Maybe that'll be something to master in my 30s...