33 FOR 33: IT’S TAKEN ME 33 YEARS TO LEARN…

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Today is my 33rd birthday and it got me thinking about the last 20 years and what I wish I’d known at the time. Here are 33 nuggets, one for each year:

Sun In is not a good idea.

Plucking your eyebrows similarly. There was a mean boy comment about a “monobrow” when I was 10. Later that night and for years after I armed myself with my mum’s tweezers to a terrible end: comedy brows; one short and flat, the other pointed. I looked permanently inquisitive/surprised. I am still trying to grow them back two decades later.

Never sell your girlfriends short for your current flame. Or any flame for that matter. Luckily, a lesson learned early on and, even more luckily for me, I have fantastic friends who could see beyond my (hopefully) transient stupidity.

Don’t choose subjects for your GCSEs and A Levels that you feel you”should” do. Choose those that interest you. It’s far easier to work at something that captivates you and ignites a passion rather than those you do to make a point. Maths for me. I should have done history.

Same for a degree. Choose a degree subject that really interests you. I’d love to have done English Literature, perhaps my favourite subject at school. Remember you are paying for it too and for years afterwards.

By the same token, don’t dwell on the past.

Rejection clouds sometimes have the most silver of linings. My plan was to be a lawyer in Newcastle or Leeds. It didn’t happen and resulted in me taking an unplanned gap year. I’m so glad it happened now, although I balled my eyes out hysterically at the time. I’d never have moved to London or met M otherwise.

Travel as much as you can. During my gap year I travelled to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Before that I’d probably been to France and Greece. It was eye opening; climbing volcanoes in Guatemala, diving in the Great Barrier Reef and Roatan, hiking glaciers in New Zealand. Meeting so many people, seeing so many amazing things.

Trust your instincts; you are stronger than you think. Nine days into travelling through south-east Asia by myself, I felt unwell like I’d never felt before. It was 2am. I was in a hostel. There was no doctor available and I was told I’d have to call for a ambulance. Trusting myself and insisting that an ambulance was called was the best decision I have ever made – I had my about to burst appendix removed only a handful of hours later. When I had recovered a few days later, I caught my pre-booked flight to Australia and carried on my travels. To this day they are some my happiest and most treasure memories.

Always have faith in people. I was by myself when I had my appendix removed yet people came visit me from the hostel. The most lovely lady who ran the hostel, Dao, moved me to a private room on the ground floor and cooked food for me. They were kindnesses that I have never forgotten.

Don’t be afraid to accept help. We all need it sometimes.

Kindness, niceness and manners costs nothing and get you a lot farther than you’d think.

Don’t wish your time away. Be present.

Participate. Be involved. Don’t be a spectator.

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I’m not keen on being underwater, taking the googles and breathing apparatus off was not my idea of fun at all when diving but I went on to get my PADI. It is one of my proudest achievements. That and a marathon.

If in any doubt about cutting your hair. DON’T DO IT. I never learn this one, no matter how many times I do it.

If people underestimate you, that’s their problem, not yours.

Trust your instinct. It’s almost always right.

If there’s something you don’t know the answer to, ask or look it up. I’m still looking up words in the dictionary and asking M what things mean.

Don’t travel just for the photos. Have the experience. I saw people in Cape Town who went up Table Mountain, took a few pictures next to the cable car exit point and then travelled back down 15 minutes later. What a shame.

If you have something, use it, wear it our. That special day rarely comes. Derive joy from it now.

Write a journal.

Keep a collection. Ten years ago I started collecting Christmas decorations from places I had travelled to. One day I would like to be able to decorate a tree entirely with those baubles.

In the words of Booboo from Yogi’s first Christmas, you’ve gotta have hope.

It’s surprising how much better and shower and brushing your teeth can make you feel.

Make time for your family and friends. There is always time for a phone call or a message.

Buy the best you can afford. Invariably buying cheap means buying twice.

Dont worry about being overdressed.

Work hard.

Energy creates energy.

***

And some fab ones from my 92 year old gran:

Throw another pea the soup! I.e. Why the hell not?!

And my favourite comment (not advice and over the phone):

Gran: “Have you put weight on?”
Me: “Why do you ask that?”
Gran: “Well you’re old now!”

Thanks Gran, I love you!

Finally, her favourite, and mine too:

Happiness is catching, we get it from one another.

***

I wonder what the next 20 years will bring?

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