21 is a significant age in my head because it’s one of the only ages past 16 that get’s a specific birthday card range. Here are 21 things I’ve learned as my 21st year on this planet comes to an end.
1. For every one shitty person, there are four incredible people.
There are a lot of people in life that are like the human equivalent of period cramps; you grit your teeth and think you have to put up with them because they’re just a natural part of life. Fortunately, not all people are like that. I’ve noticed that for every one person who is ignorant, rude, selfish; all or too much of the bad aspects of the human condition, there are always at least four other people I can rely on.
2. Sometimes you will be the shitty person.
None of us are innocent, we’ll sometimes be the shitty person. You’ve just got to hold on to that ‘sometimes’ and make sure it’s not constant.
3. The weird things in your life often turn out to be the best things.
So, when I was a kid I thought my family was really weird. As individuals they certainly are, but I was particularly focused on the dynamic. A lot of my friends had what’s referred to as ‘nuclear families’ and a lot of their family members were often really local and there was often a lot of them. My family looks more like this:
It actually doesn’t look that weird now I’ve made a chart. So, there are just six of us all together. My Dad is crossed out because I don’t see him and he did very little in regards to ‘raising’ me. That said, my mum and paternal grandparents get on very well and we’ve always been close, it’s almost as though my mum is their kid. I also have Jan, my sister Isobel’s mum, who I secretly refer to as my Lady-(read: betterthanactual)-Dad. I thought my family was weird because it’s so tiny and so unconventional in comparison to friends’, but really it’s one of the best things about my life. D’you know how many differing ideologies there are in a small family where no one was raised in the same sort of environment and barely anyone is actually related? Somewhere between 1,000 and 294850924852. I’ve learnt a lot from growing up with a ‘dysfunctional’ family and they’re each partly responsible for who I am today, so blame them.
4. There’s a difference between forgiveness and validation.
I always had a lot of issues with the idea of forgiving people because I thought it meant to validate them, to suddenly agree and be okay with what they’d done or said. But it doesn’t mean that at all. Forgiving someone is an internal process that allows you to be okay with your side of the situation, it doesn’t mean you relinquish your stance or opinion.
5. Whimsy and spontaneity > ‘A life plan’.
I’ve never had any idea what I’m doing or where I’m going. I’ve never had a life plan, I’ve never had an ultimate goal and it’s actually working out pretty well for me. A lot of the decisions I’ve made have been made on the spot depending on what I feel is the best option at the time and I’ve never regretted a single one of them. Making plans for a future you seems pointless when we’re always changing and transforming.
6. Maturity means managing your sleeping pattern.
The fact that I still go to sleep somewhere between 3 – 5am on a regular basis and never get enough sleep is a clear indicator to me that I am not responsible or mature enough to be considered a capable adult.
7. Consciously think about your ideologies.
Im’ma just get up on to my soapbox here, wait a minute… okay. Ahem. We’re born into a world where societal constructs have already been put in place and reinforced for centuries. When you’re growing up it’s easy to just think that the way you act and that your values are your own or that they are okay because they are the norm. That shouldn’t be the case. You should question and challenge your opinions, see if they are actually what you believe or what society has ingrained into your subconscious without you even realising it.
8. Always consider opposing opinions.
Every single human you meet is an infinite mind in a finite body, just like you. If you think about a time in your life where something significant happened to you, remind yourself that those other people with conflicting ideas to yours where also alive (most of the time anyway, unless you’re arguing with a child). They were doing something at that exact moment, they’re living their life right now. They have built up their perspectives and they are just as real as yours are. If we don’t consider opposing opinions, then we only have a segment of the understanding. You don’t have to change your opinion or agree with them, but it’ll help you see the entire argument as a whole.
9. Embrace the lame.
I have a serious lame streak. Not ~~ lol I’m so lame ~~ lame. Like I’m 21 and I carry an inhaler around with me at all times in case I have an asthma attack lame. I don’t like roller coasters and I like reading books like The Four Agreements. I make really obscure references that I know no one else will get like “Sheesh Y’all, Twas A Dream” all the time. I really like playing board games because I’m still mentally a seven year old. D’you know how awkward it is when someone texts “EVERYONES out 2nite where u at!?” and you’re sat having a tri-lame-tournament with your brother in which you play MGS, Scrabble and recite the first issue of The Amazing Spiderman to each other for points?
I’ve tried to hide the lame but the lame always seeps out eventually. The lame is a good 60% of who I am, and so I had to embrace the lame. I did try to be a bit ~~cooler~~ but I just can’t, it’s not me, and that’s fine.
10. Be self-aware.
I am incredibly opinionated and a big problem for me when I was a teenager was that I didn’t have a filter on those opinions. At all. I was annoying as Hell. If my friend was doing something stupid (or rather, I thought it was stupid), I’d tell them even when it had literally nothing to do with me. So I made a conscious effort to quit doing that because firstly, it’s a dick move and secondly, I was worried someone would end up murdering me.
I’m still very opinionated and I’m incapable of sugar coating stuff; I’m more of a salt in the wound person if anything. However, I know where the line is now and I try not to cross it. Being aware of it helps to keep down the number of arguments I get into, and probably crime rates.
11. Don’t compare yourself to others.
I am going to say this only once: you are a special snowflake. You do you.
12. Don’t make plans on a morning when you know you’ll be hungover.
The reverse of this would be don’t get drunk and stay up until 6am when you know you’re going to a fancy wedding the next morning. Bad idea. Don’t.
13. Go with your gut.
When making decisions, my gut has never failed me. So it’s a shame that the majority of the time I ignore it.
14. A relationship is not a necessity that will make you whole.
The Venn Diagram of ‘you’ and ‘love’ should be a circle. Mushy, I know, let’s move on. You don’t need to be in a relationship to be whole.
That said you can’t spoon yourself or just teleport Chinese food yet, so yeah it is nice to have somebody but partners should be an addition, a completely separate entity to yourself. It should be You + Them, not Yothemu: creepy-emotionally-dependent-hybrid-person.
This one always pops up in these kinds of things, huh? Because it’s true. I’ve been incredibly lucky growing up and was introduced to travel at a really young age. I’ve been to the Pyramids in Cairo, I’ve trekked through a rainforest in Cuba, and I reckon I could direct you to pretty much anywhere in Monaco or Cannes. I’ve lived in/ moved around the North-East Coast of America for weeks at a time, staying with either strangers or family out there. I’ve stayed in grotty hostels in Germany and sailed across The Atlantic Ocean to escape a hurricane. I think this has turned into me gloating a little bit. Experiencing differing cultures gave me things that staying at home would never have given me. You’ve got to see the world and meet as many different people as possible whilst you’re here.
16. Don’t let other people’s expectations and opinions shape or limit who you want to become.
Fortunately, I was raised in an environment where I had the freedom to make my own decisions most of the time. I was free to do whatever I pleased within reason and was always responsible for my own actions. This was not reflected in my academic life. Around the time I was choosing my GCSE classes I kind of sort of wanted to maybe be a designer for IKEA or somewhere like that. I had to pick four subjects, one of which had to be a language so one of them was already taken up with French. I liked History so that was a second box filled. I wanted to then take Art and Textiles, because that’s what you need to design cushions, right? My teachers weren’t so keen on the idea.
To be fair, no, I can’t draw faces and my still life pictures of fruit often just resembled deranged circles having a party. And yes, I did stab myself a couple of times on the sewing machines and I press down on the peddle like I’m racing in Formula One. But they bluntly said I shouldn’t take those classes and encouraged me to re-think my choices. So I ended up with RE & Philosophy (which was actually really enjoyable and I continued it into A Levels) and Geography, which was the worst class I have ever taken.
I’m happy that I’ve somehow managed to get to this point where I can call myself a Freelance Writer, even though I often feel as though I should be wearing a Fedora when I do, but I often wonder where I would be if the teachers had had a little more faith in my abilities. Or more importantly, if I hadn’t listened to them.
17. Be grateful for what you have.
This includes the little things of course, but also the big things. For instance, I was born in England. D’you know how many people would love to have been born in England? There are anglophiles, and I just waltz out of the womb like “pfft, yeah, English, w/e”. I am so lucky to be English, so I remind myself to be grateful for everything, from big things right down to the little things.
18. If someone cares about you they will make time for you.
Firstly, you shouldn’t have to push yourself into someone else’s life, if they genuinely want you they’ll make room. Secondly, if they care they will make time. No matter how busy I am I will always make future plans and set time aside for people important to me. If you are busy and need time for yourself then just say that because people know you’re not busy all the time, when you make out like you are it just sounds like you don’t want to see them for reasons other than wanting time to yourself.
19. Hope is stupid.
I’ve been trying to reign in the cynicism whilst writing this but it was bound to come out in some form: hope. I always hold on to hopes about things that I know are not going to happen, that are not going to get better or that aren’t going to change. I know that and yet I can never let the hope go and I end up getting hurt and upset.
Instead of hoping, I like to actually do. Trying to make something happen is less stressful than just dreaming it might eventually and being disappointed, and know when to give up and let go.
20. A lot of people get sad.
Nobody ever wants to talk about sadness seriously in real life. It can make you feel alone and different because everyone else is (or perhaps, pretends to be) happy and fine. You shouldn’t feel ashamed for being down, that’ll make it worse. If any of you ever need someone to talk to or a safe place to vent then you are more than welcome to email me.
21. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
I was stood in a queue at my local supermarket the other day and there was this guy bitching about how many people complain. He was complaining about complaining, and now I’m complaining about complaining about complaining. Will it never end? What I’m saying is, if you must judge other people on their actions then don’t then do the action yourself. The amount of times I hear people complaining about something someone else has done that they’re guilty of doing themselves is ridiculous. I’m sure I do it, often, but check yourself. Ensure you are making positive progressions, and not stood at the cig counter in your local Co-Op stuck in a complaints paradox.