Lessons from my 20s - what I wish I'd known

Things I learned in my 20s (and never seen before photos…)

In 2020, I turned thirty. If you follow me, you probably are not aware of this. I did not celebrate – my loved ones literally could not be further away – and thus I did not reflect. I’ve gone many years without celebrating such occasions, whether in my birth country or abroad; I’ve felt too strange about celebrating what always seemed insignificant. Maybe I’ll change that in my thirties – life’s too short not to celebrate it. I’m not there yet, but I took many important steps in my twenties that have brought me closer…

Rather than unraveling the mistakes I’ve made, of which there were many – though they seldom affected other people too dramatically, thankfully – I’ve gone for a more abstract round-up of my twenties. What lessons would have helped me feel less purposeless and less alone? What would have reassured me that feelings of being Lost and Loneliness are, well, totally normal? 

Upon beginning this ‘things I learned in my 20s’ post, I realised very quickly that I had no idea what small wisdoms would actually be useful for any young’uns who may stumble across this article. Alas, it’s easy to consider what seems useful in hindsight, but harder to recollect which questions I had myself in my early 20s. What reassurances did I need? And what answers did I truthfully need to learn myself in the brutal, yet ultimately necessary, game of trial of error?

And, well, how can I pass on lessons when no one really knows more about Life in adulthood than when they were a child? I was a fairly perceptive and curious child and went through more hardships back then than I hope I will again. So while my perceptions have shifted, and I’ve found ways to more easily fit into the world (especially as a neurodivergent human), I don’t have any more wisdom. If anything, I think many adults learn more about the social norms to follow, and how to best disregard those who perceive those norms differently, than they do about who they truly are.

So the lessons I’m sharing? They are just small – and some things silly – little nuggets of gold dust that stopped me in my tracks for a second while stumbling through the dark. 

All the best for your twenties, and for every decade that follows.

Note 1 – I learned as much from my shitty jobs, than from my good jobs.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who say they could ‘never work in a call centre’ and the like. I don’t get it – what if you couldn’t pay your rent? Or it had the right flexible hours for you to take care of other responsibilities? Mid-twenties career folk looked down on me when I was still working customer services (part-time, around creative projects), but it didn’t make them any happier in their own jobs. I was desperately trying to catch up with bills and rent back then. With undiagnosed ADHD & PTSD, I was doing the best that I could. On that note…

Note 2 – I learned more from being behind on rent than I ever did from travel.

There was a four month period where I was technically homeless (according to the definition UK homeless charities use; I was sofa-surfing and often didn’t know where I’d be sleeping that night). 

This was two years before I went travelling. In both these circumstances, I was living out of a backpack. I absolutely learned more about strength and gratitude from the first situation than I did in the second, insanely privileged one. Being a solo traveller is seen as empowering, yet when I was clawing my way back to a permanent living situation (I was saving for a deposit), I was seen as a failure. Both situations came around by circumstance, lucky and unlucky.

Both happened to a young woman with the exact same flaws and abilities. I guess this is one of the reasons I can never glorify my Travelling period as being empowering… I am not ‘better’ or more worldly now than I was back then. 

It didn’t take 2020 for me to start to understand that travel was a privilege. In some ways, I’m more grateful for the many years I couldn’t take a holiday, than the past two years I spent abroad – in terms of how it helped me grow as a person… I learned humility. It was initially truly shocking to me to see how many people couldn’t wrap their heads around one single year without a holiday. But then, if someone is feeling bad about something, how can I criticise their emotion?

Lessons I learned in my 20s (in no particular order):

We shouldn’t judge others based on their natural emotions

In fact, I am very against judging people on their emotions. Because, look at me – growing up in one of the world’s richest countries did not save me from depression. 

I am often calm in a crisis. I expect unknown obstacles to come in waves, and carefully keep my eyes out and my sail up even on soothing seas, knowing that this way I will not overturn when a storm rocks my path. I think that is a big misconception about depression, honestly; that we ‘deal’ with things worse. How ever each person deals with things is normal, and natural, and shouldn’t be compared.

What stresses people out is different, and anyone struggling deserves our KINDNESS. Seeing another struggling to cope is NOT THE TIME for a reflection on our own capabilities, but the time to offer compassion.

Humility is key to contentment

I truly believe in the importance of staying humble. To understand what we have earned through hard work, and what we have gained through privilege. Although I changed my life around to travel, and that was very difficult, I was able to BECAUSE of my privilege. I could find a better job BECAUSE I was already born in England, and I could eventually travel at 27 due to the ease of my British passport.

And I was very aware of my Luck – of being born at the right time too; in the right decade where I had access to many jobs as a woman, and the WiFi to advise me – before I ever left the door. 

We should thank people for compliments!

So simple, right? I was very, very negative about my appearance when I was younger. I grew up severely underweight (not by choice and not my fault) and also covered in fairly severe eczema. Young students would point at me and say ‘disgusting’. Strangers would shout ‘twig legs’ across the road. (It didn’t upset me that much… I was kinda like ‘yeah what’s your point?’ hahaa.)

When people use childhood ‘verbal bullying’ as an excuse for their own bad behaviour as an adult, I really don’t like it. We should learn to be kinder, not crueller, from this sort of everyday taunting – though that’s something most of us learn far before our twenties. Many of us will believe insults easily because, well, we’d never say something like this – so it must be true, right?

When I began to receive compliments as I shuffled awkwardly into my twenties wearing mismatched vintage fabrics, I felt incredibly uncomfortable.  I could only answer by pulling a face, not considering how ungrateful this was. (I put on weight when I moved out of my parent’s house, and my eczema improved, so I did look healthier.) I still couldn’t date or talk to men because I thought I was disgusting (yeahhh) and by my mid-twenties when I finally had my first boyfriend, I still glared if someone complimented my appearance. I truly didn’t understand why they were saying this to me.

Nowadays, I realise that I was behaving poorly. Accepting a compliment doesn’t have to mean you agree, but it is impolite not to. Saying ‘thank you!’ to a compliment, allows the person giving it to feel good – whether you agree with it or not. So I highly recommend thanking people for compliments! After all, when you tell someone they look good – do you feel better when they roll their eyes at you, or when they smile and say ‘thanks’? It’s the latter, right? It’s amazing how, just by realising how much better someone else feels when you accept a compliment, it’s much easier to accept them. 

I’m not ugly. No one is.

As I got older, I realised that all my inbuilt societal expectations on feminine beauty were trash. I mean, it’s not like I ever adhered to them, but when I was younger I was all too aware of my inability to comply with those rules. For example, I didn’t make much effort, I had the whole skin condition thing, my clothes were all too big or too small, and it didn’t help that (due to a mix of dyspraxia, ADHD and depression) when the other kids were learning how to do hair and make up, I was struggling to wash my hair every week.

Learning self care, or more to the point finding the energy for it, has been a really big step in my twenties. I learned that there’s no creative project or success is more important than mental wellbeing. (More on this later!)

More to the point, I’ve never been of the mindset of finding OTHER women ugly or beautiful. I remember being at college telling my friends ‘but you’re all just as beautiful as each other, they just have professionals to help’ as they idolised celebrities and wished for actresses apparently seamless red carpet looks. I really do believe all bodies are beautiful. It just took a really long time for me to be able to admit this about my own.

And I’m privileged for this body.

Have you heard the story about the tiny bug?

“…You’re talking about your body like it’s a rusting cage you’re stuck in, rather than praising how it enhances your life experiences. You’d really rather be a weirdass mind floating about, rendering you incapable of seeing and touching?

And what if you were born a tiny bug?! I mean, god, you’d waste so much of your day worrying about being squished but, phew, there’s a very good chance that you will never be squished! That’s gotta be something right?

Your human body gives you all kinds of freedoms. You can choose between jobs and to take long walks, choose to wear unflattering clothes and drink wine, choose to hold pens and mugs, to stretch out first thing in the morning and to have sex for pleasure. And what about noodles?

If you were a tiny bug, you wouldn’t even be able to eat noodles. You’d just get tangled up in them…

So, would you rather live in a bug body, be a floating mind incapable of seeing or hearing (no eyeballs innit) or, all things considered, stick with your human body?”

Processing is as important as progressing

Some days or weeks or years are for progress: education, careers, homes, travel or adventurous hurdles, relationships. We feel satisfied that we have taken a step further towards some goal we have set for ourselves (or society has set for us).

We think, ‘Yes, I can do this!’ & feel energised or like we are finally heading in the  right direction. woohoo.

Other days or weeks or years are for processing:

Feeling lost as we go round in circles figuring out what we want to do, coming to terms with things which have happened to us or choices we’ve made that landed us in the ‘wrong’ direction.

These times, it can be hard to know what exactly to say Yes too, even with something as simple as creating a to do list!

It can be hard to feel pride or progress when we don’t know which way to go. Processing weeks sound more like an ‘um’ and an ‘err’ than a YES.

Some of us need more processing years than others before progressing, and that’s okay. We just have to learn to be good to ourselves during those times, I guess, and be open. To accept our own pace.

Processing times are just as important as the progress years, just without the shiny trophies.

No time is wasted when spent on:

  • Healing.
  • Thinking.
  • Learning.
  • Questioning.
  • Catching your breath.
  • Ummming & ahhhhing.

There is no ‘best’ way to spend each and every moment. Put that kinda pressure in da bin where it belongs.  Give yourself time to be calm, & still… it will be clear when a moment comes along you need to cling on to.

Progress will come again. But for now, accept stillness. And when you figure out what to work towards, you can still get on your feet and run.

Without good mental health, we cannot be content.

Making mental health my priority has been the most important lesson.

Oh man. You know I didn’t start telling anyone I suffered from depression till I was twenty-nine? I had had it for at least twenty years at this point, but never moved past the word ‘anxiety’…

Travelling, while ignoring my mental wellbeing and ADHD, was not fun at all. You can escape from a place, but you cannot escape from your mind. And frankly, without putting your mental health first, you could be working a shitty full-time job or sitting on a beach eating a mango – and have a panic attack in either situation. (That said, having the money to keep up with rent, bills, and food is undoubtedly far less stressful! Money offers the freedom to relax about the basics.)

Read more about My Mental Health Journey

People’s personality traits often contradict each other (including mine and yours!)

For example, the battle between self-expression and authenticity and a wish for both invisibility and connection, is still ongoing. No neat little personality has won out inside my brain just yet. I want to be invisible, but I also want to connect with others through my writing. So I go half way, and share instagram captions instead of my short stories. It doesn’t resolve the issue, but we are getting there…

I looked for power in my flaws

For example, rather than becoming bitter about my past or present, and the uncommon extent of time spent alone, I tried to harness it… I tried to use that time spent alone to some small good.

I figured… if I am open about my loneliness, maybe it will make other lonely people feel connected to those words.

Loneliness sticks like a shadow. Sometimes it stretches from me as I go about my business in the midday sun. But when night falls and Earth quietens, it nestles closer, crumpling beneath me like a fallen leaf. It lies silently against my skin as I wait for sleep.

I am at my most confident when I embrace loneliness. There is a certain joy to it; reliable, unwavering, steady in nature. An old friend who does not judge, always waiting, still and calm as a hidden lake. But be prepared, this friend will not embrace you back.

I find her a good companion in quiet places when there are no expectations to be met, and we can be ourselves. She denies me any reason to doubt my habits or ways of living.

But then when noise resumes, in rumbling cities where the crowds assume that there is no place for loneliness, she is pushed aside like a shameful secret. I keep her quiet and safe, even in the company of new friends or moments of forgetting myself. In these moments, when I believe I could do without her, I become weak. The idea of being held or affirmed with the kind, solid words of Out Loud Voices tempts me. And then, when we are alone again, she punishes me for wavering. We are at odds for a while each time I push her aside. It takes time to make peace with one another again. She clutches and squeezes at my skin until I give in

but

Oh, how much easier life is when I treat her like a friend.

When we walk together, without anyone else in sight, I can be soft and strong as starlight.

I still hope I’m less lonely in my thirties though. I think I will have more strength in my compassion and ability to do good if I feel happier.

I also decided to use my chaotic ADHD brain to write short stories that reflected my own mind, and not the neat little stories usually sold in paperbacks. However, I was too afraid to share it. Cuz weird.

We are never truly alone.

A word dump about learning this difficult lesson:

i learned more in small places back then than i do now in wide open spaces. it’s hard to understand the way the world works when you’re a traveller and you always get to leave, easypeasy. challenge is being at the bottom of a pit and clawing yourself out. i cannot swallow the word ‘inspire!’ because being alone far from home by choice is so much easier than feeling alone in your own country. i always thought i’d done something wrong in my tiny days but when you make a choice to go solo, it’s on you, you know? flip the switch, take control, don’t look back. look at this instead! look at these beautiful distractions on the upsidedown parts of the world. how easy it is to live this way eh? i stand taller these days… as if this privilege of travel is somehow empowering, but it’s the simplest my life has ever been. i know exactly who to rely on. i didn’t always know i’d have the chance to run away hehe, maybe i should take my little self in my arms and whisper ‘don’t worry because you have you and this is the only relationship you need to change your life one day’

but it would be a lie.

oops.

people change your life all the time. shape us tougher or softer, make us kid or brittle. i hold on tightest to those who motivate me, educate me, share with me & feed the good in the me (or y’know feed me potatoes). the earth can lay out a hundred sunrises and parade otherworldly landscapes or shimmering waters that stretch out to the horizon and shushhh if i close my eyes real tight i can hear the earth hum and oceans sigh but never ever do i hear the lands beat so strong and steady like a drum. not like a human can. the stars have not yet blinked back. the branches wave but do not speak. what i’m grateful for today, most of all, is the people who’ve ever believed me. i mean, isn’t that a crazy thing – to believe in someone? and in particular those who’ve held onto that despite knowing me for a long time or after i’ve tried to talk them out of it. i take you in the best parts of my brain wherever i go and when i look inwards at the good you’ve taught me, it beats* any view the outside world can share. (*like a drum, a heart.) thank you for being the reasons i am never really alone.

I learned that there’s a way to ALWAYS have love in my life!

Something that takes a while to learn, is that there are at least two ways to have love in your life.

The first is through people. Such as family or friendships or romantic love. Maybe pets also fall into that category & yourself too.

I receive a fair amount of messages about loneliness so know it is not unusual for people to struggle when at least one or two of those things are missing. And that can lead to more extreme emotions such as unworthiness or feeling unlovable and so forth.

In my experience, the emphasis has always been put on people. If you admit you don’t feel you have enough love in life, you will be reassured you’re attractive or told some story about a friend of a friend who found love at 75 or directed to a dating app.

Singleness is a lot easier in my late than early 20s and I think it comes from realising no one else’s attention can determine if you are lovable. But mostly that waiting for someone to come along and make your life happier and more stable could be a longggg wait! So YOU have to deal with that.

So instead of remaining in a lifestyle where a partner would have made things a lot easier (not just emotionally but practically… the most unrealistic rom-com trope is single women owning huge flats in London I swear hahaa)… I left that society entirely. Now life is a pursuit of personal passions, such as travel and secret creative projects. It is no wonder to me that many single females were equally unwilling to feel like they don’t ‘keep up’ with society and instead became a HUGE percentage of long term travellers. I think a lot of us are learning to treasure what we can accomplish alone.

Loneliness is not so easily overcome,

But love is won everytime you allow yourself to enjoy life regardless;

If you do what you love,

You will always have love in your life.

My biggest dream is still the same.

To find home.

My second biggest dream is still the same.

This is the one I have control over, which makes it even scarier. Can you guess what it is? 

I don’t understand jealousy

This is gonna sound weird… but I don’t think I experience jealousy? I experience feeling sad, or the feeling of missing out on things. But I’m never jealous of another individual specifically. I really think this is an important thing to learn in your twenties. The only people who are better off than you are the people who are happier than you, and you have no way of knowing who those people are. And even then, the tables can turn so quickly. Why be jealous of someone having a better year in 2005, 2020, or 2032, when five years later YOU may be better off and they may be suffering? How does that jealousy make sense. 

I truly believe in gratitude, since it is one of the wellness trends that is actually cemented in scientific research and psychology. (Many studies have shown that an improvement in many people show an improvement in mental health if they practise gratitude in this precise way, however, it is far from being a cure for depression.)

But gratitude should always be about what WE are grateful for. In what ways are WE lucky? Telling someone they are lucky, without checking they are actually happy in that moment, is very dangerous. Fearing you’re ungrateful while experiencing anxiety or depression is hellish. I truly hope to avoid ever putting this added stress onto someone. 

People make a lot of assumptions about me being a woman…

UHHHH. I can take a screwed up dress from the floor, root around in the clean landry basket for underwear, and clean my teeth, and get assumptions that I ‘put so much thought into my outfit’ in my travel photos. Even if I haven’t brushed my hair in 6 months, owned 3 beauty products (sun lotion, shampoo and soap) and never wore make up. Seriously.

I dunno why that one annoys me so much hahaa. Any male friend can tell you I’m more low-maintenance than they are, haha. Like, occasionally I’ll plan an outfit or put on makeup, but it’s definitely not part of my usual routine.

The dudes who mock women on social media for their outfits & ‘posing’ are the same guys who roll their eyes when women question ‘why is the only female character always in a bikini?’ or the high fashion looks. They say – ‘it’s just a movie, chill out.’

& yes, women judge too. We happily consume media directed & produced by men in which women dress inappropriately for the context but when a woman chooses her outfit and directs or collaborates on a shoot? Nah, let’s judge her & call her shallow, comment on her pose & presume she’s dense. (Cuz making assumptions on personality based solely on dress choice isn’t dense at all.👀)

OK, there’s a valid worry Instagram is making societal pressures worse. There are good reasons to see a correlation between it and fast fashion. But when people roll their eyes at individual women’s photos, it’s obvious they’re not concerned with the greater good. It’s often an excuse to belittle empowered or creative women & reduce them to being overly concerned with being pretty.. while simultaneously consuming the unattainable looks churned out by the male-dominated traditional media & TV industries.

The commentary isn’t always cruel. I’ve had compliments on matching my outfit to photos (I hadn’t) & for my yellow coat Theme (it was winter and not a theme but I appreciated it). Thank you! But also a reminder that just because I’m a woman online doesn’t mean fashion is my big interest. I know guys who both don’t and DO plan outfits and they don’t repeatedly have comments about this.

Day to day, clothes are not my concern. But people presume it is… just because I’m a woman & I  wear them, cuz I don’t walk around naked (lame) I must be making a statement on my inner soul everytime I pull fabric over my head.

I love the idea of utilising clothing to enhance photos (I worked in production for years cmon) but as more of a creative than personal element & I’ve not had the facilities to do this.

Let’s leave women to wear what they want in whatever environment they choose- Cultural respect aside ofc. Listen to her, appreciate her photos or move on

& remember

next time you judge a woman for being shallow or silly based merely on her clothing choice?

It’s just a photo, chill out.

But anyways, any woman on instagram who wears a dress ever is a narcassist. Oh do you remember my nerds and narcassists post?

Ahh, and I’ve had a LOT of assumptions about being ‘innocent’ or ‘not streetwise’ because of my appearance. I used to get talked down to a LOT by guys I worked with. I’m not saying I was the most worldly person in the room, but certainly far from more privileged or less perceptive than they were… Oh and sometimes they would say I looked ‘virginal’ which is creepy AF.

SO moving on…

But hey, people make a lot of assumptions about everyone.

We can’t change other peoples views of us, but we can change the way we make impressions about other people.

Don’t blindly trust your first impressions. They can be wrong.

Understand everyone has a story. See the good in people.

And goodness knows how many times people can hurt you, but even if I cannot always trust others, I will always think good of them. 

Social dynamics change all the time anyway

– don’t worry if you’re put in a box for no reason, that box will change colours almost as many times as individuals do!

From nerds to narcissists – how the perception of young people on social media has changed overtime
(aka, just one of the ways social stereotypes change) written last year.

I recently met up with 3 girls from instagram & we all identified ourselves as introverts or loners in some way. Looking back at school times, we could all remember certain lunch times spent alone or things like that.

We could also identify ourselves as early social media adopters, building friendships specifically through MSN or MySpace with people we either later got to know in person… or literally never spoke to IRL (like boys) haha.

The name for this in 2005 (when we’d have been around 14/15)? Nerds, loners, losers. I could write openly about something long form and it was considered embarassing(so lame omg) or post silly photos on a MySpace bulletin board (I’m dying using that phrase 🤣) and people could for sure bring it up @ school & make fun of me. Like whatever, I had bigger problems.💁‍♀️

But no one ever doubted it was a form of genuine self-expression. It just wasn’t a cool one😄. No one ever thought it was fake or wanting to be someone I’m not.

Today? Although the four of us are STILL kinda using SM in the same expressive way, for creative outlets or to build friendships we are too introverted to form IRL… let’s just say the nerd/loner stereotype has flowwwwn out the window:

The word used for this behaviour in 2020 is Narcissism.

And yes, there are as many narcissists online now as there were in 2008😬 (well, in correlation with the growth of social media, of course) but it was definitely more previously acknowledged that early YouTubers/Social Media users were… not trying to be cool. They were just trying to find a space to be themselves. (Or as much as a 16yo with no phone can be self-expressive online during their turn on the family computer & terrible dial up internet connection amirite?)

I mean… yeah, certainly a percentage of new users will be all about the clout, but it’s a bit of a stretch to apply it to everyone.

It wasn’t about online popularity, but was just easier to be open and playful online & finding your tribe as a result of this openness was merely a bonus. Just as it is today. Human connections, as SM was intended.

Ok this is literally just an observation and I’m not sure if it’s accurate 🙈 but hey it’s something interesting to think about in terms of how perceptions of the same activities can change overtime.

I cannot ride a bike

Honestly, I seriously spent my entire life expecting that my limbs would start playing ball with my brain, and my brain would become more focussed, and somehow, all of a sudden, I’d be able to ride a bike or drive a car.

Allowing myself to understand that this may not ever happen, and my body works a little differently, was refreshing. I took away a goal which I may not ever score in, and gosh it’s freeing. This body has travelled the world on two legs anyways – how can I complain?

Social media is better for making new connections, than for sustaining old ones

 I’ve written about this in detail already. I took one year off social media and the way we receive people’s news from Facebook or Instagram, and how it’s brought up in day-to-day conversation, is truly bizarre when you’re not using it.

I love using Instagram to have an ongoing community while travelling – there is something constant and stabilising about using social media in this way. However, I really do not like keeping up with friends through social media. I think it’s important to learn about things, and how people are really feeling, through natural conversation. 

Compassionate choices are the ones which are met with the biggest critique

You have to learn to be compassionate to yourself, as well, and let things go sometimes. If you’re making decisions for the right reason, you have to shrug off the critique that comes with it. Remember back to who YOU were BEFORE you made compassionate changes – you were still the same person you are now when you still ate meat or used plastic bottles, right? Since trying to live more sustainably on an active, daily basis (such as using sustainable clothing or eating vegan meals), I’ve definitely been questioned a lot more.

That said, if someone is criticising you for being anti-racist, or calling out an ableist joke, stick to your guns. Some things are not worth compromising on. 

There is no such thing as acting your age

Uhhh you know when people say ‘I’m 30/40/50 etc but I still feel like I’m 21!’ Could it be because there is no such thing as having a mystical personality switch each birthday? 

I am 30. It doesn’t matter if I do goofy walks while wearing my pink dungarees – I am 30, and therefore I am acting 30. Because that is my age. Geddit?

Being fulfilled is different from being happy (for me!)

Happiness for me is made of small moments; a hand on your shoulder when to sweetly nudge you out of a cruel thought, a cool breeze on your face to wake you in the morning, and a comfortable bed after a long day. The happiness I dream of is a place to call home. And this, I’m afraid, is a destination I cannot control, because Home means a place which misses you when you leave, and that gives you a sense of purpose in going back. Home will be where I am needed and where I am found. Even writing this, imagining it, makes me feel more content for breath or two.

Fulfilment to me comes from the less simple things. Fulfilment is creative satisfaction, albeit not the sort which comes from big paychecks, but from knowing that when someone reads your stories they could relate to them, and thus you were connected to someone for a little while. Fulfilment comes from the moments in which we make a difference, or help someone see the world more clearly, or knowing you’ve done a good job. 

I would give up fulfilment for happiness, but not the other way around. But in any case, I suppose that in the place which I will one day call home, I will be encouraged to have both. 

It’s okay to know your limits

Gosh, the amount of times I have been told to get out of my comfort zone when I have ALREADY reached the place in which I feel anxiety is unbelievable! For example, say I am solo travelling, and afraid or too exhausted to speak to anyone. People say ‘get out of your comfort zone!’ to which I always wished to retort ‘I am solo travelling – I already AM out of my comfort zone!’

I know what sort of anxiety I can cope with, and I know what pushes it too far. I will not put myself in any positions which go OVER my limits, unless there is a very good reason (such as a long-term benefit) since I know I will not enjoy that situation!

— but your limits can change

That doesn’t mean that every year or so I will push those limits again. Always worth double checking how we feel about certain situations and challenges. 

You never really know who you are, and my gosh, that is a good thing!

For so many years I was stuck within the labels which other people put on. Although I changed them, these changes were more about finding kindness for myself then challenging myself.

Don’t stick within the perception of yourself! 

You don’t have to choose one timeline! Try them all!

Before I was an explorer, I lived many lives. I’ve worked in movies, and in beat-up London theatres. I’ve been the sort of person who whereas a hundred different textures and colours on her body at once, while later the same day hiding in a hoodie. I have worked in the dingiest back offices and temped at one of the poshest corporate buildings in London. I have moved through jobs like they’re different sorts of candies, and I gotta try them all before I know which is my favourite. 

I’ve a victim and a survivor, an anxious wreck and an explorer. I’ve been afraid of feeling lost, and I have loved being lost. I have felt nothing, and I have felt all the world at once. I have despaired over not feeling at home in the world, and one day I will find myself exactly where I am meant to. 

On that note, enjoy your failures!

Often those who fail a lot lead the most colourful lives! So embrace every time you try something and don’t succeed! Because so many people are afraid to fail that their lives will be forever stuck in their comfort zones.

And my gosh, no matter how many times you fail, when you finally fly (whether that’s metaphorically or literally!)  it is undoubtedly worth the wait. Trust me.

And, above all else, don’t lose hope.


This was my final caption of 2019. But I think more people can relate to it today, in the final hours of 2020.

Part One:

There are no endings in sight, no polished chapters or closing statements. I am the breath you take when turning the page or the pause you make, mid-sentence, when you’ve been distracted by a fly landing on your arm or an unrelated question.

For if I were to end a yearlong story here, in this calm moment in a quiet, windowless room, I’d have complaints about the lacklustre finale. And perhaps this is, in part, due to its silent contrast to this year’s beautiful second act. Truthfully, the third part of year 2019 has been the moments writers miss out of TV shows – the time that passes in between seasons, or what happens to some minor character in between their brief conversations with the main role. (In fact, I’ve not heard my own voice for a while.)

So I give no evaluations, no round up of my failures and no meaning to the passing of another year. I say this without judgment upon the time that has passed ❤ and with no negative connotation intended. I feel still; a frozen lake waiting to thaw but meanwhile peaceful in its simplicity. (Just don’t get too close.) 🧤❄

I will pass through, quietly, into another clause of a single sentence. One I intend to finish, with a flourish, in the coming months instead.

Or perhaps I won’t. Good things often come when you have no expectations, as long as you approach their potential with an open heart.

Part Two:

Tonight, I am full of hope, a feeling I am no stranger to after all these years. Once upon a time, hope lit my way through some long, dark years. I dreamed of adulthood and the freedom it would bring and I let this aspiration guide me. Yet it was escapism and didn’t immediately transfer into adult life. So, a decade ago, I began a new journey and yet my hope faded.

It was a fight to find it again, but a worthwhile one. From time to time hope still drifts away like a leaf on the wind, only to find it’s way back to me with each passing storm. An enduring strength during difficult times, a flame that may fade but never flickers out entirely. Now I nurture Hope like a wise, old friend who deserves my attention and gratitude.

This year has been difficult for many, particularly in the face of what is happening to our changing Earth and the divisive politics which threatens to cause many people to question the humanity of their neighbours. And so we must urge ourselves to look for all the good which remains.

Each small act of kindness to this earth is a gesture of hope. Each time you show love to your friends and compassion to your enemies, there is hope. When we stand up loudly for our beliefs and work silently to help achieve them, there is hope. And every time you look within and share self-compassion, your light simultaneously beams outwards, and hope grows and glows even stronger. Or something like that. 💆‍♀️

There is too much beauty in this world to be contained within a lens, for most of it comes from within each of us, unseen but strong. So each time you despair for the state of the world, remember that even this private emotion is coming from a place of love. A love so many people worldwide are sharing.

And that is why hope is always worth striving for.

Ps. I learned we all have meaning. Isn’t that cool?!

(A bonus lesson.)

We are more than:

the days we can’t get out of bed or
stuck in the strangest, scariest parts of our head

The memories which linger as we desire to tinker with the words we once said, replaying them, betraying ourselves as we persuade ourselves into regret – we cannot conspire with the past to wish our wrong words away

The bad choices we couldn’t resist
The projects we never finished
The wishlists we dismissed when we were not brave enough to pursue them
yet.

The people we loved but never kissed
& those we missed when we were all but forgotten
The brilliant dreams we forgot by morning
when we’re too tired to persist
& the flashbacks which plague us without warning

The weight of the listings on our resume,
our creative output or
the plans which failed and those which were a success albeit not particularly innovative

We are more than our genes
our blood
the thoughts that those who came before us instilled. We are not stuck our skull; there is always more room to learn
Explore
& Endless ways to grow.

We share our roots
yet no one can limit how many times we bloom.

We are the sum of:

each tiny moment when we gave meaning to another;
Brief smiles, the recognition we provide one another to feel worthwhile

We are made up of each time
we pick up the slack or make someone laugh
or share wistful secrets that make another feel less alone, even though they may never say aloud: gosh I am glad I’m not the only one who thinks this way

We are each time we make a connection, however quickly it is past our recollection
We give meaning to others
by yearning, helping, loving &
being

We give meaning to their existence
each time we sidestep for a stranger on the sidewalk

We are more than the darkest parts of our mind
the days our mental health overwhelms
the times we feel left behind
invisible, unknown, worthless or alone

We are visible. We are the sum of every time we are helped, yearned for, loved, seen &
each time a stranger sidesteps to let us by;

in those moments they give us meaning too.
We give meaning to one another, constantly, usually without recognition or particular poignancy. But all the same

We have meaning. You have meaning.

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4 Comments

  1. These are all great lessons for everyone – no matter their age. I’m in my mid-twenties and have learned a few of these myself.

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