On Sunday I celebrated my 18th birthday, which to some marks adulthood and to others feels no different to their 17th, 16th and 15th birthdays. For me however, it was a milestone; it marked a goal which I had after severely experiencing mental health issues with a genuine fear that I would not be sane or well by my 18th birthday.
Nevertheless, all is well and I’ve learned a few things along the way (even though i’m still SO young).
- Don’t take things too seriously – Perhaps it’s just me but I feel that my generation have been brought up to have a stiff upper lip, strong shoulders and feel like we need to balance the whole world on them by a certain age. Although it is obviously important to be able to have a voice, stay safe and handle things maturely, I felt that the innocence and fun in my childhood – from all angles, education, work and even during ‘play’, had been reaped by these institutions in fear that we would not succeed. Little did I know then you can have fun and do well at the same time.
- Stop trying to please everybody – Although I knew the fundamentals of this concept, as my parents taught me, “you have no one else to please and make happy apart from yourself”. But I didn’t really understand or go deeper than that; was pleasing myself just doing well in school, college, university? Or was it further than that – being happy with the way I look, think, other things I achieve such as swimming badges and weight lifting awards from the gym? Yes it encompasses all of the former, as well as not having to please people around you; if they can’t accept who you naturally are and want you to change, don’t be scared to move forward alone, it doesn’t lessen your worth.
- Boys aren’t everything – Being in cooped up in a girls school for five years and then pretty much fangirling over anyone who I liked (near enough harassment) made me learn, after it got boring, guys aren’t everything, they don’t need to validate your worth, intelligence, beauty, etc etc etc. I hope and pray that this message will become universal sooner or later because too many people in their lower teens will carry this mentality forward into their late teens and early twenties.
- T R A V E L – I cannot emphasise this one enough, but travelling really does broaden one’s horizons; in six years I visited 8 countries and they really did change the way I viewed the world, different cultures, issues on my faith, political orientation and gender. Some of these places were near home and some were not, but the point is, exploring different places for leisure and education are both ample opportunities to escape mundane life and become a richer and more integral person, even if you don’t think you need it. Going deep into the Welsh Valleys last summer made me love the outdoors and less reliant on the internet or technological devices.
- Cut negative people out of your life – simple. I wish I knew this sooner, before it took the turn of my own mental health to the point where I didn’t leave my house to socialise for near enough eight months, all because I felt no one really cared about me because those I deemed as my closest friends didn’t bother, when in reality, it wasn’t me, it was them. Your life will be so much easier once you cut the drama, don’t respond and live, regardless of what people think.
- Don’t be afraid to work hard – This one still stuns me, how is it still deemed as uncool or ‘geeky’ to work hard at the things you want? I did that for the last two years and although some people did the same, there were many people who were either complaining that I worked too much, or that they had a better social life than I did, or were just plainly jealous and expected me to help them when they did nothing, neither or the latter make any sense to me. Usually, the case is if you work hard, the results will show, don’t be disheartened by failure either (leading me on to number 7)
- Failure: perceived as a bad thing and is in fact a good thing in many ways. Nearly two years ago exactly I would be anticipating whether or not I achieved the grades needed to get into grammar sixth form, long story short, I didn’t (not getting that B in maths did bug me A LOT). But I used that upset to work hard in the place I went to study at and just accepted that despite two years of trying to become what I deem as good at maths, it just wasn’t for me and didn’t click with my brain. Did the world end because of that failure? No, I simply carried on and did the subjects I loved.
- Birthday’s aren’t about what you get, they’re about what you learn; I get it, no birthday is complete or really amazing without a few nice messages and a box of chocolates from friends or family. But in reality, you’re marking your progression as a person who has learned and improved solely for their own benefit. It might be crappy not getting much for a birthday, but the improvements you make each year whether it be academic or personal, will shine through you and people will see that as a gift you have.
- Being politically correct doesn’t make you a nice person, period. You can be as politically correct as you want to be, it doesn’t make you a saint or a fantastic person. I know many people who are politically correct and are deemed as aggressive, unapproachable and frankly ignorant. I think there is a way to be politically correct, polite, friendly and likeable.
- Do it, don’t say it – one of my peeves is when people will drone on and on about their goals, what they plan to do, how they plan to do it…just do it. Show people and yourself that you can actually walk the walk and not talk the talk, rather than slap it on social media and not do it at all.
- Minimalism (this one is a personal one, so I hope no one gets offended) – I’ve never been particularly materialistic, but I did go through a phase at the end of school and start of sixth form when I thought splashing money (not even mine, my parents’) made me cool, although it was just a fake sense of fulfilment, a “HA! I’ve got this now”. I never rubbed it in anyone’s face, but the more I’ve grown internally, the less I need to be fulfilled materialistically. Yes, I really like to rarely buy makeup, or new clothes, but its not something I need to do to make me feel fantastic… There are more things in life and about life to enjoy, you know?
- Lets apply number 11 to social media – again, the more I started to distance myself from it, the happier I was! When I properly logged back on to it in March (wasn’t a good thing, I’ve become a little addicted again) I was genuinely shocked at how many negative things I would be seeing on a day to day basis: endless makeup tutorials, ‘how to be beautiful’, ‘what guys like in a girl’ (vise versa)… It was astonishing! Now I pretty much just use social media to catch up with friends, upload some nice photos and read the latest news and life is better this way. Today an interesting podcast on Radio 4 was aired on social media use, what astonished my was that on average a person will on average spend five WHOLE YEARS of their life on social media and 3x more taking selfies. Doesn’t that put things into perspective?
- Say what you think (in boundaries obviously) – the more stress you bottle, the worse it will get; I’m stills struggling with this to an extent but if an issue can be sorted, get it done ASAP.
- Money does not equal a happy life. I wish I knew this earlier, money comes and goes, the economy booms and then busts, don’t let what you don’t have cloud your perspective and make you unappreciative of what you do have.
- Lying gets you nowhere – you’d think this one was a universal rule of life, obviously not. Obviously little white lies, e.g. who ate my cake, aren’t going to ruin someone’s career or livelihood (the latter is debatable, actually) but big lies which can ruin someone’s professional career, mental health or happiness will do long term damage. Think before you speak.
- Assumptions – they can get you into a whole lot of trouble and upset many people; example: people thought I was a rich snob when I started sixth form, now most people (the bitchy ones still do) know that i’m most definitely not a snob or am rich. These assumptions genuinely upset me because they set precedence for people to assume what I was like outside of education for the course of my A Levels.
- Be HAPPY~~~~ and less negative and presumptuous judgemental!!! If you want to get pissed on a pier, do it! (Safely though). Negative judgement and nasty comments only show more about the perpetrator than the recipient.
- Read as much as possible – when I did the social media cleanse, which lasted more than I thought my will power would let me, I read so much and my knowledge has increased, as well as my attention span and the ease I now have in falling asleep and not getting nightmares.
I was hoping for number 18 to be less anti-climatic but I suppose its okay. I hope you enjoyed this and that everyone has a fantastic summer (best time of the year) as well as success in their university and new career endeavours.
Here are some photos from my best friend’s 18th (we share the same birthday and she got me a birthday sash to wear) and other favourite moments/photos I’ve taken during 2017 so far.