23 things I’ve learned by 23

I turn 23 next month. This post may be slightly early, but the thoughts came to me today. I like reading other people’s annual reflections and decided to bring together some of my own, in addition to this Letter to my Teenage Self. In no particular order, here are 23 things I’ve learned so far:

1) Invest in friendships for support, fun, discussion and honest opinions.

2) A little constructive debate is healthy and can help you to form your own views. Spend time with people who hold different perspectives.

3) Parents, grandparents and other relatives have great stories. Ask to hear them.

4) It’s possible to be an introvert and also quite like public speaking.

5) Routines and methods – for organisation, working, eating, exercising, sleeping and whatever else – are useful, but leave room for flexibility and fun.

6) See theatre, music, comedy, exhibitions or new places with people you love whenever you can. That’s my foolproof recipe for a happy day.

7) Do things alone, too. Wander through cities, have conversations with strangers and appreciate moments of solitude.

8) “Your type” isn’t necessarily your only type. Intelligence, humour, kindness, reliability and potential don’t always turn up wearing a flannel shirt, holding a guitar and a copy of The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.

9) I have a low tolerance for “chill”. It’s not unreasonable to want to know where you stand with someone you’ve been “seeing”, “dating” or “maybe, possibly, kind of, sometimes hanging out with”.

10) ‘Love does not lead to an end to our difficulties, it provides us with the means to cope with our difficulties in ways that enhance our growth.’ Credit for this wisdom goes to bell hooks.

11) Avoid using headspace and energy to pore over your flaws. Everyone looks more tired in the lighting on the tube.

12) The body positive movement exists and is growing. I appreciate the artistry of high fashion, but I don’t see myself represented in it. Instagram accounts and progressive sites that celebrate diversity are an alternative.

13) You don’t have to keep up with all of the news. Decide what you most want to be informed about and follow that. Reading clickbait articles about carcinogens or superfoods will never improve your day.

14) Try not to compare your circumstances to other people’s. I like to take Amy Poehler’s ‘good for her, not for me’ approach, especially when I see three engagement announcements on Facebook in one day.

15) Eating fruit and vegetables is good for you. Eating only fruit and vegetables isn’t.

16) Certain songs, films, TV shows and books can provide comfort on big / bad days. My ‘go to’ ones are “Brave” by Sara Bareilles (it’s cheesy, but it works every time), Frances Ha, Parks and Rec and either Yes Please by Amy Poehler or Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, depending on my mood.

17) Intersectionality should be central to feminism. We need to recognise privilege relating to gender, race, sexuality, disability and class because straight, white, able-bodied, wealthy men are not in the majority. To promote equality in media narratives and policy, we can listen to the stories of people without these privileges and work together to advocate for better rights – even if that sometimes means signing a petition online and forgetting about it a few weeks later. Do what you can.

18) Keeping journals of ideas, thoughts and reflections can be cathartic and enjoyable. As Austin Kleon advises, ‘keep them, pull them out in ten years, and you won’t believe how far you’ve come’.

19) ‘Self-help’, ‘self-care’, ‘personal development’ and ‘mindfulness’ aren’t jargon phrases. Books, talks, training and conversations around these topics can be so useful.

20) It’s fine – good, even – to change your mind if you’re heading in a direction you’re unsatisfied with. Try something else and see where it takes you. If you fail, either persevere with it or repeat the process.

21) Panic always passes.

22) Create and share things, even if you’re unsure about their value. In the words of Tina Fey, ‘do your thing and don’t care if they like it’.

23) Don’t be a perfectionist – just start something. I like the idea of placing ‘little bets’ by working on small tasks or new ideas that add up. The first post on this blog was a little bet.

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