I can safely say that even just a year or two ago I never thought I would be writing this post, but here we are. On Tuesday (or on the 16th March 2021 if you are reading this more than a few days after I originally published it), I turned twenty-one and it is safe to say that I DREADING my birthday. In some ways, I am selfishly grateful that we were still in lockdown as I am not one that likes a fuss and I hate the idea of having to have a party or do any sort of celebrating when really all I want to do is pretend that it's not actually my birthday and that it's just any normal day.
But regardless of my feelings regarding my birthday, I have learnt a lot over my last twenty-one years of life. Today I thought I would share with you some of the life lessons I have learnt throughout my life (hence why they're life lessons) and hopefully, you can learn a thing or two from all of the things I have learnt (that is, if you haven't learnt them already).
1. Beauty is just a societal standard
I am technically a Gen-Z, which means I grew up with social media. I feel very fortunate that for the first ten to twelve years of my life, social media didn't really exist, or at the very least it was still incredibly new. Even in the early days of Instagram, we still didn't have the same standards we all feel we have to live up to nowadays and we didn't have to look 'good for the gram'. Societal beauty standards have always been there, especially where women are concerned, however, I think we can all agree that they have definitely raised even higher since we have been introduced to the world of social media. The truth is that everyone is beautiful and that the person you are constantly comparing yourself to regarding looks may only be seen as better looking than you due to societies standards. But these standards aren't real, they're just a fake idea we all have in our heads and feel the need to constantly strive towards. If you don't feel as good looking compared to someone else, let me tell you that you are just as good looking as them, if not even more so and you should never feel the need to have to strive towards a false ideal of beauty standards.
2. Social media doesn't equal real life
Like I mentioned above, I have pretty much grown up with social media and I often think that I could possibly be so much more confident if my teenage years (and now potentially the rest of my life) hadn't been consumed by social media. People mostly post the highlights of their life on there and will make it out like they have the best life possible. Maybe they do have that, but it's important to remember that a Tweet about how happy someone is or a 30-second Instagram story of them being really happy and singing at a concert doesn't always mean that they are genuinely happy on the inside or that their life is always happy and carefree 24/7. People just prefer to show the ups of their life rather than the downs, which is perfectly understandable, however, I think we need to normalise showing the lower parts of our lives to help show others that this is completely normal.
3.. It's okay to start again
I come from a small town and part of that small town involves small thinking where a lot of the people here believe that you should have your life set out in stone very early on in life and you should never go off that path. I say that if you want to start any part of your life again from fresh then that's perfectly okay. If you start a degree and then decide you want to change degrees or just leave university altogether then that's perfectly okay. If you want to change your career entirely then that's perfectly okay. If you want to pack up and move to the other side of the world then that's perfectly okay. It's your life and you should be able to live it how you want to and you should never let fear prevent you from doing that.
4. Move out of your small town
Like I said above, I come from a very small town and with that comes small town syndrome. Small town syndrome is this idea that people from that town instil in you from a very young age that you should never leave the town, claim to be like one 'big, happy community' and that you should only do a normal job that they are happy with you doing and isn't seen as anything other than normal. What it's actually like is a very toxic place where pretty much your every move ends up on Facebook and people constantly believe it is their right to know exactly what you're up to. One of the best things I ever did was move out of this place, even though it was only for a few months when I lived in uni accommodation in Birmingham. I no longer felt that these people were watching me or that my every move would end up on Facebook, plus I felt I could wear what I wanted and people wouldn't look me up and down in disgust because it wasn't what they deemed a 'normal dress sense'. I can not urge you enough to leave your home town, even if it's only temporary, and please do it sooner rather than later (you can thank me for it later).
5. Having few/no friends is better than having many toxic ones
I, unfortunately, over the last twenty-one years of my life don't really seem to have found my people. I wouldn't say I really have anyone I would call a close friend at the moment, but this isn't like one of those sob stories you see on X Factor. I have had a large group of friends before and it was horrible because I never really knew where I stood with any of them and constantly felt that they were talking about me behind my back and that I wouldn't be missed if I just up and left. At the same time, I have had a small group of friends where I thought I knew where I stood with them, but they were just horrible to my face, saying things to me that still affect me today and I don't have time for any of that. A lot of people fear the idea of not having any friends, but it is so much better for your mental health to go without having any friends for a while/only have a small group of friends than have quite a few friends but be constantly doubting where you stand with them.
6. Education isn't everything
I'm not saying here that education isn't important, because of course it is! However, what I am saying is that education is forced upon us from such a young age and there are still many people out there that seem to think education is the only option. Of course it isn't! If education isn't for you and once you finish school you want to go into an apprenticeship or when you finish sixth form/college and you don't want to go to university, you can get an apprenticeship or go straight into work. There are so many other good options out there and I completely disagree with the narrative that I was fed that university is the only option.
7. Crying is perfectly normal
So many people judge you if you start crying and tell you not to cry. I remember at my Grandad's funeral I couldn't stop crying and people kept on giving me disapproving looks and telling me not to cry because "he wouldn't want me to". Crying is perfectly acceptable and it's a million times better to cry it all out than to hold it all in.
8. Don't become who/what other people want you to be
People love to tell you who/what you should be. You need to work harder. You need to be louder. You need to dress better. You should smile more. These are just an incredibly small minority of the things I have been told over the years and it never stops being annoying. Just let people be exactly how they are. They do not need to change themselves just because they don't fit in with the idea of what you think they should be like. Let's just be ourselves and if other people don't like that then that's they're problem, not yours.
9. It's perfectly acceptable to still be living with your parent(s)
There is still such a stigma that if you are in your twenties (or beyond) and still live with your parents then you are weird and need to live somewhere else immediately. I'm sorry but the average house price in the UK in 2020 was £256,000 and the average deposit on a house in the UK in 2020 was £57,278. I'm sorry, but that is not cheap in the slightest and the average salary for a 22-29 year old in the UK is £29,909 (not sure whether that includes tax or not). Given how difficult it is to save up for a house deposit, especially as at this age you're not necessarily going to have found someone you want to move in with and live the rest of your life with to help contribute towards this, it's still acceptable for you to be living with your parents, despite what others will tell you. I can honestly say it's so much better for you to stay with your parents and be able to save for a house than to throw all your money away on rent and never be able to afford a house.
10. It's okay to say no...
Whether that's saying no to a night out, spending time with someone, or pretty much anything you don't want to do, it's okay to say no. You should never feel like you have to do something just because other people are trying to force you into it. If you would rather spend a night in front of the telly than out clubbing with your mates then that's a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
11. ...but it's also important to get out of your comfort zone
I am someone who is continually stuck in her comfort zone (especially since Covid happened - obviously this whole situation has been tragic but for my introverted self it's been a blessing in some ways) and I need to learn to get out of it more. I for one find it way too easy to turn things down and need to learn to say yes to a few more things. I am glad I have learnt to say no, but my issue now is that I say no way too much. In the past I have regretted saying no to doing something and have then seen others doing it and have wished that I had gone, so once this whole Covid situation is over, I am going to try and start getting out of my comfort zone (one step at a time) and start saying yes to more things.
12. Life is for living
It's like Justin Bieber said in his song, life is worth living. But this also continues on from what I was saying above. I think the issue a lot of my family seem to have is they seem to think life is all about getting an education, going to work, and then retiring at the end of it. I don't know what that life is but I don't want it. I want to travel the world and explore and this was something I had planned on doing this year after graduating from uni, but thanks to Covid that has stopped me in my tracks (although I am determined to travel the world at some point). Whatever it is you plan on doing, do it. Don't turn into someone who's life revolves around school/work because then the likelihood is you won't have any memories. I'm not saying you have to travel the world to do this, but don't just earn your money and then do nothing with it.
13. It's okay to make mistakes
I think in this day and age of social media, it is very easy for people to hold your mistakes against you. I, for one, have made many mistakes over my lifetime and there are certain people who like to hold that against me and make me feel bad and stupid for making those mistakes. But if people don't allow us to make mistakes then we'll never learn. I, for one, know that by how I was like in certain relationships now know from looking back at that time that instead of holding stuff in, I should just say how I feel straight up so that it doesn't cause problems later down the line. Yes, you may make mistakes, but as long as you learn and grow from them that's perfectly fine.
14. Taking time out is important
Society seems to tell us that the only acceptable thing is for us to be constantly on the go and that if we stop at any time then that is not acceptable. But it's important for us to take a bit of time out when we need/want to for ourselves and our mental health. If you're really run-down with work, it's okay for you to ring in 'sick' to have a day off to just recharge your batteries and be ready and fresh-faced for when you go back. If school/college/uni is getting too much, it's okay for you to take a night (or even a whole day) off. You don't have to be on the go all the time and deserve to take a bit of time out. If you haven't done that recently, maybe it's a good idea to do so before you become really run-down.
15. Self-care isn't a treat, it's a right
Whenever I hear someone say they're indulging in a bit of self-care, they often say that they're treating themselves to it and that shouldn't have to be the case. Self-care is incredibly important and is something I do at least once a week. Self-care looks different to everyone. For me, it's being able to put on an overnight facemask and watch my favourite TV shows/films. For others, it may be taking a bath and reading a book. Whatever your self-care routine looks like, please make sure you are doing this regularly and not just 'as a treat'.
16. Life's not like the movies
The movies often depict life to be constantly happy and even if things go a bit south, things always turn out perfectly fine in the end. The princess gets her prince. The family living in poverty end up being millionaires. The dog ends up coming home (apart from in Marley and Me - I'm still recovering from that film). But the truth is, in the majority of cases, life's not always like that. Yes, there are ups, but there are also plenty of downs too.
17. You don't need someone else to start a family
People love to write this narrative that if you want to start a family, you need to find someone to start a family with. But the truth is, you don't actually need to do that. There are so many other methods, such as getting a sperm donor or adoption. If you want to start a family, but have no one to start a family with, it's perfectly acceptable, if you're ready to, to start that family on your own. Yes, it will be hard, but bringing up a family, regardless of your situation, will always be hard, but it will always be 100% worth it.
18. 25 isn't a cut-off point
Similar to what I said above, society has formed another narrative, particularly where women are concerned, that if you reach that grand (not) old age of twenty-five and are still single and childless, the chances of you finding someone and having a baby (or babies) are very slim. But women are still having children into their forties and regardless of whether you want children or not, you can find love at any age. So if you are twenty-five or older, don't see it as you having failed in life because you haven't found 'the one' or had a baby (or at the very least gotten pregnant), because you are very much succeeding and are in the exact place you are meant to be in.
19. Communication is key
I have had to learn the hard way that communication is key. Whatever you are feeling and whoever you are feeling it towards, it is incredibly important for you to communicate these feelings, good or bad (but particularly bad), so that they don't escalate any further. If you love someone, tell them. If they've done something to upset you, tell them. Yes, it may be an uncomfortable conversation or you might feel a little awkward, but putting those feelings out there will make you feel a million times better than if you were to keep them all bottled up inside.
20. You can wear and do what you want
Growing up in a small town, so many people love to comment on what you are wearing and what you are doing. But you don't have to conform to their way of thinking. If you want to wear ripped jeans, wear them. If you want to wear a t-shirt dress, wear it. If you want to go out in your dressing gown, do it. If you want to go into a job that isn't necessarily seen as a 'normal job', such as a job in the arts or social media, go for it. Don't let other people have a hold over you in the way you dress and behave because at the end of the day it's none of their business and you should just do you.
21. Be unapologetically you
So many people love to tell you what to do and how to act. But at the end of the day, if we were all the same then the world would be an incredibly boring place. So just be you. If you're someone who loves to go out every night of the week, that's great. If you're someone who spends the majority or all of your nights at home, that's great too. If you're someone who loves to wear make-up every day, that's fine. If you're someone who never wears make-up, that's fine too. At the end of the day, we are all unique in our own ways and the best version of you is when you are unapologetically you. Never apologise for being your true, authentic self.
I know this has been an incredibly long post, so congratulations if you've made it to the end. However, hopefully, you have learnt at least one thing out of this incredibly long list. If you have made it this far, I would love to know one (or however many more) things you have learnt throughout your life that I haven't already mentioned. Or, if you've learnt something from this list, then please feel free to comment on that also.
Thank you so much for reading and for supporting me on my journey so far.
Here's to Chapter Twenty-One!
Love Beth xx