In two days, I am another year older. I joke about it with friends, making fun of the age related meltdowns some of our mutual acquaintances have experienced, relying on the use of the phrase “in my day” and cringing at the realisation that the first profile picture we posted on facebook preceded smartphones by years too plentiful in number to admit.
But while I exclaim my lost youth to anyone who will listen, a part of me feels.. okay. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and is really the main blessing of growing older. Each passing year used to feel like I was kissing goodbye to myself at 21, the age where we are commonly persuaded that the world is at our feet, at 25 the age where we are finding the job we want to do, the man we want to marry, the place we want to live. It felt like I was hurtling towards something and nobody seemed to tell me exactly what. Here is what I have learnt.
1. You really do get the face you deserve. Wash it, moisturise it, don’t clog it up with foundation. Stay out of the sun and smile more than you frown.
2. Be nice to everyone, but recognise that you don’t owe everyone your time.
3. Find an eyebrow shape that suits you and stick to it. It will be the framework for everything yet to come.
4. It is ok to say NO. If someone or something is taking more from you than you are prepared to give then you have earnt the right to preserve your wellbeing.
5. There is no such thing as “too young, fat, stylish, cool, tall” for anything or anyone. Wear what the hell you want if it makes you happy, go on a date with the person your 20 year old self would have considered out of your league. The leagues only exist for 20-somethings.
6. There is no shame in starting again. Life has endless outcomes and sometimes you gotta start again to get on the right path.
7. Nobody has the right to make you feel bad. How you feel about something is partly within your control.
8. You don’t have to fall into step with everyone around you. Humans like to feel included which is where pressure to conform to milestones like child rearing, marriage and mortgages arise from. Which leads me onto…
9. People will not always appreciate you doing your own thing… fuck them. When I started shooting professionally, some close friends distanced themselves, it became clear that they only wanted a certain version of me. The version of me that was enjoying creative success made them feel inferior (for reasons unknown). I distanced myself and have never looked back.
10. It does not matter if nobody fancies you the way it mattered when you were 18. True that. NOBODY admitted they fancied me or asked me out for years and years. I like to think it was sparing me years of unsuitable dates.
11. Re-dream. A lot of people seem to forget they can change tack whenever they want. If this dream isn’t working any more, try another one.
12. Drink a pint of water before bed after drinking any alcohol whatsoever.
13. Be ok with being alone. Take a trip, go out to dinner. People are looking because they aren’t comfortable with themselves as you are and they wish they were. Well done, you’ve arrived.
14. Everything is figure outable, and if it’s not it isn’t reasonable. Apply this to your career path, your work- life balance, debt, relationship.. anything.
15. Learn to like the face you have. I spent way too many years loathing mine but this is the youngest I will ever be.
16. Being critical of others won’t make you any better. You will still be that mediocre person who is bitching about someone else.
17. People only show you what they want you to see. Remember that.
18. Stop looking for things to legitimise whatever it is you do. If you are waiting for XYZ to become a fashion designer then your skills will still be at the same level for however long it takes you to get that stuff. Start now and the rest will follow.
19. Money is a tool to life, not the meaning of life.
20. If it still fits and you like it, keep it. I’m still wearing this denim jacket I had when I was 17 in the photo above.
21. Don’t be scared of planning. I used to feel I was setting myself up for failure until I started to use a planner as a way of staying in control of my life.
22. Ask for help if you need it.
23. Go clubbing if you want, stay in if you prefer. It’s really fine either way.
24. It’s alright if your musical tastes do not go beyond May 2007.
25. Try not to say “bae” even ironically.
26. Selfies as you get older become less about “look at me! look how GREAT I look” and more “look at me! I’m happy with me, right now, as I am ”
27. If you are a Man, advertising will celebrate you and call you distinguished. If you are a woman it will shame you for not fighting the ageing process.
28. You are not alone in finding Topshop clothes cut for the 2% of the population with no hips.
29. Your parents might die. Your friends parents might die. Grieve. Laugh. Remember.
30. Your friends might start having kids. It is ok not to be as enthralled by them as they are.
31. Try not to say “I look good for my age”. You look good period.
32. Hangovers will become like terminal illnesses in a few short years. Just a warning.
Are there any bits of advice you would give to your younger self? Anything you have learnt along the way?