28 things I learned in the past 365 days

Thanks to my friend Marina who baked this outrageous carrot cake for me.

Two years ago, on the eve of turning 26, I wrote down a list of 26 lessons I’d learned in the 365 preceding days. Last year, I repeated the exercise. People seem to like it, so I’m doing it here again and hitting publish on my 28th birthday. Some are profound, some are hard-won, some are things I probably should’ve already known, and two have to do with butter.

1. Turn off your push notifications. All of them. Even Twitter. Especially Twitter

2. Learn to separate your internal chatter — much of which is wildly fictitious — from your core sense of knowing. The more you can tell the difference between those two broadcast systems, the better your decisions will be.

3. Therapy is expensive, rather time consuming, and will make you annoyingly prone to crying at inconvenient moments of your life (at drinks with friends, on public transportation, in yoga class). It is also the best gift you can give yourself. Make room for it — both for the sessions and the emotions that will follow.

4. If you’re not making your scrambled eggs in butter, you are doing it wrong.

5. When it comes to dating, there are basically no rules. Except for one: pursue people who appear to want to see more of you, not less. (Provided you feel the same about them, of course).

6. Your body keeps the score, and it’s often telling you what you want to do before your brain catches up. When you think about something, does your body feel expansive, or does it contract?

7. Related to 6: You can fix a life-long affliction of chronically-tight hamstrings by lying with your legs up against the wall, back on the ground forming right angle, for five minutes a day. Seriously.

8. Give other people as much grace as you yourself would hope to be granted. But not any more than that.

9. Achievements are addictive. It doesn’t matter what boxes you tick, if you are a certain type of person (me), it is unlikely you will ever arrive at a place where you have sated your desire for success. You will just end up with achievement tendonitis. So, alongside your hard external work — and sometimes, crucially, in place of it — you need to cultivate the feeling of being enough regardless of your achievements. This work is harder than anything else, which is why most people avoid it.

10. It is life’s mundane rituals — lighting an incense stick every morning, having one biscuit with your first cup of tea, making a healthy dinner with lots of leftovers for the week on Sunday night — that make you look forward to coming home from vacation.

11. What makes life liveable (at least for me, this year) is community. To have a feeling of rootedness and interconnectivity with your surroundings, both human and non-human. You can, in theory, find this anywhere — but only if you stick around long enough to invest in it.

12. Once a day, focus on your breath. Just your breath. Even if you can only focus on one single breath before your mind strays, do that. In, and then out. Then do it again. And again. And again. Keep doing that. You will mess up. When you do, let go and begin again.

13. If your life, your work, your mental health, and/or your internal chatter are preventing you from being kind — to others, to strangers, to friends — then it’s time to urgently reassess all those things.

14. No matter how many times you try to establish a new breakfast routine, the truth will remain: toast with salted butter and seeded raspberry jam (preferably Bonne Maman) is the best breakfast there is. Just stick with that.

15. If you have anxiety, it will likely always be present to some degree. Your goal should not be eliminating it, but reducing the number of days you allow it to direct your decision making. It’s okay if it’s in the car, just don’t let it drive.

16. The person who told you when you were 13 that a “visible panty line” is unattractive was infected by an unfortunate disease called patriarchy. In other words, wear comfortable underwear all the time, not just when you’re sleeping. Uniqlo cotton briefs are the best.

17. There is no place in a happy life for cable news. 
 
18. Don’t book the earliest EasyJet or Ryanair flight to save £30. It’s never worth it.

19. The maximum amount of alcohol you can drink on a weeknight and not regret it the next day is two glasses of wine. This is non-negotiable. Also, don’t drink on Mondays

20. When you’re in a creative rut, think of a creator you admire — Frida Khalo, Cheryl Strayed, Martha Gelhorn — and ask yourself what she would do in your position. Then do that.

21. Boundaries are funny things. Once you are aware that it is an option to say no to things and people and situations that aren’t serving you, you begin to see a lot of things and people and situations that aren’t serving you. Act accordingly.

22. When you’re single, you imagine being in a relationship will feel like slipping on a sexy motorcycle jacket. It won’t. It’s more like putting on a vintage cashmere jumper that’s new but feels like it’s always been yours. The latter is way better.

23. The more pictures people post/broadcast of themselves on Instagram, the less you should envy their lives.

24. Your attention is your most precious and un-renewable resource, so think closely about where it’s going, minute by minute, day by day, week by week. If you don’t, be aware that there is literally a line of highly-paid people waiting to take it away from you.

25. An evening walk around a city with no agenda is the most romantic date there is.

26. You can’t hack your feelings. There is no shortcut to dealing with them head on; they will come for you one way or another.

27. Group travel should never exceed 72 hours.

28. Whatever your excuse is for not calling your family more is a bad one.

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