Growing up at 30: 5 life lessons I’ve learned this year
I’ve never been one to air my feelings, especially on the internet; mostly because I’ve been accustomed to keeping them to — and dealing with them — myself. But here I am, on the cusp of the big three-oh, suddenly finding myself a little bit wiser and a tad less reticent. So I’m going to do something I rarely ever do: write about what I’m feeling.
As far as the ‘growing up’ curve goes, this year has been, by far, the steepest for me. Changes — some that I’ve chosen to make, and some that I’ve had no control over — have made me pause at various points to think a little more deeply about my life, and life itself. Now, I’m pretty certain I’m not alone on this unique path of enlightenment, and that most people realise these things too (maybe sooner, maybe later). So, for what it’s worth, here are 5 life lessons I’ve learned this year.
1. People go away.
Family, friends, the people you thought would be there forever. They go away. It sucks, but it’s true. Now, in case you’re thinking I was naïvely living in a utopian world where everyone’s around forever, I wasn’t. The truth was always there, somewhere at the back of my mind. But the first dose of reality hit when I lost my mum at the start of this year to cancer, and then it hit a lot harder when I found that people who said they were there for me, couldn’t really be there for me (even if they fully intended to be when they said they would). The truth is that people have their own lives to deal with, and you will rarely — if ever — be a priority in theirs. Which leads me to…
2. Be the person that makes you happy.
I’ve had to deal with self-esteem issues for as long as I can remember. Sure, there are days when I feel like I can rule the world, but most others, it’s a mix of doubt and anxiety, and wondering if I’ll ever be ‘good enough’. Enough people have told me I am, but learning to accept that is easier said than done. It’s a long and slow battle, but one I know I’m starting to make progress on, because I’m finally beginning to heed this simple but powerful advice…
Be okay with being you. Focus on the things that matter. Give yourself room to make mistakes, and learn from them so you can become a better version of yourself. A version of you that you like. Because at the end of the day, only you will always be there for you.
3. Draw the line.
This could apply to various things, but I’ve found the two that it’s most pertinent to for me are work and relationships. Anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to burn the candle at both ends and put 110% into these, and that it rarely (if ever) works out for the best. I can tell you for a fact: professional and emotional burnout are no fun. At all. Balance is extremely important, and if it’s looking like a one-sided situation isn’t likely to balance out despite your best efforts, cut your losses and force a change, no matter how difficult it is (and it almost always is).
4. Widen your world.
This is hardly new knowledge, but the meaning and significance of it becomes more evident with every passing day. It’s dangerously easy to get caught up with work and the day-to-day routine which, for me, usually becomes an uncomfortable rut. Do things that expose you to new ways of thinking, people, places, and cultures. Take a class. Eat weird food. Do something you didn’t think you could, or better still, something that terrifies you (like jumping into an ocean). Talk to people who’ve seen and done things you haven’t, then take the important bits of their wisdom and experience forward with you. Most of all, remember you won’t live forever, so remember to live while you’re alive. As Oasis said in one of my favourite songs: The world’s as wide as your life is thin, so entertain your goals.
5. There is a tomorrow.
As awful and hopeless as a situation may feel, remember to look at the bigger picture. I’ve had more low moments than I can count this past year, and “zoom out, zoom out” has now almost become a mantra. When it feels like everything’s lost, remember there are still people in your life worth waking up for. The world is bigger than you and your problems. Give things time, and be patient — it’s the only way you can start making a change. To quote the fantastic Oasis once again:
A little space, a little time, see what it can do.
A little faith, peace of mind, see what passes through.
The sun will shine on you again, a bell will ring inside your head,
And all will be brand new.
I’m sure there are going to be plenty more lessons along the way, but if there are any you’d like to knock into my head as a 30th birthday gift, I’m all eyes/ears :-)