20 Things I’ve Learned* In 20 Years

Part Two.
Life lessons I’ve learned *or I’m currently learning.

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Going to bed after 1am isn’t a good idea
Pretty sure I knew this 10 years ago, yet I still continue to do it. Oops! Seriously though, it’s not a good habit to get into, particularly if you’re someone like me who takes hours to get to sleep anyway. Being tired all the time is nobody’s idea of fun.

If you don’t like someone, you don’t have to be friends with them
Crazy, right? I remember reading this as a quote on Instagram and feeling like I’d experienced a minor epiphany. It was so simple! I know how obvious this sounds, but you’d be amazed at the amount of people who remain friends when one doesn’t like the other or neither of them do. I think we’ve all been guilty of this at some point in our lives. The thing is, nobody’s forcing you to stay friends with someone if you don’t enjoy being around them or worse yet, if they make you feel bad about yourself. It’s okay to let people go.

Listening to music can help more than listening to advice
Music is amazing. I’ve found that listening to music can sometimes be just as if not more therapeutic or beneficial than ‘talking things through’, especially with those who don’t really listen and are just waiting to share their 2 cents. Sometimes all you need are some melancholy/chirpy tunes to feel better. I swear Morrissey understands me more than most people in my life (wow, I don’t think I’ve ever sounded more like a 16-year-old).

Your self-worth isn’t measured by how much you weigh
Definitely still learning this one. I have a long history with poor body image, but with the rise of the body positivity movement and just through getting older and growing more comfortable with myself, I’m re-evaluating the way I view my body. I’m unlearning the hypercritical pressures I put myself under for years. Society teaches people that their looks should be one of their highest priorities (often even above their health); something to judge and find faults with. Thousands of people waste years of their life yo-yo dieting, only to discover that their worth doesn’t grow from being 5lbs, 15lbs or 50lbs thinner.

More often it’s the thing you don’t do which you regret
Everyone’s heard this a million times before, but bloody hell will you be shocked at how relevant it becomes. That’s not to say people don’t regret things they’ve done (i.e. “I should not have said that.”), however, on reflection, the ‘should-have-dones’ really do considerably outweight the ‘wish-I-didn’ts’. So, I guess the real lesson here is: don’t hold yourself back.

Having a lot in common with someone doesn’t make you compatible
This by far is the most recent lesson I’ve learnt. Until only a few months ago, I believed that creating friendships/relationships was about having a set of criteria – as long as you met someone who fit enough criteria, you couldn’t go wrong. Quite recently, I knew someone who I seemed to have everything in common with – they had the same music taste, the same interests, similar life experiences, even a similar way of thinking – but I couldn’t click with them. I kept forcing it, as though I couldn’t accept that such seemingly similar people could be so off kilter. But connection is a strange thing; there is ‘je ne sais quoi’ element. While it helps to share common ground, it doesn’t ascertain anything. Sometimes you’ll find that the person you get on best with is someone who, on paper, wouldn’t seem compatible at all.

Reading IS important
Don’t do what I did for years and underestimate the value of reading. Books really are incredibly important – for knowledge, for vocabulary expansion, for better imagination, for stress reduction, for focus – not to mention, they’re a great form of escapism. If you’re a writer, you pretty much can’t afford not to read.

People will and do talk behind your back
It’s human nature. Even the most loyal, authentic people have talked about their friends or their families or their co-workers, or that person in their high school who got 3 girls pregnant. The idea of people talking about me used to be (and still slightly is) something that bothered me; I’d drive myself crazy wondering what people were saying. Even now, I drag myself away from eavesdropping on conversations. It’s almost as if I want to catch someone in the act, midway through confirming all my deepest insecurities. But I don’t need to. People talk, and I’ve more or less come to accept that. Don’t worry about it, just try to have the type of people in your life who’ll say good things about you when you’re not there.

Hold yourself accountable / avoid hypocrisy
This is something I learned early on, mainly through someone else’s mistakes rather than my own. In fact, through observing people in general I’ve noticed that, especially when it comes to any kind of relationship, individuals aren’t as self-reflective as they perhaps could be. For instance, someone might blame their ex for the decline of a relationship rather than seeing the faults they both made. Someone might feel aggravated by somebody not calling them when they haven’t called either. Someone might blame their alcoholic father for his influence and ‘turning’ them into an alcoholic rather than accepting their part in that issue. No matter what it is, always try to look at the part you played/play in whatever problem you’re facing.

It’s okay to need help, and it’s okay to ask for it
I purposely left this ’til last – in my life, it’s probably the most important lesson of the 20. Everyone has those few deep-seated personal issues that a psychologist would just love to spend weeks re-surfacing and psycho-analysing. For me, one of these issues is asking for help. (Someone recently dubbed me ‘the least demanding person in the world.’) I’m horrendous at asking for help and worse at accepting it, to the point where my aversion has severely impacted my life and my confidence. Help scares me, and ironically, I’m someone who likely needs a lot more of it than most. I’m obsessed with the idea of independence and not burdening people/being a nuisance. For God’s sake, I cancel Drs appointments because I don’t want to be a bother! But it’s stupid, I’m realizing that. It’s also not an uncommon fear, not by a long shot.

Needing help doesn’t make you weak, nor does asking for it. If anything it makes you stronger, and also smarter for knowing when you can’t face something alone. If a friend was to come to me asking for help and guidance, I would never in a million years think less of them for it, so why do so many of us not apply that logic to ourselves? Being self-reliant is a good thing, there’s no question about that, but there’s a difference between self-reliance and closing yourself off to support when you’re struggling. It only prolongs the struggle. It makes it 10x more difficult to overcome.

I repeat, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.