What I would tell my just-graduated, 22-year-old self

Recently, someone I had only just met asked me what my advice would be for getting through your twenties. As well as making me feel positively antique (yes OK I am over 30 now), it got me thinking – what the hell would I say to 22 year old me to make those years better?

In the conversation I was having, my focus was money (it was a work meeting after all). Take the trip. Take the risk. Get the credit card (sensibly). You will regret what you don’t do. That should be printed in every uni handbook, sent via email to every 20 year old wondering what to do next because it is the truest thing anyone will ever say. I have so many regrets, and almost every one is what I didn’t do.

So what would I say? I choose 22 because that was when I graduated from uni, spat out into the world with First Class Honours and barely a penny to my name, a freshly broken heart and zero plans other than ‘find internship’ since that seemed to be what everyone else was plotting. But if I could talk now to that anxious, lost 22 year old? This is what I’d say…

  1. Learn to be brave. Confidence and courage are things I’ve never had but perhaps if I’d started trying to find them earlier I’d be in a different place by now. You got a First! You live in London! You survived a flat share that almost broke you! You’ve got this.
  2. Get over it faster. It’ll take time, sure, but don’t let one person determine the rest of your twenties. Now’s the time to meet all those people you didn’t while you were at uni. Go on dates, the bad ones make great stories if nothing else.
  3. Talk to the doctor and don’t take no for an answer. You don’t have to live with constant worry. You do need to worry about that thing they’re brushing off as nothing. Just keep asking.
  4. You’re going to be poor for a while. No one can live on £10 a day (thanks, online internship), even if in 9 years you won’t believe how cheap your rent used to be (message from the future – it’s now almost double, soz). But once you’re not quite so poor, start saving. Everyone else is. Whether you spend it on the flat you desperately want or that trip to NYC one day, just save. And then once you can afford your rent and food? Get a credit card and use it – carefully – to do all those things that everyone else seems to magically be able to afford.
  5. See your family as much as you can. Open up to them. Spend real time with them. Appreciate them. Visit nan and grandad. Call your uncle every week. Be interested and listen. Realise that listening is so much more important than talking.
  6. Don’t watch Lost, at all, it is a proper waste of time. Damages, however, is excellent.
  7. The close friends you’ve always wanted are about to spring into your life. Don’t panic about the people who don’t make time for you anymore; everyone you need is right there in front of you.
  8. Do more. Learn Spanish. Play the piano. Read everything you can lay your hands on. Go to that weird fitness class. Drink tequila. Stay over at a friend’s even though you feel like the most awkward person to ever live. Visit that friend in Argentina (with that credit card I mentioned). You can make more money but you can never make more time.
  9. Know your worth at work. There are going to be bosses who tell you you’re nothing (yeah, to your face), who want to make you look and feel small, but that’s not about you. The one thing you’ve always been confident on is that when it comes to work, you do your best. Keep doing your best. It’s better to be good than to be popular.
  10. Twitter is going to change your life. Embrace it, but for god’s sake don’t write in text-speak. That shit will come back to haunt you via something called Timehop.
Image via GIPHY
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The modern girl’s to-do list

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The other night on the way home on a casual Monday, I wrote myself a little to do list for that evening. I’d been so busy at the weekend and at work that there was a ridiculous amount of life admin to do and for various reasons it really needed doing that night.

But as I wrote the list I realised how tedious it was that I had to fill my precious, short spare time with such ridiculous things. ‘Shower and dry hair’ even made it on there that night, as I usually leave it to dry by itself (to save time, natch) and obviously this looks rubbish come 7am so I wanted to put some effort in for a meeting. By the time I had finished writing the list I was feeling utterly deflated – off went my hopes of putting my feet up and getting stuck into my new book.

It got me thinking about just how much there is to DO as a woman in 2016. Having it all (or attempting to) has essentially become doing it all, and it’s bloody exhausting.

I’m not suggesting we all stop washing our hair. But at what point is something going to give? Time has become so tight, and as I’ve got older it’s the thing I’m starting to treasure the most; I resent having to use it on commutes and on people who don’t reciprocate their time back when you need it. Time is really all we have, it’s the thing money can’t buy and the thing we are all running out of. So why do we fill it with so much life admin?

Stylist recently reported on the stats that revealed the average 30-year-old woman has just 17 minutes a day to herself. While I’m not sure I’m quite as time-poor as that, it’s not much better – the first 12 hours of my waking day go to commuting and work, which leaves me with about four hours to play with before I’m desperate for sleep. At least half of that goes on the aforementioned life admin, or something else that I feel I ‘should’ be doing.

Here’s everything I could think of that, as a single woman in 2016, I have on my to-do list:

  • Watch must-watch TV (on catchup, because who ever gets home on time for it all?)
  • Check online dating apps, bang head against wall, repeat
  • Go on dates if previous point is successful; most likely waste an evening on someone you’ll never see again
  • Read books, magazines and articles by all the brilliant people you follow on Twitter (this could easily be a full time job)
  • Blog (I try)
  • Have a hobby (it helps with the online dating chat, plus makes you a bit cooler these days)
  • Paint nails, go for a wax and other general beauty things (as a beauty journalist, this really has to happen)
  • Shower (yep, this has to go on the list now)
  • Food shop (worst thing on the list)
  • Cook (wait, no, this is the worst thing on the list)
  • Have actual chat with flatmates that isn’t just ‘Hi, I’m tired’
  • Chat to family so they remember you exist
  • Reply to 278 Whatsapp messages, 5 texts, 33 Facebook notifications and 18 messages on Facebook Messenger (why does it have to be a different app?!)
  • All the emails, all the time, on three different accounts
  • Wash clothes in order to attempt fabulous work outfits
  • Shop for clothes that I don’t hate
  • Return clothes that you inevitably do hate
  • Work out (HAHAHA)
  • Do the washing up (there is so much of it. Where does it come from? I don’t even like cooking?)
  • Keep an eye on finances and make mental note to get buses more when you see how many Ubers you’ve booked lately
  • Catch up with friends who are all in different groups and work different hours just to make it extra fun
  • Sleep (remember that?)
  • Look up, every so often. Tech neck is a bitch

So without sounding whiney… what about me? As it’s my 30th year (yup, I’m going to take the whole year) I’m trying to give myself a break, be a little more selfish and do a little more of what I love – without, hopefully, pissing anyone off. After last year’s health scare in my family and nearly 8 exciting years of working my arse off in startups, I need to focus on spending my time on making myself feel better, being with the people I love and generally be a better person.

Because doing it all won’t make us the best we can be – it’ll make us the most exhausted, and probably the most grumpy versions of ourselves. Don’t get me wrong; I love to say yes to things, to keep busy (my mum always says of me when I was a child: ‘You were very… busy, all the time, always doing something’) and to share those experiences with others. After all, we might not have much time, but we’ll only have it once, so I’m all for making the most of it.

But I’d also love to read all those books stacked up on my bookshelves, to write more, to walk around London more without being in a rush, to not waste my weekends ticking off that admin list in the bank or the Post Office, and just generally to ‘be’. To have time that doesn’t feel like it’s already assigned to something I’m obligated to do. Now *that* is something I’m putting on my to-do list. Who’s with me?

 

Why my best Valentine’s Days have been when I’m single

Sex and the City Valentine

I kind of feel about Valentine’s Day the way that other people feel about New Year’s Eve – a bit too much effort, never as good as you hope and not really worth the bother. (I will never understand why people feel this about NYE – it’s an excuse to go dancing and partying with people you love, with a bonus free day off the next day – why on earth would you not want that?!)

This Valentine’s Day though, it seemed like everyone, whether single or coupled up, was making more of a big deal of it. It’s not that the shops were unbearably full with it (possibly even less so, this year) but more that people were actually asking others what their plans were, and making some of their own as if it was a real holiday to be celebrated.

Single or otherwise, I’ve never felt the need to even acknowledge it, but convention kind of means that if you’re a couple you’re supposed to mark it somehow. And that’s why this weekend, as a singleton, I got to thinking about what I would have been doing had I been with someone, and it made me realise: I’ve never had a great Valentine’s Day as a non-single. Not in a, get-the-violins-out-I’m-so-unlucky kind of way, but it made me see that a) I’m quite pleased not to be with someone for this ramped up 2016 version and b) if I wasn’t, I certainly wouldn’t be making plans other than maybe a takeaway and a DVD (piss off with your ‘Netflix and chill’, I’m old school).

In fact, it’s not so much that the years where I was with someone were bad (though they generally involved overpriced meals in horrid restaurants, severe anxiety because of the general pressure of it and occasionally, mild food poisoning), but actually that the single ones were just SO damn good.

I’ve got some brilliant friends, luckily, and from the time that a few of us went to a dating event in which a topless man and woman served us cocktails in little more than a thong to the night where we all went bowling and drank quite a lot of cocktails which makes it quite hard to throw straight, my single Valentine’s Days have been an absolute hoot.

This year was slightly less exciting – I stayed in, settled on the sofa with copious amounts of tea and a brilliant film (Ex Machina, highly recommend). I suppose company would have been nice, but there’s something wonderful about not having to please anyone but yourself for a whole day. Someone corny would call it self-love or something equally hippy-ish, but to me, that’s just a perfect Sunday. Same time next week, hopefully…

The alternative 30 before 30 list

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In three short days I will turn 30, and so I have just deleted the ’30 before 30′ list I optimistically wrote on my phone last year because frankly my heart was never in it and I only ticked off one thing. But do I feel bad? Not really. There’s plenty I could have done, but who says I have to do it before Tuesday? It’s just a Tuesday, when you think about it.

It got me thinking about everything I *have* done, though. Glass half full and all that. And I think I’ve done OK, all things considered. So here’s my alternative 30 before 30 list – what’s on yours?

Before I turned 30, I…

  1. Went to Disneyland as an adult and screamed on a log flume like a child
  2. Actually got into the career I wanted
  3. Won an award for my work in the career I wanted
  4. Went to a real festival and survived, just
  5. Camped in a heatwave and a thunderstorm. Yeah, I won’t be doing that again
  6. Got a First and threw my hat in the air like a proper cliché
  7. Became an auntie 3 times. Totally taking credit. I’m an awesome aunt
  8. Went on a flight by myself (this is a BIG deal for me, and it was horrid)
  9. Had a mini holiday romance
  10. Swam with dolphins (OK it was more standing than swimming but one has to be sensible when one can’t swim)
  11. Went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, twice, without fainting or falling off
  12. Climbed Arthur’s Seat, in sandals. It was terrible
  13. Was a maid of honour for someone completely awesome
  14. Went to a sex museum in Amsterdam. That was weird
  15. Partied all night in Ibiza (quite a few times, actually)
  16. Got drunk at Vogue with my best friends
  17. Wrote my name along with my first boyfriend’s on the wall in Verona by Juliet’s balcony
  18. Sang along to the actual Backstreet Boys in Hyde Park
  19. Learnt to drive. Not that well, mind
  20. Partied in a gay bar in Berlin
  21. Snorkelled. I may have been a bit blind but I saw some stuff and didn’t drown
  22. Saw Beyonce live. May have cried a bit
  23. Saw Five live and fell in love with Scott all over again despite not being a teenager anymore
  24. Sat within a few feet of an actual real lion as it played with a ball
  25. Could actually say ‘I’m with the band’ as we sat on A’s tour bus and had a little chat in Newquay, aged 18
  26. Read a LOT of good books. I’m practically Matilda
  27. Wore glitter at every appropriate opportunity
  28. Rode in a tuk-tuk (I’ve always wanted to do that)
  29. Learned Spanish. Well, some Spanish. And then forgot most of it but at least I tried
  30. Found the kind of friends that make everything better, and who made a lot of the above happen…

What’s on yours?

Image – someecards.com

Confessions of a little planner 

capricornIn writing the last few posts, I’ve realised I either come across as a completely lost twenty-something crying out for guidance, or someone who’s so spontaneous and go-with-the-flow that plans don’t even come into it.

Well, neither is true (much). While guidance would be lovely (still convinced you lot are all going to secret ‘how to be an adult’ lessons behind my back), I’ve always kind of fallen into things and fate has mostly served me well; so I’m not so much lost as I am trusting that things will be fine. Repeat to self: THINGS WILL BE FINE. But hell no, I am not spontaneous in the slightest.

But I am somewhere in between; I’m a little planner. I might not know what’s going on in five years’ time (or even five weeks) but when something comes around, I will make mini plans and have the details down.

Want to meet up on the same day that you ask me? I will work out whether I’m dressed for the part, what makeup I can top up on at the office and what it means for meal times (double Pret lunch, anyone?). I will plot my journey home and know whether it’s a last tube or Kabbee situation; I will know whether I have hangover-friendly food in the fridge (because my nights out always involve wine) and whether I need to go to Tesco on the way back. I’ll do the wine maths depending on what I have to do the next day (1 bottle + food = upper limit if awake before 12. Multiply by 2 if + soda water). Sound mad yet? I can’t help it, I’m a Capricorn. I’m organised.

That said, I am learning that the best nights come from the unexpected. Overplan anything and it’s guaranteed to fail (ever planned a birthday night out that’s completely flopped?), whereas when you do something with no expectations of where it might lead, you might end up laughing your head off in a London tuk-tuk on the way to Subway with one of your best friends, singing the Jurassic World theme tune on a night bus and spending the next day reliving the funniest night you’ve had in ages (thanks G). I’ll never lose my microplans, if I may make up that word and call them that, but I think they’re a little like rules – there to be broken.

 

Image from capricornzodiacsign.net

The rise of the secret planners: are you ready for your friend to have a boyfriend?

Bridget Jones

 

Imagine you’re single, and actually it’s not so bad as you’ve got some single friends, and you all laugh and joke about the difficulties of being single and dating and oh aren’t those smug marrieds with their patronising head tilts the absolute worst?

But then one meets a man. That’s ok, there’ll be some fun dating stories coming soon. Right? Oh. She likes this one. Oh, they’re going away for the weekend. Erm, is she ignoring me? Why has she not asked me how I am in about three months? What happened three mo… OH. He happened.

This has happened to me (or did it just happen? Not sure I can say it happened ‘to me’ as it’s never intentional, one hopes) more times than I can count. And you know what’s scary about the people that do this? They’re not planners. They’re SECRET planners. They talk the talk of a non-planner, they agree with you on the silliness and unexpected way of life and ooooh, isn’t it fun to be a clueless twenty-something; but behind the scenes, like a little duck doing all the work under the murky water, they’re actually making plans. And then a plan comes together and bingo, suddenly they’re one of those people with a plan. Who knew?

I’ve been burned before when my fellow Bridget-Jonesers have suddenly discovered Man and started using the B word and then forgotten I exist, so when it happens again I panic. You know how in Friends (there’ll be a lot of Friends references on this blog, btw) Chandler FREAKS OUT when Gary wants to move in with Phoebe? “Right, because it’s fast. Because, it’s so fast. It’s fast!” and Monica has to point out that it’s not him that’s got to do it, it’s Phoebe? Yeah, well never mind if she’s ready. What if YOU’RE not ready?

Of course, it’s not just when it comes to men. There are the people who live in a flatshare just like you and then all of a sudden, bang, they’re putting deposits down on houses; there are the colleagues you think you’ll work with for years but then, bang, they’ve quit and are off to find themselves in Thailand or wherever people do that these days. Bang, bang, bang, off go the non-planners to join the people who know how to get shit done, and leaving you right where you always are.

This is a thing with never planning for the future. You kind of realise that others are, even if they don’t seem to be, and that eventually, they all go off in hunt of their grand goals. I’m not playing a little violin here (much) but it can be crap to feel like you’re constantly left behind by people who seem to just go out there and get what they want.

I’m happy for all of them – I’m just not so sure where I fit in when I’m not a part of their plan anymore. Because, and I know this goes against everything the irritating Instagram posts say about living for yourself and making it all about YOU and learning to be selfish, but: what am I doing with my life, if I’m not doing it with them?

And so that is why I’ll never be a secret planner – because I like my attempts at plotting to involve the people around me, and I factor everything or everyone in before making a decision (which is why sometimes it takes me months to make one). And in my experience, it’s the plans with other people that lead to the best bits in life. So no head tilts for me; I’m just doing things a different way.