It's my birthday tomorrow and to avoid crying any more about last weekend, I want to do a weekly update about something easy and effective and self-celebratory. So, these are my top 25 life lessons from the last 25 years. Also forgive me, some of the following are long as ya like. But HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me and my fabulous quarter of a century.
1. Your friends are the most important people in your life. They are the family we choose ourselves, and they’ve got a pretty good chance of outliving your spouse/flatmate/cat. I am (boring you with the same story) so eternally grateful for my friends. You learn who your true friends are by realising who’s there for you, and who isn’t and you learn to let them go. As well as a handful of childhood friends and cousins who’ve grown up with me that I will keep clutched to me forever, I can officially say that The Ravens, as well as being my saving grace, are my homies for life. Particularly because I’m unsure if I’ll ever find another gaggle of women willing to put up with my constant nudity/ crude jokes/ passion for kebab meat. Hand on heart; if I hadn’t fallen into my current friendship group then my life would be unimaginably different.
2. Sleeping around isn’t a crime. Casual sex is fun. If you want to go out and bed someone random then fucking do it. I know I did (a considerable amount of time) and I’ve learned to shrug them off with no regrets. But please be safe, not everyone wants to be a parent. To a child OR an STI. ‘Your number’ isn’t a thing, alright? We know that men get the stud status and women get slut shamed for the same exact thing, so let’s not propagate this ridiculous theory with any further attention. My wish for you all is a care-free sex life, doing what and who you want, when you want. Providing you’re not putting yourself or anyone else in harm’s way: go forth and fuck.
3. Being honest will help everyone in the long run. I know sometimes it is hard and feels like, by doing so, you’ll be destroying everything. But the lie is always so much worse. Just tell the truth, mon petite pois (there's almost no way that that's the correct spelling or tense). And then come round if you need a gin and a cry.
4. Life is too short for bad relationships and disappointing sex. Know your fuckin’ worth, mama! Relationships in this case mean those with yourself, friends, family, partners – literally anyone you’re engaging with in your life. Some people are toxic, some people drag you down and some people bring out the worst in you. And there’s nothing wrong (in fact, there is everything right) in putting yourself first and cutting these people out of your sacred inner circle. There are people in this world who would kill for you. There are people who would walk over hot coals and pay your fucking rent just to help you out in time of need. Keep these people. Stay true to the friendships that make you feel happy and alive and like you’re supported.
5. Be selfish. Put yourself first. Live YOUR life on YOUR terms.
6. Social media isn’t real. Like, of course it’s real, but it’s not real, you know? People just don’t look like you think they do. I know, I know, it’s not fair, but when they aren’t using Facetune and Photoshop and any other editing software which completely obliterates even the idea of a wrinkle, dimple or blemish, please remember that all of these celebrities and influencers have chefs, dietitians, trainers, hair and make-up artists, photographers and just about every other kind of paid help that contributes to their ‘look’. Normal people (like me and you) don’t. I mean, if you do, that’s cool and all, just invite me round for tea once in a while. But hence the need behind all of my Instagram pictures. I never edit them, very rarely filter them and bare my whole self just so you have someone on your news feed who looks more like you do. You’re so very welcome.
7. Piggybacking on my last point, unfollow people who make you feel mediocre or shitty about yourself. And I mean unfollowing in all of its literal senses. On Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and definitely in person. Your home page (that of your social media AND your life) should boast only content that makes you happy or teaches you something new.
8. Be kind. It costs nothing, really. Think how much easier lives in general would be if we all were a little kinder. Smile at strangers. Plus that old saying about everyone has shit going but doesn’t always show it is so true. It’s clichéd AF, but you know I’m right. I don’t want you to smile when you’re told to or feel like you have to be polite following the unwanted advances of a man (fuck politeness), but on the whole, a nicety or two tends to help people that are struggling or need a little pick me up. Hence why I constantly tell my friends how much I love them, thank drivers who let me pull in front of them and big up every drunk girl I come across in the pub’s toilet.
9. Travel when and where you can. Even if it’s only as far as the North of Wales for a camping weekend with your parents. Not everyone can afford to fly off to South-East Asia for six months. Invest in learning about people and their cultures. Take time to clear your head and learn about yourself.
10. Mama probably does know best after all. Or even your dad. Or legal guardian. Damn. They've made the mistakes you’ve made, and they've been in your shitty positions. But they then went on to live for another fair few decades, and moved on with their lives. So you may as well listen to what they've got to say to you - even if you don’t like it and you pretend you’ve got your headphones in and can’t hear. They have your best interests at heart. Despite how naggy and annoying they may be. My mother is a saint for putting up with the shit I’ve dragged her through over the 10 years. Good on ya, Ma! Also, tell them you love them once in a while. It won’t hurt, and they’ll like hearing it. DON’T you dare tell my mum this as she’ll never let me forget it, but she’s probably the only person on earth that I tell absolutely everything to. And we spent a good four years of my growing up barely even speaking.
11. Human beings should be able to embrace their true selves. I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and I encourage everyone to live their truth.
12. Use lube. Liberally. Regardless if you’re naturally ‘wet’ or not. Use it with yourself. Use it with your partner. Use it on your skin (I have started using UberLube as a primer and I look fucking awesome). You won’t regret it. Just make sure you invest in the right one.
13. Rice cakes are not fucking cakes, and they have no business calling themselves so. And, unless coated in flavouring or dipped in chocolate, they aren’t very satisfactory. Neither is celery. So stop swearing yourself off your favourite foods, listen to your body and make conscious decisions about what you’re putting into in your mouth (both kinds of sausage included). There’s nothing wrong with carbs, celebrating with prosecco or going out for a 12” pizza with your boyfriend because that’s what you want to do. I am a firm believer in looking after oneself, but that will never mean dieting and striving to change your body in drastic manners. It means learning that a little exercise every day (sex counts too, thank God) is good for your heart, drinking water helps promote healthy skin and keeps you nice and hydrated and eating fruits and veggies is good for just about everyone. And, while of course if you ate them every single meal of every day for the rest of your life, a Big Mac wouldn’t be classed as ‘healthy’, there is fuck all wrong with satisfying your cravings and enjoying yourself. We need to hold the fucking phone on labelling foods ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (coz neither are either) and promoting the idea of a ‘cheat day’. Gross. Dieting, counting calories and spending your life worrying/feeling guilty about what you’re consuming is detrimental to your mental health, which is JUST as important as your physical health. Swallow that.
14. You’re fucking glorious. Just. As. You. Are. Right this bloody minute. Cellulite has been the bane of my life since I was probably 6 months old. I’m just one dimply motherfucker! Honey, you can’t have a juicy ass like this without a little wobble. Your body is different to other people’s, right? But what’s wrong with that. Whatever it is that separates you from everyone else, your ‘flaws’ if you will, are the best bits about you. Your differences should be eternally celebrated because that’s what makes you individual and original and how cool is that?!?!
15. Try new things. I believe that pushing yourself to do things you’ve wanted to will have nothing but a promising return. Even if it didn’t work out like you’d initially imagined. You did that thing that you were apprehensive about and, with every similar decision, your confidence will flourish. Doing what you want, here, refers to literally anything. Go skydiving. Try an olive. Embrace the idea of anal sex. Whatever it is that’s been playing on your mind and delving you into curiosity until this point deserves some consideration. I mean, please don’t act on stupid things like free-falling from a plane or committing murder though, plz.
16. Find your voice. Anyone who remains neutral in times of conflict is siding with the oppressor. Thanks, Des. Speak up for what you believe in, what you think is right and what you think is wrong. Fighting for what you believe in, be it closing the orgasm gap, the pay gap, human and equal rights, same sex marriage or WHATEVER sparks anger inside of you, is important. The people you could be speaking up for or fighting on the side of need you. We all do.
17. Chase your dream. It’s tough as shit, and almost never happens the way you think it’s going to, but hard work and determination will get you where you need to be.
18. You are not your mistakes, nor are you the traumas you’ve endured. Sure enough, these things shape you in some sort of way, but they are not you. You are you despite of them, not because of them. Similarly, I refuse to let people blame their behaviour on what they have been through. If other people can pick up their lives when they are so far up shit creek, and turn them around into something positive, then so can you. Seek the help you need and pave a new and positive path.
19. Soppy, I know, but it’s OK to be sad. I’m a massively emotional person, and a big crier. I once cried because McDonald’s wouldn’t serve me a McChicken sandwich during breakfast hours. Admittedly, I was severely hungover and running on only a few hours’ sleep, but I wept like a baby until they made me my sandwich. (I assume this is the same kind of crying blackmail that people use to get out of speeding tickets). We all have bad days. More times than I can count, I’ve finished work, gone home and cried for hours. Over nothing. Just because it was a shitty Wednesday or it was raining outside or my favourite jeans shrunk in the wash. Like all other emotions, sadness should be given the time it deserves and not bottled up or hidden away. We’re all sad, sometimes. Don’t apologise for it. You are completely entitled to your feelings, whatever they are. And I promise, if this speaks to you today, better days are coming.
20. Get talking. Book yourself into therapy, or make sure you have a confidant close to you who has the capacity to bear the brunt of your issues. Getting stuff off your chest and making promising decisions to move past certain things feels AMAZING. It is soooooooooo pointless and soul destroying hanging on to anger and holding grudges. Like my good pal Idina famously said, let it go, let it go. It will feel much better when you do. Feeling angry is a natural and normal reaction, but not dealing with that and letting it fester in the pits of your inside is what makes it unhealthy. And, y’all, this absolutely doesn’t mean forgiving anyone. It just means distancing yourself from those people or that feeling and declining its persistent invitation to share your space.
21. Smash taboos. Talk about your sex life. Don’t feel ashamed to masturbate. Ask for a tampon when you need one. We all have sex, we all have periods and I bloody hope we’re all giving ourselves a good seeing to. All of these things (and so many more) are normal human behaviours and should be treated and discussed as such.
22. Listen to Lizzo. She is the Queen of fucking everything, her songs will make you feel amazing AND they are the best to twerk to. Plus, everything she stands for is incredible and necessary and she’s literally shattering all of the glass ceilings doing the damn thing.
23. The world as we know it will likely implode and vanish into a pile of smush if we don’t sort ourselves out. Stop fucking killing each other. Make better choices. Avoid single use plastics. Recycle. You know the rest.
24. We all move at a different pace. Don't out pressure on yourself to make enormous life decisions before you're ready. Don't rush into marriage or having babies. And know that it's OK if you don't want to do any of the things that your friends/grandparents/society is telling you that you should.
25. The be all and end all - You must always, always, always love yourself. Touched upon a bit already, sure. But learning to grow alongside your body and mind is nothing short of miraculous. Soz, not soz, this broken record will never stop playing. It took me a pretty long time to realise how fuckin’ fabulous I am - all this ass AND all this sass, but all jokes and almost-arrogant comments aside, learning to love myself is the best and hardest lesson I’ve tackled thus far. And someone once taught me how to fit 20 marshmallows in my mouth, so that’s really saying something. Beauty isn’t defined by shape, size, productivity, class, sex, the way you dress, the colour of your skin, religion or how you choose to live your life. Trust me, you are beautiful. And smart. And worthy. And enough. And forgetting that would be a stupid mistake.