Milestones such as these give us a wonderful opportunity to look back over what’s been before and get excited about what’s to come.
I’m blessed to have been given experiences that many people will never share. Some of them were terrible times – the darkest of times – but they helped shape me into who I am. Others have been the very best of times, filled with joy, laughter and happiness. Either way, there have been a lot of tears in my 30 years.
I thought this may be a good chance to do one of “those list posts” that many people opt to write around major life events. So here it is:
30 Things I’ve Learned in My Life
1. Karma is real, however you choose to look at it. If you smile, the whole world smiles with you – try it: look up, catch the eye of someone walking towards you and smile. More often than not, they’ll smile right back. The attitude you approach the world with is the attitude you’ll get back.
2. Mixing medicines with food is a great recipe for never wanting to eat certain foods. My parents used to mix up my digestive enzyme powder (which now comes in handy pill form) with yoghurt. I couldn’t eat any form of yoghurt until I was well into my teens.
3. Value everything, no matter how small. A gesture, a gift, a moment shared – everything is important in the wider experience of your life.
4. Sexism, racism, homophobia and hatred of any kind is stupid. Not just because we’re all the same people underneath the veneers we present to the world, but because it’s a massive waste of energy that could be spent feeling happy, positive and achieving greatness.
5. Being a parent isn’t easy. I certainly didn’t make life easy on mine.
“They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.”
6. I owe my parents far more than I can ever repay.
7. Things come to you when you stop looking for them. It wasn’t until I stopped looking for a career that I found my calling. It wasn’t until I stopped looking for a partner and focused on being a friend that I found K.
8. Marmite is horrible.
9. Croissants with Green & Blacks chocolate spread are to die for.
10. Some gifts can never be repaid. All gifts should be gratefully – and gracefully – accepted.
“The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.”
Sundials and Roses of Yesterday, Alice Morse Earle
11. It genuinely does feel better to give than to receive. The look on someone’s face, the smile that comes with a well-thought-out present, the warmth of gratitude for getting it just right. That’s priceless.
12. Reading is awesome. Reading on a Kindle is awesomer.
13. Learning how to take a compliment is one of the best ways to receive more. Too many people are too embarrassed, shy or feel unworthy of the compliments they receive. Learning how to happily and gracefully accept a compliment helps fill you with confidence, warmth and positivity.
14. Whatever you think about the world and your place in it when you’re a teenager, you’re wrong.
15. Empathy is key to understanding the world. If we cannot empathise with those around us, how can we ever reach an understanding?
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird, Harpur Lee
16. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the single greatest works of literature in the English language. Despite being forced to study it for GCSE (the usual recipe for immediate hatred), it remains to this day one of my all-time favourite books.
17. If it comes down to a choice between your head and your heart, always go with your heart. It may be the wrong choice, but in the end more good will come than bad.
18. Whenever you feel like punching someone, restrain yourself. Unless you’re a boxer, in which case you’re kind of already committed.
19. Water in shallow streams is very cold. Especially when it gets into your socks and underwear.
20. Grandparents are like parents, but with less shouting. I think they got it all out of their systems on their own kids. Enjoy them while you have them, talk to them and learn from them.
21. The people who agreed for me to receive their loved one’s lungs are the bravest people I’ll never know. And I’ll never be able to thank them enough.
22. We all want to live a life that means something. The nature of ‘meaning’ is down to us to decide.
23. Even the smallest actions get you closer to your goal. Never be afraid to take the first step. Action causes reaction, which gives momentum and brings change.
“Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
24. Love and hate aren’t distant bedfellows. Both have an equal ability to cause pain. Neither should be used flippantly.
25. Compassion is the greatest trait a person should strive for.
26. Money is important, but happiness more so. If you’re not happy without money, you never will be with it.
27. Positivity is everything.
“Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”
28. Hope is the greatest of motivators. Whatever hits you in life, never lose hope.
“Free can hold you prisoner, hope will set you free”
The Shawshank Redemption, Stephen King
29. If you can smile through the hardest of times, if you can find the ray of light in the darkest storm, if you can see the world through a prism of positivity, gratitude and goodwill you will never want for much.
30. Tennyson had it right – everything I am is thanks to the people I’ve met in the many situations I’ve found myself in. And I’m grateful for every single one of them. Yes, even you.
“I am part of all that I have met”
Alfred Lord Tennyson
The Way My Life Has Gone
It’s a random list, I know, but it reflects, I think, what matters most to me in the world.
Ending with that Tennyson quote, it would be remiss of me here not to thank everyone who has helped to make me who I am in my life. The people who have surrounded me with such love and strength, who have driven me forward when I wanted to stop, who have kept me going when I wanted to give in, who have helped me smile when all I wanted to do was cry.
Those people – and there are many – know who they are and, I hope, know just how much I value and appreciate their friendship and their love.
What more can we ask for in life than friendship and love? What more do we need?
Finally, I like to think I’ve achieved a little of the things the Rudyard Kipling suggested in “If”. Maybe mine is not the world just yet, but I hope I can say that I stand before it as a man.
Here’s to the years we all have left, however many or few they may be. May we never let age be a barrier and never forget how lucky we all are to be here. Every passing year is a chance to celebrate, rejoice and be happy in life.
And no matter how hard it gets, remember to Keep smiling through it.