As I approach the grand old age of 35 (next year anyway) and over the past few days where I have had more time to think than normal, I’ve had a few thoughts keep rattling around in my head that I would like to share with you. Things I have learnt along the way, listen to the voices of my experience:
1. Don’t live anywhere near anything remotely industrial. The reason the flat over the shop/garage/next to the workshop is so cheap, is because no-one else wants to live there. While you may normally leave before they get into work, the week that you are in bed feeling ruff and desperately need sleep, you will realise how noisy it is, how many deliveries they get and if you are really lucky, their bins get emptied anywhere between 2 and 4am.
2. Women, always, always be in control of your own money. Know where it is, where it is going and always have a pot that only you know about. For rainy days, running away, high days or holidays, ensure you have money of your own. I didn’t when Voldemort decided he liked Wormtail more than me, and was stuffed without the kindness of friends and family.
3. If you aren’t sure you like the trousers/blouse/skirt/dress/t-shirt, but end up buying it to look at again at home. Take it back, better still don’t buy it in the first place. You will never, never wear it, because you don’t feel comfortable, then you will forget to take it back and will have wasted your money.
4. The label number is not an accurate representation on size in clothes. Yours or the clothes. Buy clothes that fit, complain to the staff in the shop that you are not the size they say they are if you must, but don’t get hung up on the number. It is not you, and will never will be. You wear the clothes, they do not wear you.
5. If you feel a little ‘hmmm’ and uncomfortable in any situation, listen to it. Your body and your subconscious will pick up on chemicals, hormones and pheromones secreted by others and will alert you to when something doesn’t feel right. Listen to that gut instinct, especially if you don’t feel safe. That ‘hmmm’ could save your life.
6. Learn to drive early in your life. Learn how to read a map. Learn how to fill your car with fuel, oil, water, screen wash and how to change a tyre. Give yourself the knowledge and independence to make choices about your vehicle. When you have to take it to be serviced, ask questions. Make sure you know what your oil filter looks like, so you can see if they change it. For any specific work to be done get a quote, make sure you understand exactly what will be done on your car, if they do extra without consulting you, don’t be intimidated and bandy about ‘office of fair trading’ if you think mechanics start to take the pi$$. If they do extra, because they think something needs to be done, and don’t charge you, say thank you and recommend them to your female friends.
7. It says dry clean only for a reason.
8. Never lend your books out. Especially favourites. They very rarely come back in the condition you gave them, if they come back at all. Write ‘stolen from the library of’ inside the front cover to remind people if you do decide to lend something.
9. One in, one out. Be that a pair of black trousers, a book, a DVD, a CD or whatever you buy. You are limited by how much room you have, as to how much ‘stuff’ you can have and live clutter free. If you buy anything, be prepared to get home and discharge something. To charity, to sell, to donate, to whomever. If you really, really, really want to buy something. Come back the next week, and then see if you want it after all. Stuff should enhance your life, not smother it. Shopping is not a hobby, it is a means to an end.
10. Your head shouldn’t look too big for your body. Look at early series of Friends when the three lead girls were normal size, instead of toothpicks, then look at later series and see the difference; we are so used to seeing ‘celebrities’ all skin and bone that normal size has gone out the window. There shouldn’t be a size 0, full stop. Remember your body is a miracle of design and should be respected, not abused, for all the hard work it does for you.
11. Get rid of things that weigh you down. If you look at something and think, I hate that because it reminds me of x or y – WHY are you keeping it? I don’t have anything in my life or my house now that I don’t love, use or ideally both. If it is a family heirloom that you don’t love or use, then pass it on to someone else in the family. If you do love it, honour it by displaying it proudly, not by having it in a box in a cupboard where you can’t see it.
12. Wear perfume, because you can, every day. Not just for special occasions.
13. If you find an article online or in a magazine that speaks to you, cut it out, print it out and stick it in a book. Likewise with recipes. But, if you find yourself with loads of recipes that you don’t cook, then cull them mercilessly. Are you living the life you have, or hoping to live a better life by maybe cooking something different?
14. This is the only moment you will ever have, so concentrate on being here. Not somewhere else. Watch TV, read a book but don’t try to do them together. Turn the TV off to read, put the book down to truly watch. Don’t think about your next meeting in the middle of the meeting you are in, read your emails or answer the phone, not both. It’s not rocket science. When you find yourself in a crisis with a complete moment of clarity, it is because you are fully focussed on that crisis. You make better decisions, quickly and easily. Try gaining that moment of clarity in your day to day life.
15. If you love someone, tell them. Tell them often and so they know you mean it. Life is short.
16. The biggest of all. If you are not happy, change something. Keep changing things until you find you are happy. This is your life, not anyone else’s. Do that course, go for that walk, listen to that song; do whatever you need to do to stop doing the same things day after day, and finding yourself 10 years later wondering what the hell happened with your life.