how to be happy

Life lessons: Advice from a thirty-something to a twenty-something

Have you heard of the ‘TIFU’ forum on Reddit? It stands for ‘Today, I Fucked Up’ and is a place for users to share anecdotes from their day, where if you do something daft you can make everyone laugh with your tomfoolery and move on.

However, at the end of last year, a 46-year-old guy called John added his post, called ‘Today I Fucked Up… My Life.’ It’s as intense as it sounds, but well worth a read. In particular, his closing paragraph:

If you’re reading this, and you have a whole life ahead of you, please. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t leave your dreams for later. Relish in your energy, your passions. Don’t stay on the internet with all your spare time (unless your passion needs it). Please, do something with your life while your young. DO NOT settle down at 20. DO NOT forget your friends, your family. Yourself. Do NOT waste your life. Your ambitions. Like I did mine. Do not be like me.

It certainly gave me a MASSIVE kick up the arse, as I have a tendency to be all-consumed by work and lazy with my dreams. Being a perfectionist (which I wrote about here) doesn’t help.

Something else I read more recently, that also spurred me into action, was working out if you live to the average UK age of 80, how many summers do you have left? I have 46, including this year’s, which isn’t that many, when you think about it (and why I’ve already started to plan out the festivals I want to go to, like this cute one in Cornwall)!

I think the dawning of a new year has naturally made me reflective – in terms of reviewing my life to date, and where I aim to go. I was chatting with an old friend last week and, without being pessimistic, we both mentioned a few things from our ‘yoof’ we’d do differently (oh hindsight!) and the things we’d tell our twenty-something-year-old selves. Here are a few of mine…

Don’t pluck your eyebrows
This is on every list like this, for good bloody reason. None of us listened. We all wish we had. They DO grow back, but never quite as full and Cara Delevingne-like as before. Notice here I’m not saying don’t OVER pluck them, I’m positively demanding that you DON’T BLOODY DO IT AT ALL. If you have to? Put the tweezers down – now – and leave your brows to a pro instead.


Protect your face from the sun
That is, you should protect ALL of your skin from sun damage, always, but I would recommend going especially crazy with the SPF on your face. Prevention is better than spending squillions on creams in years to come that won’t actually work anyway. Make sure you moisturise your skin, start applying eye creams early on and never drag your skin – especially the delicate skin around your eyes – when taking off make-up.

Enjoy living at home
Honestly. I know as you’re growing up, the first thing you want to do is move the fuck out, but you canNOT underestimate the benefit of living rent-free (or thereabouts); of having a solid base while you’re young. The ability to be able to say yes to opportunities of travel and adventure without having to worry about mortgage repayments and other boring responsibilities is once-in-a-lifetime stuff. Make the most of it if you can.

Be nice to your parents
This relates to the above, and I know not everyone’s family life represents The Waltons, but in the main, you will never know unconditional love like that given to you by your mum and/or dad (or the person/people who raised you). They only want the best for you. They love you, quite simply for BEING YOU. Don’t put off calling your parents or popping round to see them and telling them that you love them. You’ll miss them when they’re gone, and if you become a parent yourself one day, will come to understand where they were coming from.


Travel often
I know it’s clichéd, and while I absolutely live with no regrets, and I’m lucky enough to have done a fair bit of travelling around the world, from Cuba to Colorado to the Cotswolds, I do think I shied away from it when I was younger, mainly because I was a bit scared. SRSLY. I cried when I landed in Havana because it was such a freakin’ culture shock, and everyone was looking at me, this skinny, pale girl with asymmetric red hair (sure). The planet is HUGE but your time on it is not; you’re never going to see every part of the world, but you can have fun trying, so explore more.

Don’t drink so much
I wrote about my changing attitude to alcohol here. In fact, you don’t have to drink at all, if you don’t want to. But if you do, you don’t need to have ALL THE DRINKS ALL THE TIME. It’s the best way of avoiding that horrible ‘what did I doooooo?’ feeling the morning after, and having to face the consequences or find your shoes (and dignity). I will always be thankful Facebook was invented after I left college AKA The Party years *hands in prayer Emoji here*

Don’t be the last girl at the party
As per the last point, I used to think this was a good thing, that if I was the last one standing, it showed how fun, care-free and generally fuckin’ CRAZY I am – ‘oh, she’s SUCH a party animal!’ – but speaking from experience, it normally means you’re shit-faced and/or being a dick. And will probably shortly be sick, carried home or in bed with someone you shouldn’t be. Besides, isn’t there something quite cool and alluring about leaving in an air of mystery, or at least before the last night bus home? I think so.


Continue to channel your creativity
I was never more creative than when I was at school and college: I played drums in a band, wrote poetry, went to ballet lessons and painted mad psychedelic pieces of art but dropped all of these activities like hot coals when I hit 23 and started working in an office (and started earning money and drinking and dating). Ironically, I’m now trying to claw all of them back into my life in some form or another. Quite often, the things you do, or are passionate about when you’re younger are often your true callings in life. Excluding maybe your obsession with sticker albums and Take That.

Respect your body
I couldn’t title this point without it sounding cheesy or a bit sexual, but this is more about being in awe of your body. If you’ve got your health, you have EVERYTHING. Your body is pretty bloody amazing. The things it can do, the things it can be put through, the way it recovers. It’s a shame we don’t learn to appreciate our body when we’re in our prime. Even if you’re overweight, or have scars or you’d like to be taller/smaller/whatever, your body is still pretty fucking awesome, right? Try and show it some love by treating it better. And this means by not allowing other people to use/abuse it too. You know what I mean.


Stay supple
Without sounding like an arthritic old codger, now that I practise yoga regularly, I get really annoyed at myself for being so inactive in my twenties. I went through a brief ‘gym’ phase, and the muscle memory was there but get this: Thanks to my ballet training, I used to be able to do the splits fairly easily when I was 16; at my first yoga lesson a year ago, I could barely touch my toes. Even a few simple stretches every day can keep the body supple. How I wish I’d bothered with those!

Love yourself before loving anyone else
This also sounds like a load of hippy-dippy bullshit, but it’s REALLY hard to have a functional, fulfilling relationship with someone else, if you haven’t even worked out how to love yourself. Self-loathing ultimately sabotages relationships, from needless jealously through to obsession or falling for the wrong ones ALL the time. Now, if you can master this in your twenties, you’re a much better at being an adult than me (show-off) but it’ll save you soooo much grief in the long run. Also: don’t give your heart away too easily, don’t fall for the first one to sweep you off your feet and know that it WILL all work out OK in the end.

Don’t drink so much coke
Don’t snort it either, if you can avoid it (ho ho). Many of my friends guzzled cans of Coca-cola when we were growing up, and have teeth like Victorian tombstones now, or are spending a LOT of money on sorting out the state of their maaaaarfs. I’ve never been addicted to soda pop and, without jinxing myself, have never feared the dentist. I also geekily enjoy flossing. You should learn to love it too. Oh, and drinking water, lots of (I wrote about that here).

Don’t worry so much about your career
It’s OK to change your mind further down the line, y’know. Only go to University if YOU want to. And if you do, study something you’re passionate about. It probably won’t have any real bearing on your career in any case. If you do seek employment, get as much as experience as you can in that field. Don’t be afraid of or turn your nose up at starting from the bottom – it’s the best way to get solid experience and potential employers will respect you for it. Have a focus and decide on the career path you wish to take (that will help you to hit the target) but don’t be afraid to change direction if it doesn’t work out the way you hoped/planned. You’re ALLOWED to change direction.


Don’t worry so much in general
I’m still working on this myself, through mindfulness and meditation, but worrying is the biggest, most needless life-drainer going. What is the point about worrying about something that hasn’t even happened – and might not happen at all?! CRAZY TOWN. I’m going to write a separate post on worrying – or rather, how not to – but in the meantime, ask yourself the question: Will what you’re worrying about matter in a year from now? It’s the best way to get a sense of perspective when you can feel a worry-thon coming on. Stay in ‘the now’ – most of the stress in our life isn’t related to what’s happening but our reaction to it. We spend too much time reflecting on past events or worrying about the future, when none of that is reality. The more time you spend in the present, the less worried you will be.

Don’t give so much of a shit about what other people think
This is a tough one, because there’s no magic way to make you suddenly shrug off your self doubt, but I have definitely learnt that in general, people are too busy with their own issues to notice yours! I bought a T-shirt the other day with the slogan: ‘Get out of your own way’ and I think this is especially apt here. Don’t miss out on opportunities because you think that person hates you or this person is looking at the spot on your face. They’re not. And btw, the bullies? They will grow up to be fugly and in a dead-end job. My Facebook feed is proof… 😉

So there you have it. Slightly inspired by my New Year’s Wear Sunscreen and other life lessons post, BTW, this post isn’t meant to sound all ‘Negative Nancy’ but I’m in a reflective sort of mood, and wanted to share my thoughts as words of encouragement. Do you have any other pearls of wisdom to add? Feel free to do so in the comments below or tweet me @NatWallers.


Images: Free People blog 


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