Today – March 2nd 2017 – is my 18th birthday and with that milestone under my belt, I thought now was as good a time as any to not only reflect on the past 18 years of my life like I would normally, but to do that through 18 different life lessons I’ve learned through the (short!) years so far. It’s not much and it’s nothing overly inspiring, but I think it’s necessary nonetheless, if only just for me.
1 – Perspective is a beautiful thing
When a problem in any shape or form arises, it is so easy to become consumed by the problem and make it your entire world. Heck, it’s easy to get so focused on anything and make it your entire world, but what I’ve learned is that perspective is key. Got told off for not doing the homework correctly? Will I remember it in a year’s time? Nope, I will have forgotten by Friday.
2 – All work is good work
It took me a long time to realise it, but it’s so true. No matter what work you’re making or what kind of steps you’re taking towards your future – whatever it may be – absolutely none of those steps are bad. In fact, the ones that I have considered to be bad have gone on to launch some of the most successful and enjoyable things I’ve ever done. Take a chance and swallow your pride.
3 – Nothing lasts forever
I actually mean this in a really positive way. We all go through bad spells where we think the entire world is going to envelop but at the end of the day, nothing lasts forever. No matter if it takes a week or a decade, the clouds will part eventually and the sun will always rise in the morning.
4 – Always expect the unexpected
I learned this when someone I had a gut-wrenching crush on when I was 12 years old became one of my bestest and closest friends a few years ago. When I was 12, I thought I’d never get out of the never ending cycle of unrequited love, but remarkably, the moment I stopped trying, the moment stopped lasting forever (see!) and alas, the unexpected occurred. It happens with everything in any walk of life and if you have the right mind about it, it’s life’s most beautiful treasure.
5 – It’s all relative
Similar to the idea of having perspective, it’s good to see that sometimes, everything in life is relative. Some pressures may seem big to you at face value, but when you chalk them up to experience, how are they going to better or benefit you anyway? If you remember that everything in your life is like money – it all has a value in how important it is for you personally – then you’ll never go wrong.
6 – You are your own best friend
Something I have stuck by for all of my waking life. I guess growing up an only child helped with this, but there’s a great comfort in the thought that you are your only staple and constant in the entire world. You are stuck with that inner monologue in your brain until the day you die, so learn to love it and build that relationship with it, because it’s going to be a long slog otherwise.
7 – You can’t read everything
Much more of a superficial one here, but I used to think I could read every book on the planet while watching every film and TV show I love and also listening to all the music I love… fuck, I still think that. But you have to remember that you can’t do everything. While you might want to do everything and do it all to your best ability, you genuinely cannot do that. No matter how superhuman you are, we all have our limits and if you push too far, you’re going to end up disappointed.
8 – Do it yourself
I referenced this pretty thoroughly in the first Editor’s Letter
for Nolan Letter
but the basic consensus is this: if you see a gap in the market of the world and you have the skill to fix that, do it yourself. If you have the desire to do something but no one will help you, just do it yourself. I’m as big of a dreamer as anybody else, but what is the point in a dream if you don’t try to make it a reality.
9 – Say “yes!”
The best word in the English language is “yes”. Just keep saying “yes!” to everything and you will have no idea where it can take you. Say “yes!” to running that society at school; say “yes!” to the career opportunity you just got offered; say “yes!” to making that contact even if you don’t think you want to. You have absolutely no idea as to where “yes” can take you!
10 – Embrace your past mistakes
I deleted a whole host of pictures from my early teens about four years ago and I regret is massively. While it’s natural to be embarrassed of your past self at first, remember that while you are ever changing, you are also the experiences and memories from what has happened before. It’s nothing to be ashamed about – just be proud about how far you’ve come!
11 – You owe your past self nothing
Following on from the previous point, you also have to remember that you owe your past self nothing. Wanted a dream last week that you don’t want now? Well don’t do it then. While past you has influenced current you, you aren’t entirely made up of past you either. Opinions and people change, so what on Earth is the point in trying to please a version of yourself that no longer exists to enjoy what you’ve done. or a version of you who can’t even say thank you to you for doing it.
12 – Expect nothing in return
Perhaps a rather pessimistic rule to follow, but do nothing with an expectation of something in return. For example, I’m writing this blog post right now, but I’m not even doing it with the expectation of somebody reading it. The moment you start doing something in order to please others and with the expectation of a response is the moment you kill the mood for what you’re doing; the authenticity of the moment you’re in is fleeting the moment you start expecting something from it. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment.
13 – Take it all or nothing
People always say to “ignore the haters” and while I totally agree that you should ignore them, don’t just act like they don’t exist. It’s naive to take on compliments if you’re going to act like the criticism doesn’t exist. By all means analyse the criticism and make your judgement as to whether you care or not, but don’t be stupid and take the compliments as if that’s it; they need to work in tandem.
14 – Bathrooms are a wonderful place
This is by far the most random life lesson I have learned so far, but bathrooms really are a magical world. A room with a lock on the door is a place that allows the truest version of yourself to be set free emotionally. I’ve laughed, cried, screamed, thought, dreamed and even occasionally urinated in a bathroom through my time and I continue to reap the benefits of a locked door every day.
15 – You’ll laugh about it in the morning
This kind of comes on from the point about accepting your past mistakes, but I’ve only learned in the past couple of years to not take myself so seriously. I actively remember sitting on a bench in a garden the first time I got drunk telling a friendship group of people about how my being drunk meant that I would never win a Tony Award. Guys, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. As long as you aren’t hurting anybody, nothing is going to be that deep.
16 – Creativity comes first
Similar to the earlier point about everything being relative, in my life and as a creative soul, my creativity always comes first. I think of my creativity as being the thing they’d do in primary school PE lessons where they make you stand in a space and swing your arms around to make sure you’re all spread out nicely. Creativity needs space to breathe and while I wouldn’t say you’re a slave to your creativity, I would say that it would be silly to let it run wild and not chase after it.
17 – Don’t chase it. Let it be.
And now I’m going to majorly contradict myself. While you should be chasing after your creativity running wild, don’t chase after it like you’d chase a celebrity who doesn’t know you down the street. There is no point chasing the thing you want if it is not going to give you attention. Let it be and prod it every now and then to see if it wants to go and play and if it does, then start the journey again.
18 – Work hard; play harder
And finally, the most important rule of all for any workaholic: have fun. It’s so easy to think that because working hard is fun, that is your fun time, but try and find a relaxing thing to do that isn’t in any way work related and bask in that regularly. You can work yourself silly 24/7 if you want to, but the best results are always achieved by the happiest and most comfortable of people.