25. Twenty five. Halfway to 50. A quarter of a century.
It doesn’t matter which way I dance around it, it’s not going to change the fact I’m officially in grandma mode.
IT’S MY BIRTHDAY!
And there’s no going back now. There’s no avoiding mid June like a lurgy because the daunting thought of moving further and further away from my youth is clouding my discernment that age is just a number. Thankfully I don’t feel any older (or any older than the 100 year old decrepit I feel on a daily basis thanks to my fragile body) but it is kinda sad that the older you get, the less meaningful your birthdays are.
It’s no longer the exciting parade of parties, jelly and ice cream, beaming smiles, red cheeks, a stream of new toys that can occupy you for hours without a care in the world, and a wild imagination to go with it.
The wild imagination is still there, just probably not how it was when you were five.
Instead, it’s analysing your progress obsessively, it’s comparing your sorry life to other people your age, and it’s drowning in self pity when you realise you don’t even fall close. It’s avoiding being centre of attention instead of basking in it. It’s doing everything you can to prevent wrinkles, and it’s worrying about future saggy boobs. It’s a juxtapose of sheer disappointment and sheer joy when you peak at 11pm on the night of celebrations not even halfway through pre-drinks, and it’s the sigh of dismay the next morning when the reality of adulthood hits. There’s no mum there to make you breakfast and do your hair, just giant bags under your eyes and a busy schedule on deck to greet you.
It’s a scary thought, really. Having the years fly by and not seeing much for it. Or at least that’s what it seems like; the same old, same old. I don’t like to be too pessimistic and crestfallen over still being depressed and lonely and pretty unfulfilled halfway through my twenties so I thought I’d take the next step – reflection.
In all honesty, I’m not who I thought I’d be at 25 but in some ways, I’m glad, and I’m proud. Every breath I’ve taken, every beat of my heart in those 9125 days is significant to my learning curve and the road I’m still travelling on. My mind, my body, and my soul have been through some drastic things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy but it’s also been on the awesome rollercoaster ride they call life. Ups, downs, highs, lows, flying at an uncontrollable speed, even being stuck in the middle for a long period of time. Here’s 25 lessons I’ve learned in my 25 years on earth.
- It’s okay to put your health first. Mental and physical. You have to put that before anything else because once you’ve lost your form, that’s it. Making that decision happened to me a lot sooner than I ever expected and it took me a long time to push away that guilt and shame but I discovered to make my well being my priority is an essential to how I cope with my condition. Yes, I sometimes ignore the warning signs, carry on exerting myself, and overdo it because I’m having too much fun but afterwards I do take those self care steps. There’ll always be that voice telling you you aren’t ill enough to put everything else on the back burner, to place stable regularity second on the hierarchy, and to take a direction different from the ordinary and the able; the internalised able-ism telling you you’re faking it, you’re exaggerating, you’re mooching – but you aren’t, you’re surviving. Only you know your own body, your life is important, and you don’t owe an explanation to or have to please anyone else.
- Life isn’t built on materialism. It’s built on moments, and adventure, and laughter, and love. It was only a few years back that I came to the realisation I was buying my way to happiness and that owning a collection of goods is nothing compared to what’s on the outside, available to fill your senses with genuine satisfaction. The finding of spiritual matters away from movements and physical possessions, is priceless!
- Being problematic doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. I’ve had my fair share of trial and errors over the years, and cited my fair share of ignorant remarks, too. Looking back, I cringe and curse myself for how dismissive, uneducated, and ill-mannered I was but it also means I can look back and learn from it. It’s bad at the time, yes, but to consider how much you’ve advanced in maturity and durability is rewarding. You’re taking the bad and making it good.
- Finding your friendship group doesn’t always happen straight away. Two years. That’s how long I’ve been friends with my platonic soulmates for, and I know hands down they’re the only true friends I’ve had. I found them in my twenties and it really does give a real perspective on how I’ve struggled to fit in, to manifest a girl gang, and how time after time I’ve accepted fake and troublesome when actually I should have drifted far away. The wait is worth it if you don’t force it and don’t let ‘friends’ walk all over you. Authentic friendship will present itself naturally and you’ll feel it from your heart to the tip of your toes when it does.
- And finding yourself. The same goes for finding yourself. I still think I’m on that journey with my identity, in fact I don’t think there’s a time limit on when you stop. Everything from your personal style, to your beliefs, to your personal decisions, to your opinions, to your all round disposition, to who you are; it can interchange, it can differ, and it can get stronger, but it’ll always be in your favour.
- Inspiration may strike at 2am. In fact, it probably will. You’ll be laid awake fruitlessly staring at the ceiling and becoming frustrated with yourself and suddenly a ping of the lightbulb in your head will go off. Usually they end up being some of the best, innovative ideas you’ve ever exhibited and the dark circles you’ll be sporting the next day are worth it for the epic dissertation you bang out.
- You’re never too old. To fangirl. For a cuddle with your mum. To think you’ll get eaten alive by a monster if your feet are stuck out the bed covers. To dance around the room to S Club 7. Nostalgia feeds the soul and fun is what keeps you young – and sane!
- You can cope more than you realise. When the world seems pointless and coping feels like the last thing you can do, you’ll still do it. You’ll get up, you’ll hold your head high, and you’ll wonder just how ever you managed to get past it. That’s because you’re powerful, you’re brilliant, and you’re built to pursue every hurdle, every task, and even every dream that comes your way. It began like this. Separated parents. Watching your dad slowly wither away and decline in health and in personality. Losing him. Losing my final father figure two years later. A mental breakdown at 13. Another one at 16. And another at 18. Having a rare form of stroke at 17. Being on the edge of death. Wanting to be on the edge of death. Left with incurable debilitating chronic pain and brain damage that turned my life upside down. Recovering the best I can and becoming who I am today. I’d say I’ve done alright and sometimes I have to remind myself I am in fact a warrior. You are stronger than you believe and you have to keep telling yourself that. You have to hold yourself higher than your brain tells you to!
- Your body is a temple. So look after yourself. That’s all I have to say. Your body is precious but it’s also open to extensive energy and freedom. Treat it well but don’t restrict yourself. Utilise it to your advantage. Give it the credit it deserves. Embrace your flaws. Have fun, enjoy the body you’re in, and it’ll love you right back.
- Your teenage crush is not the love of your life. Those nights you’ve cried until you had no tears left? Those songs on the radio you instantly related to the person you’re lusting over? The one you couldn’t have? The one you couldn’t talk to? The one you eventually did connect with? The one you fell for? The one you thought you couldn’t live without? News just in: you can. At the height of your twenties you’ll probably laugh about it but it’s all part of the structure in your love life on the pathway to your happy ending. I haven’t found mine yet, but I still have faith.
- The people in your life play a crucial part in how you flourish. Choosing the people you want to surround yourself with is a major part of how your life will pan out. It’s an absolute waste of time trying to make people who don’t like you, like you. It’s also an absolute waste of time trying to make the effort with those who don’t care. I’m at that stage now where if someone is a hassle, then I don’t even bother. Remove toxicity, don’t be around people who put you down, drain your spirits, or make you feel like crap. Life really is too short to spend it being dragged down by the wrong clique.
- Adulthood isn’t as easy as you think. When you’re a naive 10 year old, planning your life out, thinking about how you’re going to be settled and married with kids in your own home by 25. Earning thousands, living your best life, sipping champagne on a rooftop balcony, it’s easy to get lost in the notion of fantasy but it’s only when you reach adulthood that you start to realise it’s not as brilliant as you first thought. A let down, yes, but also a slice of reality you need.
- Say yes more. Take risks out of your comfort zone, tackle obstacles, keep going even when you think you can’t. There’s never been an occasion where I’ve regretted doing something I was apprehensive about doing beforehand and it’s almost always resulted in me being pleased I went there, plucked up the courage, and gained some wisdom.
- It’s okay to be different. Whatever you think, there isn’t no normal or abnormal. I have to keep telling myself this even now. Everyone leads an individual pathway; some may be a bachelorette still living at home with not many former or foregoing encounters happening (aka me) and some may be out there with ample expertise in being the picture perfect person on paper. You can’t like the exact same things as others. You can’t act the exact same way as others. You can’t all lead the same life at the same time because it would be a boring place if you did. Society likes us to believe there’s a specific timescale to achieve things but truthfully everyone has their own personal timeline. You’re not a failure or out of the loop, you’re you!
- It’s also okay to change. Who you were at 20 doesn’t define who you are at 25. Your mentality can change the more you explore those corners of life. I believe you’re constantly a work in progress until the day you die – all these segments you uncover along the way make up the pieces of the final puzzle.
- Do what you love. Overused, but life really is too short. It’s too short to let people put you off what you enjoy. It’s too short to allow judgement to burden you. It’s too short to pretend. It’s too short to be miserable. I’m Bridie, I spend half my free time meeting celebrities, I prefer to binge watch the soaps than any popular American drama, I like to go food shopping with my mum and grandma on a consecutive Saturday, and the rest of the time I strive for magnificence on social media but hey, I ain’t even sorry. I look at people my age who are steady and sturdy and living the quieter, simple, ordinary life, and tell myself maybe I should be in that position? But I’m still making the most of being unattached and free; expressing myself, my hobbies, and the life I want to build for myself.
- The experience of life matters most. it’s what you make of it that determines your happiness and steady contentment. There’s so much pressure on you to aim for the top but I truly think when you become independent then that’s when you blossom most. Despite what people think, general sociology has taught me life lessons school or college or uni never would. The importance of humanity, compassion, acceptance, open mindedness, being a person in a world where there’s so many issues, so many ways you can be a decent person, and so many ways in which you can fuse felicity.
- Those impromptu plans will always be the best. The unplanned days and nights out, spontaneous road trips with the wind in your hair, random trips to the seaside, last minute decisions and actions; they’ll all be the most memorable periods in your prime.
- Always listen to your intuition. Trust your gut, follow the vibes your instinct gives you as your suspicions and thoughts will always be proved right. It’s okay to give something or someone a chance but it’s also important to allow that wise voice in your head to lead the way. Karma will take control!
- Think before you make beauty mistakes. There’s been plenty of them over the years. Shaving my forearms. Straightening my hair until it breaks. Plucking off every single brow strand. Yikes @ my old self but also, thank you for guiding me because when I now feel like making a rash decision with my appearance, I always think twice.
- Always take plasters on nights out. Your feet will take a bashing, you’ll accumulate scars and blisters and wonky toes. It’s the price you pay for beautiful shoes, but plasters will save the day. They’re the answer to all evil. Pretty much the equivalent to a paper towel in primary school.
- The solution to almost all problems is a bubble bath, a good cry, a face mask, and a playlist on repeat. Music is a healer, crying your heart out is so therapeutic to the inner and outer soul, layering your face with clay and pretending you have your life together provides maximum zen, and laying in your own bodily grime with the smell of Lush awakening and unwinding your every move somehow manages to wash your woes away. Short term at least.
- You need to embrace your quirks. They’re what make you distinctively you, so why shouldn’t you? Be true to you, be as weird or as timid as you want. Take those traits and paint them in a positive light. The day you accept yourself and quit hiding behind a mask is the day you officially feel at peace.
- Kindness goes a long way. It’s cliche but the quote ‘be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about’ sticks with me more than any other. Probably because it resonates with me but also because I’ve become so aware how suffering isn’t always visible – no matter how large or minor. A generous gesture, a passing compliment, helping someone in need, just making a human feel human – it’s selfless but it’s also beneficial to you as a person.
- You’ll be grateful for your never changing baby face in another ten years. People tell me this all the time and I think it’s only just sunk in. I’m gonna be one of those people who still gets ID’d for the lottery at age 40 and instead of complaining about it, I’m gonna be smugly grateful. Hell yeah to that!
And a bonus: Nobody will ever get your name correct. Even when it’s written down right in front of their very eyes. Mispronunciations and anagrams will occur more than actually being called your legitimate name, and there won’t be a day where you don’t have to spell it out. So, thanks mum. You birthed me and blessed me with this life but you also gave me an atypical name along with a bizarrely uncommon surname so for that, I hope today you’re feeling just as ancient as I am.