26 is a funny old age, don’t you think? Not quite as momentous as the quarter-life crisis-inducing 25. Nearer to 30 than 20. A bit adrift in the tumultuous sea of the “mid-20’s” age bracket.
Half of your friends have babies and houses, set for life - the others are living in cramped London flat shares and spending their wages on overpriced wine in heaving city bars. Where exactly in your life are you supposed to be at 26?
Personally, I’ll be in Jasper, Alberta, Canada. On some kind of mountain. In a tent. Preferably armed with hefty supplies of chocolate and wine.
Truthfully, my life feels a bit suspended at the moment. I’m moving neither forwards nor backwards. Physically, of course, I am – making my way across British Columbia, working in lodges and farms and camping along the way. Before we hit 2017, I’ll have explored Alberta, returned to BC, driven down to Texas. Flown home to the UK for Christmas via Singapore. Yep, in terms of my geographic location, I’m moving a lot. But in the other sense? The big, emotional, life progress kind of movement? I’m static, like someone pressed pause on a song between beats. I’m somewhere in between the homemakers and living-for-the-weekenders, while simultaneously having not much in common with either party. It’s a strange place, this undulating flux, this impatient pocket of time.
But that’s not to say I’m not enjoying it all immensely. The past year has been so rich with experiences and new things and places, that for lack of a better expression, I’ve really grown. I know a bit more about myself as a person, I’m a bit more comfortable in my own skin, I feel enriched by the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met. I take a bit less crap, I beat myself up a bit less. I’m calmer. My mind’s more still.
It’s just that there’s something about birthdays, about counting and commemorating the years, that brings the passing of time home. I can run around the world all I like, hiding in the wilderness and in tents and on mountains… but life still goes on, and I still get older.
I wanted to write a post about turning 26, but wasn’t really sure what would be remotely relevant to my blog or even that interesting to read. So I settled on rambling on for a bit, before writing a kind of stock-take on where I am right now, what I’ve learned. A manifesto of Right Now, if you will. I also had a think about some goals and hopes for next year, just for fun. Hopefully the result will be interesting –but I can’t promise anything!
26 things I would
tell my younger self:
1. Travelling somewhere – anywhere – will make you a more rounded, understanding and interesting person. It’s a big old world. Too big to sit still.
2. Everyone has different opinions, and not one person is right 100% of the time. It’s important to take everything with a pinch of salt and form your own opinions.
3. The sooner you start accepting yourself and stop beating yourself up for things you can’t change, the better. Your spatial awareness is terrible and you can be an antisocial bastard sometimes. And that’s ok.
4. Comparison is the thief of joy. There is absolutely no point comparing yourself to others. You are you, they are them. Learn from them, be inspired by them, but comparing yourself in a negative way will only make you miserable.
5. Coffee and music make every task easier.
6. Whatever problem you have, someone in the world has felt the same. You’re never alone in anything.
7. You have to be your own biggest fan. Treat yourself as you would a friend.
8. If you’re ordering shots of tequila at the bar, go home.
9. You can’t ever control what someone thinks of you. So don’t worry about it. At the end of the day, it’s actually none of your business.
10. It’s important to do things to make yourself proud.
11. Watch lots of sad films. The soppier the better. You know you love them. Get those cathartic tears out!
12. You can learn something from every person you meet.
13. You can do hard things. And next time you try, it will be so much easier.
14. Nerves are a sign that you’re about to do something really, really brave.
15. Stop thinking about last week. Stop thinking about next week. Living in the moment is hard but it will make you happier than you thought you could be.
16. Make more space for yourself in the world. Be the main character in your story, and stop apologising.
17. Saying that, you should let more people in. What’s the worst that can happen?
18. Don’t get a fringe. Just… don’t.
19. Push yourself. Challenge yourself. It’s always worth it.
20. Pay more attention, ask more questions.
21. Nothing lasts forever. Take from every experience as much as you can.
22. Lay off the eyeliner. And the orange foundation. Just step away from the makeup bag.
23. Write more.
24. Nothing beats being genuine and honest. It’s way more important than pleasing everyone.
25. Some people suffer quietly. Be there for them.
26. The best is yet to come.
26 goals for being 26
1. Run a 10k in under an hour.
2. Get a piece published in print.
3. Learn more French.
5. Write at least 10k words of a novel.
6. Read more.
7. Pass my driving test (finally).
8. Get on top of life admin – things like pensions and financial goals are kinda important.
9. Try to get the hang of this meditation business.
10. Do a writing course.
11. Do a course in something I know absolutely nothing about.
12. Learn to cook 26 classic dishes perfectly.
13. Find the ultimate fake tan.
14. Put more energy and focus into this blog.
15. Stop taking everything so seriously.
16. Learn a few words of every new language I come across, and write it all down.
17. Live life a bit more consciously.
18. Grow my hair long again (I knew I’d want to do this as soon as I cut it. I never learn).
19. Go to Alberta, Singapore, Iceland, home.
20. Swim in as many oceans as possible.
21. Go to a music festival.
22. Write down three little goals every morning, and three positive things that happened at night.
23. Try 26 foods I’ve never tried before.
24. Write poetry (even if it’s rubbish).
25. Do yoga at least twice a week.
26. Laugh more.
What are your goals for right now? I’d love to know.