It’s another one of those posts. Brilliant.
We’re absolutely obsessed with age. Not one single newspaper article about someone won’t say, at some point, how old they are. The recent horrible spate of celebrity deaths mentioned every time how old they were, and people debated hotly whether they “died too young”, as if there was ever a right time to die that makes it less horrifying.
Anyway. I’m still here, and I’m nearly 30. No one is more surprised than me that I made it this far and am still, I think, relatively sane and have not yet killed anyone. Yet.
I have no idea if this will come across as saccharine, arrogant and patronising or if it actually will be mildly helpful to those young folks, or those who are the same age as me.
Anyway, here’s to the next 30 years. Let’s hope they’re as eventful as the first 30.
1. 30 is not old and you’re absolutely ridiculous if you think it is.
2. You won’t actually feel that much different to how you did when you were 17, except you somehow seem to have got yourself a proper grown up job, a mortgage, a car and a vague sense of perpetual disappointment.
3. Your body won’t be able to do the things it could when you were 15, and this is normal. Don’t get enough sleep and marvel at how you feel like dying. Try and eat too many carbs in one sitting and your stomach will likely attempt to leap out of your mouth and strangle you. Your knees will make odd clicking sounds when you bend down, and if you turn your head at a peculiar angle just once, that’s you done for a week, no movement, except to Google “full body brace” and pay for express shipping.
4. Your taste will change. Universally, I mean. I like coffee now. I’m still not sold on olives, mind you. I purchased some candy floss at the seaside and instead of snarfing the whole pink cloud in a frenzy I took one nibble and my teeth shrieked at the horror and I couldn’t eat it. I actually ingest vegetables and fruit semi-regularly because I need to or my liver starts sobbing. I still listen to music at a level Motorhead would find offensive and have questionable fashion sense, but still, change is good.
5. Friendship is measured in quality and not quantity. How many friends did you have when you were 12, and how many now? See? It really isn’t about how many friends you have any more. If you have one friend, please don’t be sad about this. If the friend is lovely and supports you and you can rely on them then you’ve got all you need right there.
6. There isn’t some magic timeline that you “should” be following. In fact, ban the word “should” from your vocabulary. If you’re 34, a married father of three with a mortgage and a full time job and golfing weekends, fantastic. If you’re 34, a single owner of a cat who works part time because your band is “on the verge of making it”, fantastic. You don’t have to be anything. There is no right time to do a single thing, other than when you’re ready. You don’t have to compare yourself to those around you and find yourself sadly lacking. The only person who doesn’t think you’re where you should be is you. No one else feels that way. You’re not a disappointment and you never were.
7. Make your home beautiful because you live there and you deserve it. I don’t care as to what you feel beautiful is, just do it. It’s your home. Don’t let anyone else tell you it’s not okay. If you like enough crystals to make Liberace blush, that’s great. If minimalist and monochromatic is your style, gorgeous. If you like it chintzy enough to keep an old lady happy, fantastic. I sincerely hope you have one of those crochet doll things for your toilet rolls. Beautiful on a budget is still beautiful. I’m writing this in my spare room surrounded by posters of bands I’ll never see because they broke up before I was born and some highly concerning ornaments (a pair of shoes from the 70’s, for example) and I don’t care. I live here and you don’t and I shall do as I please, thank you.
8. It is okay to say no. It’s fine to turn down a promotion with a larger salary because it also means more responsibility and longer working hours and you don’t want that. You don’t have to go on that night out/ weekend away because you don’t want to. You’re not necessarily missing out. You probably would have had a rotten time because you didn’t want to go anyway. Standing there with a fixed smile on your face nodding along to a conversation you didn’t want to be having with a bunch of people you didn’t want to be with. So you spent the entire weekend in your pyjamas watching a 90’s sitcom with the curtains drawn, not talking to a single person, drinking things out of the bottles they come in and shoving anything and everything you find into your mouth. Then ordering dinner online to avoid human interaction of any kind. So? That’s fine. We’re British anyway and come Monday morning, your colleagues don’t want to hear a damn thing more about your weekend than “fine thanks, and you?”
9. You were young once and don’t you forget it. I hate teenagers nowadays, I don’t understand anything they say or do and I don’t get fashion or music or Snapchat or why things are lit. I then realised, foolishly, that I never did. This hasn’t come with age, I’ve always been something of a fish out of water and not in the “gosh she’s so kooky and original, I should be her friend” way but more in the “wow she is seriously so weird and I don’t know who invited her but don’t do it again” way. But anyway, don’t roll your eyes when a shrieking gaggle of girls barge past you in town or a spotty crew of boys make noises at you as you pass. You were them once, with the starry eyes and being able to eat 4 pizzas and not gain any weight and being able to function without sleep. That was you. Once.
10. It really does take guts to be gentle and kind, Morrissey was right- not about a lot of things but definitely about that. It is important to remember when someone’s family member has been unwell and ask how they are. I keep a bizarre obsessive diary of these things because a text message dropped to someone to let them know you remember and you’re thinking of them can mean the world. Patience really does come with age and you will find yourself, or at least I did, becoming gentler and less easily irritated. People are so endlessly, ceaselessly different and fascinating and it really is best just to take them as they come. You don’t have to like everyone but you do have to tolerate them and be polite. It’s really not so hard.
11. Forgiveness is weird. I don’t believe in holding onto a hurt because if you imagine each one to be a twig you’re dragging around a whacking great tree before you know it. However, forgiveness is not the path to nirvana and divine wisdom, I don’t think. Some things are genuinely unforgiveable and you’re not a bad person if you don’t forgive someone, because you can’t. I’m not saying bombard the person with hateful text messages and tell everyone you meet how dreadful they are, in fact that’s probably inadvisable. But it is ok to let someone make an apology and not feel able to accept it. You’re not “the bigger person” because you forgive, you’re allowed to still feel hurt by someone’s actions and choose not to have them in your life any more.
12. Speaking of apologies, you need to learn this. You need to learn to say sorry and really, truly mean it. Apologies can generally be broken down into three stages- this is what I did, this is my understanding of how I hurt you, and here is my reassurance to you that it will not happen again. That person doesn’t owe you a damn thing and don’t be shocked if they tell you to sling it- but you still owe them an apology because you said or did something terrible. We are humans, we say and do ridiculous things. I felt youth leant me a horrible arrogance that I am trying my best to learn from. I simply didn’t believe I was ever wrong or that I had really upset someone. Trust me, I did. Bigmouth did bloody strike again more than once, and still does. Also, your intent doesn’t change what happened. The fact that you didn’t meant to hurt someone doesn’t change the fact that you did. You need to learn to say sorry. Repeat that to yourself. You’re not always right.
13. Don’t wash your hair every day, bleach it at home when you don’t know what you’re doing, over-pluck your eyebrows, attempt to wax your legs or give yourself an undercut. You don’t have a clue what you’re doing and you will make a huge hash of it and then be left to live with the shame. This is coming from the person who 5 days before their wedding bleached their hair and it all fell out leaving me with a hideous pudding basin style ball of frizz on my head and the fear. THE FEAR. I went to a professional who saved what was left of my stringy nonsense, and then another professional whose magic hands styled my hair so gloriously you couldn’t even tell how ruined it was. Just for goodness sake, be careful. They have professionals for this stuff for a reason.
14. However, in strong contrast of the above, it’s fine to not really know what your “look” is. I still have no idea and bounce between decades, eras and styles like a montage in a comedy show of outfits. I finally stopped bleaching my poor hair and it now swings all the way down my back, although the ends are so far gone it’s not really split ends so much as divorced ends. I still cut my own fringe. I still have tiny eyebrows because they grow in the precise shape of McDonalds arches and I can’t deal with it, so I pluck them mostly off and draw them on, spending my make-up free days looking like a thumb. It’s ok to not really know what you like, and have everything in your wardrobe from the most absurd girly flowery dresses, like your mum at a summer wedding, and holey jeans and plaid shirts. Who knows? That’s fine.
15. Self-acceptance, though, in all its glorious forms will come with age. FINALLY SOMETHING POSITIVE. I know I’m a cliché, okay. I like The Smiths and I have big black framed glasses and 50’s style hair and I wear too much leopard skin and band t shirts and I have a nose ring and a lot of tattoos and I wear weird shoes and jackets with patches on. I like Depeche Mode too much and yes I own not one but three leather jackets and I have tried to look all moody and serious like in the “Enjoy the Silence” video but it just looked like I had severe constipation. I love the Stone Roses and I bought a bucket hat but I looked so silly I didn’t ever wear it out of the house. I love The Damned and spend too much time admiring portrait tattoos of Dave Vanian and wondering where I could fit one on me. I am a stupid cliché of ridiculous things and no I am not sorry at all. I like what I like and that’s the end of that.
16. You don’t have to stop being ridiculous because of your age. I’m not stopping dyeing my hair blue. Do I regret the fact I have “Love” and “Cats” tattooed across my knuckles (because I do and The Cure) - no I don’t. Will I stop wearing my absurd polka dot dress with swallows on the chest? No. Will I take out that nose ring? No. Will I stop wearing Adidas classics because Run DMC? No. Are you going to take those silly keyrings off your handbag? No. Your wallet says “Meow” and has cat ears. Yes it does. Getting older doesn’t mean a lavender twinset and pearls. You don’t have to put away childish things. I still have a bubble pipe, cuddly toys and a tattoo of Tina from Bobs Burgers that says “I am a smart, strong, sensual woman”. I am not sorry at all.
17. Personal care is your friend. I’m not a health type, dear God have you seen me how could I be. But please, drink some water. Take your make up off every night and clean your skin. Stop using harsh chemicals that could strip wall paper and treat your skin gently. Brush your teeth every morning and night. Use a decent toothpaste and brush. Brush your hair once in a while and don’t be like me who literally has to cut the giant snarly dreadlocks out of my hair. Clean your shoes and iron crumpled things. Wash regularly and enjoy the nice smell of things, if you can use perfumed things. Wear deodorant, clean the junk out from under your fingernails. Floss, it really makes a big difference. Clean undies and socks every day. Wash your damn bra and stop spraying perfume on it. Moisturise your face and body, even if you’re greasier than a teenage McDonald’s worker like me. It doesn’t need the cost the earth either, if coconut oil works for you go ahead.
18. Maybe, just maybe, the old adage of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” could very well be true. You don’t need to give your horrid opinion on everything. I am never going to live down the time I went on a mad rant to a new colleague about my employment agent, and she politely replied “She’s my daughter”. What an idiot I am, what a brainless, waffling dipstick. You’re not going to like everyone- not one single person on the planet does. But whilst you may not, they might well be the best friend of someone you know. They might not be your cup of tea but they are someone else’s. It takes time to learn when to keep your large trap shut and I am still learning. But careless talk, it’s dangerous. Don’t put anything in writing unless you’re willing to stand up in Court and defend exactly what you said to the death. I am not saying lie to everyone and say you adore people you can’t stand- you’re allowed to not like people! But for rational and sensible reasons, not just because! I’m sorry, I’m talking more to myself here than anyone else.
19. It is lovely to try and see the good in people, but sometimes, it’s simply not there. People are going to let you down. It’s merely a fact. I don’t want anyone to stop putting their trust in people because that’s a sad way to live, but approach with caution if you feel someone is mildly off. Some people have nothing but their own agenda and are willing to step over their own dying grandma to get what they want. Trust your own instincts. If you feel someone isn’t all they purport to be, you’re probably right.
20. You won’t wake up tomorrow and be someone else. Sorry my friend. Life’s not like that. Your face is pretty much your face, your body is as it is and your mind and personality just as they are. Never give up the childish fantasy mind you, for the day I stop looking like the love child of Daria and Penfold and become the world’s first actress/supermodel/rock star with a PhD will surely be a good one. But perhaps, you’re wonderful exactly the way you are.
21. Don’t take anyone for granted. They could be gone in the blink of an eye and you’ll be left with nothing but all the things you never said. Tell your parents, guardians or family that you love them you’re grateful for all they’ve done. Tell your partner, should you have one that you love them and there would be life without them, but it would be grey and dull, because they’re the light and the colour. Tell your friends that they’re the sunshine after the rain, and the people who make you laugh when you never thought you would again. Tell your manager and colleagues what a pleasure they are to work with, because we’re just a bunch of people thrown together who see more of each other than we do our friends and family, and how fortunate we are for the laughs, the love and the support. Say thank you to people in shops and waiters and hairdressers and bus drivers because they all deserve it. If you got exceptionally fantastic service, tell them so. Write to their manager and say how wonderful they were. Give people back fivers when they drop them and say “no, after you” to someone who is clearly having a rough day. Kindness is our oxygen tent.
22. Love with all your heart and don’t stop. We are so blessed to have those we love. Do not ever forget to tell them thank you for the things they do. Simply by being there, they made it better. Also- every single time we start a new relationship we stand on tiptoe on the edge, raise both arms and leap. Death or glory awaits, and we don’t know which one. This could be everything, or I could be left with nothing but my shattered heart. I’m going to try anyway. I know you’ve been hurt, we all have, but it doesn’t mean we lock our little hearts away and never let them out again. You don’t know until you try. Your past doesn’t follow you like a raincloud, you have the power to exorcise the ghost. Life goes on, always. Don’t forget that love’s a game, and it can always come again. Insert a million other silly little sayings here, but I really mean it. It’s never too late to try.
23. Don’t be a preacher because no-one likes that. Give your advice when it’s requested but not at any other time. If people want help, they’ll reach out. Don’t try and tell them how they “should” be living- they will not thank you. Do not ever say “If I were you, I would…” You’re not them and you don’t know how they feel. It’s insanely easy when you’re not the one in the situation to say what you would have done, but entirely different when you’re in there. Hindsight is always better and on reflection, yes you could have acted differently, but you didn’t. If that was me I would have….would you? Would you really?
24. If you love something, go ahead and love it. Why the fudge not. I enjoy the things I enjoy so much. I still cry about David Bowie dying, and truly, hand on heart, I can tell you now I’ll never get over it. I admire the man so much, his music and style, his outlook on life, how someone could be so outrageously talented and yet so humble, so human. We shall never see his like again and yet we get to enjoy incredible music because of him, because some person somewhere in their bedroom picked up a guitar and a pen and wrote something inspired by him. I am thankful for Morrissey and Jarvis- the lyrical wonder they spill, for Phil Lynott and Johnny Marr, the men with the magic fingers, for Manny and Mike Joyce, they kept the beat alive, for Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler, a union so perfect. I am forever in love with Rik Mayall, with Victoria Wood and with Caroline Aherne. I mourned them because they meant something to me. I am thankful to Jeffrey Eugenides and Bret Easton Ellis, to Anna Maxted and Jennifer Niven. To Mary Oliver and Sylvia Plath, to Joyce Grenfell and Maureen Lipman (he’s got an Ology), to the trail blazers and leaders and to those who followed and who create and give. I love it and I will not stop. There is so much art, music, poetry and stories in the world to enjoy. A word of thanks here too, for Terry Pratchett and John Peel. I still miss you, you beautiful geniuses.
25. Experience life as much as you can, but within the parameters of being reasonable and because you want to. It’s ok that you’ve never been to America because you can’t bloody well afford it, despite all those cheesy Instagram posts of someone in a bikini on a blindly white beach with the words “What’s stopping you” plastered over the top. MONEY. Money is what’s stopping me. Of course I want to go trekking in Yosemite Park, backpacking in Australia, take a road trip on the whole of Route 66 and see the Taj Mahal. But the mortgage doesn’t pay itself, does it? So we work within our parameters. We get in the car and drive 20 minute and see something we’ve never seen before, like a bunker that was used during the Cold War. Like a tree that’s actually a mobile phone mast. Like a really weird horse with the tiniest stumpiest legs I’ve ever seen. You’re not letting the side down because you’re not “experiencing it all”, but do what you can.
26. Go and see music live. I can’t believe how many people I’ve met who’ve never done this. With a nod to the above about money, I appreciate that gigs are flaming expensive and it’s not only the tickets, it’s getting there, its drinks and food. But if you can, please do. You deserve to be part of the crowd when Duran Duran perform “Rio”, bellowing every damn line. You deserve to be in the crowd when Brett Anderson, bent double with the effort, yelled the words and you joined in “HE’S JUST AN ANIMAL”. I feel the music, cheesy as hell but I do. When Shaun Ryder, stumbling around got the whole crowd to join in, perfectly as one, with arguably the best opening line “Son, I’m thirty. I only went with your Mother cause she’s dirty”, I felt wonderful. Clap, dance, sing your little heart out and watch the room spin with perfect twinkling lights when The Stranglers, swaying together on stage, burst into “Golden Brown, texture like summer”. Through my mind she runs, indeed.
27. Oh no, boring grown up bit. Get a Will, do it. There are Advance Decisions that can be made via NHS websites, so in the event you lack capacity, your wishes and desires are there in black and white. Power of Attorney is a great idea if you know who to nominate. Illness will affect us all, at some point, and there is a noisy peace in knowing that those you care about will be safe and that they won’t be stuck with heart wrenching decisions, not knowing what you would want. I know it’s scary to consider such things when you’re young, but life has a funny way of changing in a heartbeat, and you deserve things to be as you would want them.
28. Try not to regret too much. The past is another country and they do things differently there. At the time, you did the things you did for a reason, and you might not be able to get back into the headspace you were in then, maybe you won’t really know why you did that particular thing, said that particular thing. Didn’t pick up the phone when so and so called. Didn’t answer the door. Decided actually you weren’t done with them, kept calling. It is what it is, and it cannot be changed. At the time, you did what you thought was best. Some things cannot be undone.
29. It really does get better. You will become more at ease with yourself, with social situations, with your awkwardness or your shyness, with your loudness or your over-confidence. However you’re feeling right now, I promise you it won’t always feel this way. It will be okay. You can get through this. Life didn’t turn all to crap because you’re some hideous, disgusting creature who deserves such things. Sometimes, it’s just evil and cruel simply because. No reason, no meaning. Why do small children die? Why do families break apart and never make up? Why does love not always last forever? Why is life so hurtful at times? Simply because. There is no rhyme or reason, no great meaning. It just is. Just keep on. I know you can do it, I always did believe in you.
30. The biggest secret of all, the greatest knowledge, the perfect power. No-one, not one single person, has a clue what they’re doing. No-one. Not me, not your family, not your friends. How did we end up where we are? Sheer luck, blind hopefulness and being in the right place at the right time. That’s it. No-one has it all figured out, no-one has a handle on everything. We are all just giant children nodding along to things we don’t truly comprehend. It is simply not the case that everyone around is just fine and dandy, living their best life in total secure knowledge they’re right on top of it all. Nonsense. Sheer nonsense. None of us know, we never did and we never do. We just carry on, because that’s humans for you. Funny little creatures. No-one is perfect, not a single person, but we do the best we can. That’s enough for me.