22 Things I've Learnt Before Turning 23

I’ve decided to write this as I think 23 is the age at which you realise, oh god, I’m an actual adult now.

You’re no longer a child, or rebellious teenager, or student who doesn’t take the world seriously.

Despite this, you still have no clue what you’re doing, and that’s 100% okay. Nobody does (point 5).

You’ll start to see at this age people getting ‘proper’ jobs as I call them (career-orientated, not just temping or working at the pub to pay the rent whilst people work on their macrame dildo business in their spare time), you’ll see people settling down, maybe even a friend or two will get pregnant or engaged. Basically being adults.

But at the same time, you’ll see people still going on all night benders, drinking and sleeping around and generally being a bit messy.

And all of these things are okay. Now that you’re in your early-to-mid twenties, it’s okay to have the best of both worlds. It’s the only age you can.

I’ve learnt a lot over my 22 11/12 years and I can gladly say I think I’ve cracked some of the mystery to being an adult, a friend, a lover, a woman and a human in general. So here are my 19 lessons I learnt before turning 23!

1. You cannot have all areas of your life happy and content at once.

Life is checks and balances- as soon as one area starts to go really well (relationship or work for example) another area starts to go to shit (money or living situation). The trick is to understand this and learn to live with it.

2. Love your body.

It is yours and it is precious. It does not matter what shape it is. Love it and worship it and look after it. Preaching body positivity is one of the best things I can do, to get other people to love their bodies too. I myself have struggled with it, and you can read more about body positivity here and here.

3. Put a big pair of knickers (the more granny-ish, the better) on top of your tights to stop them falling down whilst you’re wearing them.

Works every time.

4. Everything seems better after a nap or sleep.

If you have a horrible crisis or bad news, everything will seem at least 1% better after some rest. And, you’ll be less panicked/anxious too and better equipped to deal with whatever shit life has hurled into your fan.

5. It’s okay to not know what you’re doing, and plot twist! Nobody else knows what they are doing either.

And that’s so, so okay. Some of my best life choices have been made on impulse and with little or no clear direction in mind (what I studied at uni, for example, becoming a stylist, for example, and agreeing to meet some bloke off Tinder who had a very cool sense of style, big nose and the same taste as me in everything, despite not wanting to be in a relationship, for example). I’d say 1% of people or even less know what they want to do when they go to uni (or not go!), and even less when they are released into the big wide world.

6. Learn to sew

An absolutely invaluable life skill. You can use it to fix pieces of clothing, reduce your clothing waste, take clothes in or maybe even out if you change shape. You can use it to fix your friend's and families clothes as well as making presents for people.

7. It’s a hard job market to break into, and everyone’s in the same boat.

So, don’t worry. Everything happens for a reason and your time will come, just be patient. Could be you get a job before you even finish uni, or you're left waiting for months like I was, or you have to move back home before some opportunities arise! Read my blog post here on the Post-Graduate Void to learn more about this. (I know friends that have had to do that, and if I had had that option, I think I would've been tempted)

8. Look after your skin.

You have no idea how comforting and soothing it is to rub various masks, scrubs, oils and potions over your face. It’s self care at its best, and pays off tidily. Think moisturised, line free, un-sunburnt, dewy and glow-y complexion. In years to come, you’ll be very thankful.

9. Cook

Learning to cook is another invaluable life skill- you can use it to feed and nourish yourself (And, like the cheesy Wagamamas ad, your soul), your loved ones and friends. Trust me, it'll impress people when you host dinner parties. It's also a relatively cheap way of socialising when you're down on cash, and speaking of which, knowing how to cook and how to cook items means you can make your budget go more. For me, it goes deeper, with memories of cooking with Granny and my mum, of baking in the kitchen as a teenager and of making dinners for dinner parties of best friends.

10. Do not give one single fuck about what other people think.

Possibly the most important thing I've learnt. Who cares if people stare at me at 15 for going out dressed like a rockabilly? Who cares if people stare at me for 5 facial piercings at 18? Who cares if people stare at me? I don't! Do what you want, and if it doesn't hurt anyone else, cool! You go!

11. Everything happens for a reason

Sounds strange, yes I know. But it does. Without various life choices or random bumps in the road or even certain relationships, I wouldn't be where I am now, mentally, job-wise or relationship-wise too. Sometimes it feels like you're wasting your time, but trust me you're not.

12. Karma is a thing

Yes, it is real! I've witnessed it firsthand myself, happening to me or others around me for various things. Sometimes it takes time, but trust me, people get what they deserve (even good things!). I'm atheist but also believe in the universe and signs from it and the powers of it and I really think karma is one.

13. Working hard does pay off

It may feel like a worthless waste of time, but trust me, it's worth it. If you do work experience, or a part time job, it will help you. Hard work DOES pay off.

14. Don’t think the best in everyone

So this one is tricky to talk about. I'm very wary of people, in general (walking down the street, working alongside them, or being chatted up in the smoking area of a club) and a couple of times I've let people slip under my radar for various reasons- maybe they're charming, maybe they're a good bullshitter, but it has impacted my life negatively in one way or the other. I'm so proud of my gut instinct and how I rely on it, and I can. But, always be wary. The world isn't always a lovely place, and everyone isn't nice.

15. Money sucks

Ah, the old silver coin. What a lovely topic to talk about! (And I will, in the future, because it's something we need to normalise) I'd thought I'd include it though because, well, unless you come from a very privileged background, it's quite a tricky thing to a. survive and b. master. I've barely learnt how to survive and I'm nowhere near mastering it, but I'm learning slowly.

16. Read.

Read. Read books. Read fiction. Read non-fiction. Read Harry Potter or the Bible. Read about the world around us, read about the people who live in it. Read about nature, about politics. Knowledge truly is power, and the best way to equip yourself it reading.

17. Have a laugh!

It's so, so important to laugh your way through life. It's the best medicine and can bring everyone together.

18. Don't take yourself too seriously

Have a laugh and enjoy yourself- if you trip, laugh and have a giggle! Remember to strike a balance between believing in yourself (go you!) and being so focused on yourself, you take yourself too seriously.

19. Stand up for yourself and others

If I wasn't such an outspoken feminist in school, shooting down the misogyny of some people and the lad culture prevalent in most secondary schools, or calling people out on racist stereotypes, I would not have the confidence I have now. Everyone is equal and it's important to fight for your values, which for me are very important to myself. Even standing up against my immediate family, who claim to have 'different opinions' but in actual fact are just sexist, and a bit racist, taught me to stand up for myself and my views to the people I 'love'.

20. Express yourself and explore your creativity however your want.

The brave faces I put on when I donned floral crowns and petticoats when I was 15, with people staring, whispering and laughing at me, enabled my confidence to grow tenfold. I explored my creativity through literally every single art form, from kiln pottery to textile art, tattoos to watercolour, to find a a style that is 100% uniquely mine and I’m so so happy about this! Same with my clothing, if I hadn’t gone through every phase in the book (on tumblr more like), I wouldn’t have ended up in the style I’m so happy with now- 100% me. And this leads me onto my next point...

21. Learn from your past you by embracing it.

Who you are now might not be who you are in a years time, a months time or even ten minutes time and that’s fine, because who you are is the simple sum of every other version of you that has ever been, meaning you get better as every phase, experimentation and day goes by.

22. Mental Health is a thing. Listen and learn. Ask for help if you need it.

Mental Health effects us all and boy, do I know it. After years of struggling I've learnt that it is okay to ask for help, and it's okay to have off-days or weeks. It's okay to not be 'normal', whatever that it, or not okay. Listen to your mind and your emotions and learn your triggers. Learn what makes you feel better. It's all a learning curve, when it comes to your mental health.

C x


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Created by Ciara Loane.

London-based writer and stylist.

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