I had a fantastically tumultuous teen stretch and most of my twenties were categorically dismal too. This was largely aggravated and boosted due to my own destructive behaviour, terrible self-esteem, anger, unforgiveness and allowing toxic people to speak into my life. It was an ugly and selfish time of my life with large stretches of despair, disappointment, hunger for something more and a constant striving for busyness – because in silence you can’t hide from the state of your soul – anguish cries out. Don’t get me wrong – I had fun, made friends, created everlasting memories and had many wonderful highlights during these years. What I am talking about is the deep-rooted feelings and general state of my heart. Death… death… death
And now as I reflect on this time, I think that I am thankful that I learnt so many lessons in my twenties – lessons/decisions that meant I drew a line in the sand and said no more of this. Some of it is serious, some light-hearted and some are a work-in-progress. But whatever – I am thankful I have learnt them.
#1 No – Is An Answer
Some tool has lied to us. I’m telling you – lieg, jok, whopper, fib, and psychotically lied to us. We are told NO is not acceptable. You can’t say no to your mother (forget the mother-in-law), your bestie, your boss, to the poor telesales souls or chocolate. No is a big no-no. So, we exhaust ourselves to attend every braai, every birthday celebration, support every cause or request, take on more and in return, we get – BURNOUT, RESENTMENT, PASSIVE AGGRESSIVENESS and generally aren’t happy.
And the antidote to it all is – NO! You don’t have to explain your no. You are not unreasonable for saying no when you don’t have the capacity and you are not being less supportive or loving by saying no. And if anyone makes you feel guilty for saying no – you need to evaluate the relationship and the amount of say that person has in your life. It is one of the best things I have learnt to say – no. No. I can’t attend your braai (I need to rest, recover and need me time); no, I can’t help you out (my health and happiness are important too). No. I am not available for the family celebration…
#2 So Is Goodbye
With the no lesson, I learnt that sometimes goodbye is also the right answer. Sometimes it is physically saying goodbye. Sometimes it is just letting someone walk out of your life. Sometimes it is shutting down the manipulative, destructive or unhealthy behaviour of a friend or family member. People are in our lives for seasons – know when the season has ended and say: “goodbye”. Always be polite and kind. Goodbye doesn’t mean burn bridges – it means giving someone the space to run their race. I am grateful for having learnt that goodbye is sometimes a suitable response.
#3 Alcohol Is Not The Answer
I love a glass of wine and/or champagne; or an ice-cold beer on a hot day – who doesn’t! But at a stage, I used alcohol to fill the void in my life and heart. Using alcohol to numb your heart, and your circumstances is not the answer. Don’t be fooled by the popularity – people love being around party peops – watching you play the fool, buying everyone drinks, dancing with your credit card – *cringe*. Take it from me don’t do it.
Anyway… this is something I am soooo grateful I learnt in my twenties – because alcohol worsens all problems. Enjoy your glass-o-something, not the whole-case-o-something.
#4 Don’t Throw “Shade” Online
We live in an interesting age where we act out part of our lives online. Like any production, we are selective what the audience sees or don’t see and how we portray ourselves. And often we want to play the hero… or the victim, or the wise-ass, or the “devils-advocate” or the person that is right. So naturally, when anyone threatens our role we want to take action. And because most of our production is online – we attack people through blog posts, status updates, hashtags and @ signs.
This is something classless, ugly and petty. And something I thrived on in my twenties. Sometimes it was sharing pictures with quotes on, that passive-aggressively “sent” a statement to the person upsetting me; sometimes it was through cryptic status updates; ugly blog posts; tweets and then BBM statuses. It is just ugly. And something I am glad I learnt to stop doing.
#5 Express Yourself Without Being Rude
We live in a society that suffers from an epidemic called – taking offence. It seems just the smallest; insignificant act can lead to massive widespread offence. But on the other end of the spectrum – we live in an era of Donald Trump – where the more you shock people, the greater your effect and popularity. So where does that leave us? A massive void between people afraid to express themselves and people who are outright rude in saying whatever they please.
Anyway, I am glad I have learnt to say how I feel (without being rude) or express myself in a constructive way, without demonising people who don’t agree with me– no matter how my audience receives it.
#6 You Can Cook Or Whatever
I wasn’t a confident cook, baker or person in my twenties. I could do toast, mince, wraps and a salad. I was also not really surrounded by people that instilled belief in myself (quite the opposite). But something I have learnt (and still learning) is that just because I haven’t, doesn’t mean I can’t.
Yes, we are all talented in certain areas, but it doesn’t mean you can’t grow in an area that you struggled in before. In five years, I went from someone who couldn’t cook to someone that develops recipes and shares it with others on a blog! And I have been using this as a blueprint for my life. I dare you to do the same.
#7 I Am _______
I am funny. I am loving. I am smart. I have learnt to fill in the blank and boy, I am glad I learnt this lesson. I used to find my identity in what others said or perceived me to be or my own skewed ideas of myself. So specifically, I was told I wasn’t funny, smart, reasonable, able and I believed it. But I have learnt to fill the blank after the I am ____ statement and as a discipline, I make sure it is a positive statement. Don’t be your own worst enemy. Fill in your blanks with positive affirmations – it changed my life and it will change yours.
#8 You Rise By Lifting Others
In a world that is driven by serving the me; rebel and serve others. Really serve others. Smile at and greet strangers; help someone if they have dropped their stuff; hold the door open for people; speak and treat cleaners like they are your directors; wave at the street kid begging for money and ask him/her how they are doing; randomly buy someone something special like a cup of coffee; tip generously; smile at the cashiers; be a selfless team player; serve and spoil others. This lesson was modelled to me. I learnt it and daily I rise. Daily I become happier… I dare you to do several random acts of kindness this week and see how you rise too…
#9 Rest Doesn’t = Laziness
The hustle, the grind, work-work etc. Great concepts but sometimes the best decisions, creativity or direction come during rest and reflection time. Bill Gates takes two to three weeks off in complete isolation every year and so do many other super successful people. I am so grateful for having learnt that rest doesn’t = laziness, in the first three decades of my life.
#10 It’s Okay To Be An Introvert
I actually had no idea I was an introvert. I found out at 25 when I did an online test (after my psychologist recommended it). LIGHT BULB. The thing was and is, I am loud in my comfort zone but super quiet and reserved in new situations, with new people. But I learnt it’s okay to recharge differently and it’s okay to prefer deep conversations with fewer people etc. It’s okay to be an introvert. If you haven’t done a test already, I really recommend taking a free one online.
#11 Being Happy Here
During most of my twenties, I strived. I strived for a better job, for a relationship, to travel more, be skinnier, better, smarter and so the list goes on. I kept thinking as soon as I make x amount of money I will be happy. If I get married in so many years, then I’ll be happy. If I lose x amount of weight, then I’ll be happy. If I travelled to x places this year, then I’ll be happy. Happiness was always in the future and dependent on my circumstances. The best thing I have learnt to date is to be happy and content no matter my circumstances, relationship status, bank balance, title, health, weight and struggles. I celebrate the little things, shrug off the bad things and focus on being happy today.
Viktor Frankyl said: “It is the very pursuit of happiness, that thwarts happiness”.
#12 Your Past Is Behind You
For many years I was haunted by my past. Coming from the small “town” of Pretoria East means we are all somehow related – once removed. Everyone is a friend of a friend and unfortunately, that means if you make a mistake, it can follow you for years or if something traumatic happens most people know.
It’s difficult when you get disqualified or labelled for having too much baggage, or whatever your label is. Especially when you change and move on, but in other people’s memories, you haven’t changed… so your past still haunts you. But the best thing you can do (and what I learnt) is to say the past is behind me and the best is still before me. It’s absolutely crazy to let a few years of your life, a few years of abuse, a few years of neglect, a few years of suffering – impact the rest of your life. Put it all behind you. And live the majority of your years left, free from the minority painful years of your past.
#13 Your Life Has Meaning Even In Failure
That’s just it. I have learnt that failure doesn’t mean my life is meaningless. It just means I have failed and that I learnt something. Don’t let failure get you down longer than five minutes.
#14 Always Behind In Appearances
If I look online everyone seems fitter, slimmer, richer, more successful, balanced, married, fashionable and put together than me. Everyone seems to have the dream job, travel constantly for leisure, have a million perfect kids and have “just the best husband in the world #blessed”.
I have learnt that I will always be behind appearances or how people’s lives appear to be online. BUT that’s because the fittest girl doesn’t mention her addiction to diet pills, the slimmest that she has bulimia, the most successful person showcase his/her loneliness, the married person that their spouse is cheating on them for the hundredth time, the fashionista that they are drowning in credit card debt, the together person that they are in and out of rehab, the traveller that they have no one to share the world with, parents with the million perfect kids don’t show the bills, and the lady with the best hubby in the world, that he hits her once a week. Overly dramatic – yes. The point is: I have learnt – don’t compare your reality with someone’s highlight reel. Nobody has the perfect life despite what their Facebook profiles or Instagram accounts show.
#15 Dealing With Unsolicited Advice
The lesson I learnt is simple – listen to all advice; check it with your internal truth; say thank you and decide whether you junk it or star it.
#16 Getting Rid Of The Guilt
I have learnt to stop feeling guilty for everything and it is a decision. We make mistakes – meditating on them is not going to change a thing. So, think on it for a moment; take the lesson learnt; take action if an apology is in order and discard the guilt.
#17 You Can’t “Fix” People
Ooo I used to love trying to “fix” people – “fixing them”, “building their self-esteem”, trying to change their minds for the better, caring more about their futures than they did. It’s wrong and I am glad I learnt that I can’t change people. Help, encourage, love, inspire – yes. But exhausting yourself and your resources to “fix” someone that isn’t invested is lunacy. And dating someone to fix them… eish
#18 Rekindle What You Loved Before, You Were Told What To Love
Society is very good at telling us what is hip, cool, trendy and what you should love. Strip this away to a time when you loved something for loving it and not because it was trendy or cool. I rekindled my love for horse riding (it wasn’t cool anymore at 16 so I stopped) and am so thankful for learning the lesson – of loving something for loving it and not because I’ve been told to love it. What did you love, before you were told what to love?
#19 Believe In A Higher Power
And here I really mean believe in, trust in and plug into a community of like-minded individuals. I was always a “little religious” but like everything else – I didn’t really commit. And wow, when I did the darkness, emptiness, niggly feelings of discomfort and need to keep myself constantly busy or distracted disappeared. I changed. I became more patient, kind, good, generous, forgiving, gentle, loving and my self-control improved. It was life-changing, and I don’t care what people say or said, I just know I felt and live the transformation daily.
#20 Look After Your Mental Health
Like most people that live in a messed-up world, I had a painful past. I had my heart broken too many times by loved ones, felt betrayal to the core of my soul, rejected over-and-over-again; people teased and mocked me because of my degree, my thoughts, my actions and just for being me. I was riddled with self-pity, anger, unforgiveness; possessed an unhealthy hunger to prove that I was worthy of love and played the victim to a fault. And at 25 I was single for the first time since I was like 12. I had no identity and I adamantly refused to see therapists in the past because I was “gatvol” of the “how-does-this-make-you-feel-mambo-jumbo”. Call it fate or divine intervention but I met the perfect therapist. I set aside one to two hours per week, to visit her and did this for a year. I faced and healed from my past, learnt coping techniques and moved away from always playing the victim. Sometimes, you need more than therapy, you need medication but whatever it is, I am happy I learnt to take care of my mental health at 30.
#21 You Are Enough
By the time you are six and had like three best friends, you become aware of strange dynamics between friends and your peers. One day you are best friends – the next day you are eating your sandwiches alone behind the school chapel. This cycle continues as life goes on, people walk in and out of your life. Whether it be on the playground, at Mary-Beth’s 16th, your first relationship, at home or at work – at some stage you will face rejection or feel like you are just not enough for people. It’s lies from the pits of hell – you are enough. People walking out of your life or your skills falling short in some area of your life – has nothing to do with you being or not being enough.
I have learnt to say I am enough (whenever I feel inadequate).
#22 Embrace Your Flavour
Being comfortable in my own skin is one of the best lessons I learnt so far. Embracing the sparkles in my life and so much more makes me easy to be around because I am at ease within myself. Embrace your flavour instead of trying to adjust yourself to the spice of someone else’s life.
So, I know 30 – right – still soooo much to learn! But that’s part of the adventure. As Gandhi said: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”.
What are some of the lessons you learnt in life that you are grateful for? From light-hearted to serious, please comment on the blog or on my social media. I love hearing from readers.
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