Today is my 28th birthday. I can’t quite believe I’ve made it this far, nor can I believe how much I’ve changed in the last three years, let alone the last 28.
Naturally, of course, my birthday has made me go all pensive. So here’s 28 things I’ve learnt in my 28 years…
1. Pain can be a motivator…
Since my doctor suggested I may have fibromyalgia, I’ve met far more people than I could’ve imagined with it.
Some of these people use it as an excuse; they sit on their arse at home all day, watching videos on YouTube.
Some people, like my friend Jess, go on a solo trip around the world then get a dream job on the other side of the world writing for their favourite childhood TV show. I mean, wow. I’m super proud of Jess and everything she’s accomplished.
If you haven’t already, you should check out her blog, More Than Chronic Wanderlust. She doesn’t post to it any more, but it’s a great story and still worth a read.
2. …but it can also destroy you if you let it
The longer you spend feeling sorry for yourself, the harder it is to stop.
It’s so easy to use pain as an excuse to not have any impetus to do anything.
But if you want something badly enough – even if that’s just to live pain-free, you’ll find a way to achieve it no matter how much work it takes.
When I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia on Monday (after years of being ignored or messed around by doctors), the rheumatologist told me that the people who manage the best are the ones who keep going despite the pain. I know which camp I want to be a part of.
3. You never know when everything will be taken away from you
One of the things that pushed me to publishing my books was my nan’s stroke in February 2015. Since then, she’s also been diagnosed with liver cancer. We don’t know how long she has left.
Take care of the people you love, because you can lose them faster than you realise.
4. Great things come to those who work hard, not those who wait
When you wait, you rely on what you already have, and what you already know. This only works for Dirk Gently.
To get anything that’s more than ok, you need to work hard. You need to let go of what does you harm, and put effort into what helps you.
5. There’s always more to learn
As soon as you think there’s nothing more to learn, you’ll stagnate. And when you stagnate, you’ll strop progressing, and you’ll stop getting better at what you do. You’ll also get bored.
It’s impossible for me to know everything there is to know about writing—there are just too many different types of writing and too many approaches. The same applies to you and what you do, too.
6. Everyone knows something you don’t
From your parents to your best friend to that homeless person on the street, everyone knows something that you don’t. So be curious. Ask questions. People want to talk about themselves; there’s a high chance they’ll happily share their knowledge with you.
7. When you get complacent, everything crumbles
When you get complacent, you start to take things for granted. The longer you take things for granted, the more likely they are to fall apart.
8. The more you break through your fears, the easier it gets
The first time I went to put What Happens in New York up for preorder, I chickened out. I ended up needing Boyfriend beside me while I hit submit because I was so terrified.
When it came to putting What Happens in London up for preorder, it was no big deal.
The more you push through your barriers and boundaries, the easier it is.
9. The medical industry is always changing and learning
Fibromyalgia was first discovered the year I was born. The healthcare industry is always discovering new illnesses and new treatments. Things change, too. I’ve heard so many different things about asthma over the years I don’t know what to believe any more. It’s important to keep informed, though, particularly with chronic illnesses.
Just ten years ago, when my mum was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, nobody had ever heard of it. Now, when I mention it to people, most people know what I’m talking about.
Discussions lead to awareness, and awareness is important for removing stigma.
Back pain, meanwhile, has been proven to be best managed through exercise, not medication. While I still despise exercising, I much prefer it to daily painkillers (which I can never remember to take regularly).
10. Self-awareness comes from experience and reflection
I’m a lot more self-aware than most people my age. Said self-awareness has come from a lot of tough experiences over the last few years, and a lot of reflection over those periods and the outcomes of those situations.
11. Be comfortable in who you are, and nobody can bully you
I’m a big fan of Hilary Duff. I saw her in Birmingham when she toured. And I wore her t-shirt to sixth form one day. And nobody said a thing. Because I was comfortable in my fangirling.
The same thing happened with my writing—I was the weird teenager that wrote poetry at school, yet nobody bullied me for it. When they tried to say anything against it, I ignored them because I was comfortable in that part of my personality.
12. We’re a product of our upbringings…
The older I get, the more I notice the impact of my upbringing on how I deal with things. I see my mother in myself. I see my nan in myself. And it scares me. I love them, yes, but I don’t want to deal with things how they do. It’s a different century; I need to be able to deal with things in a twenty-first century way, or I won’t survive.
13. …and the people we spend the most time with
I didn’t realise how true this was until I changed day jobs. Being away from a toxic atmosphere and spending most of my waking time with a new group of people left me feeling more inspired and more willing to learn.
14. Friends come and go, no matter how great they are
I’ve lost some really great friends over the years. Sometimes we outgrew each other; sometimes we had a raging argument; sometimes one of us pulled away because of unrequited love.
Just because you’re no longer in touch with someone, that doesn’t mean they weren’t still important to you. Sometimes a person is just what you needed at that moment in time. There’s nothing wrong with outgrowing that.
15. We all go through the same ups and downs in life at different paces
Some people grow up too fast, while others are still teenagers in their late 20s. We all go through similar phases of seeing ourselves, and those around us, differently. We all get our hearts broken. We all lose someone we love. We all lose ourselves. But every life event is a new challenge, a new chance to learn, and a new opportunity.
16. We’re all full of contradictions (and that’s ok)
There’s nothing wrong with contradicting yourself. It’s a sign that you’ve learnt and grown. If you never change your mind about anything, you haven’t learnt anything new or grown nearly as much as you think.
17. There’s no real difference in quality between indie and traditionally published books
I’ve read some really great self-published books, and some really terrible traditionally published ones. Just because something goes through a gatekeeper, that doesn’t mean that it’s of a higher quality, it just means that it’s easier for a marketing department to sell.
18. Wear clothes that suit your shape and size, not based on a number
I despise vanity sizing. I’ve been everything from a size 4 to a 14 in clothes over the years. Wear what suits your shape and size, and the number on the label won’t matter. Well-fitting clothing is so much more flattering than the number on a label. If the number pains you that much, don’t buy it.
19. Most speakers really do suck (yes, even yours)
I didn’t realise how bad some speakers were until we got a HomePod, but OMG, most speakers really do suck. With the HomePod, music is an experience. Now I get what Beyonce was on about for all these years.
20. A good song is for now, a great song is forever
Some songs—like summer jams—come and go. Great songs, the ones that have a lasting affect on us, are forever. No Doubt have been my favourite band now for 15 years, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.
21. Sleeping on your side pushes your jaw to one side, too
This one’s pretty self-explanatory, and also something I only discovered recently. There’s a reason everyone tells you to sleep on your back…
22. When you want something badly enough, you’ll fight through the fear to get it
I was terrified to put What Happens in New York up for preorder, but I didn’t want to wait to publish a book. I wanted to publish it to prove to myself that I could do it. My desire to do it was stronger than my fear.
23. True love isn’t about perfection, it’s about compromise
It might come across like I’m cynical or unromantic, but if you’ve ever read my fiction you’ll know that’s not true. I’m just realistic.
Nothing and nobody is ever perfect. Boyfriend and I have our issues, but we compromise and we make things work. That’s how we’ve been together for eight years, and how we’ll be together for many more.
24. You don’t have to have the same taste in music or TV shows as your partner to make it work
Boyfriend and I don’t listen to the same music, watch the same TV shows, or even the same films. But we still have stuff to talk about, and we still have a happy relationship.
A successful relationship isn’t about having surface-level interests in common, it’s about having the same desires, the same needs, the same beliefs, and the same goals. If I wasn’t with someone as ambitious as Boyfriend, not only would I be very different, but I’d probably be pretty bored, too.
25. Respect shouldn’t be given by default—it should be earned
I don’t believe that you should respect your elders just because they’re older than you. I’ve been treated very differently by elderly people based on who I was with, and that’s not cool.
When I was a teenager and hanging out with other teenagers, I was looked down on simply for being a teenager (snide comments or disapproving looks just because we laughed, for example).
When I was out with my nan as a teenager, elderly people would smile at me, even move out of the way because I was pushing her wheelchair.
Tell me, do both of these groups of people deserve the same respect?
26. You can’t please everyone (try and you’ll please no one)
One of the reasons marketers are told to pick an ideal customer and write for them is because the more people you try to please, the fewer people you’ll please overall. Covering every base and every possible situation backfires and makes marketing a nightmare. Not to mention by trying to cover everything you’ll inevitably still forget something and still exclude someone.
27. Some people will never grow up
In the wise words of Hermione Granger, some people have ‘the emotional maturity of a teaspoon’. The older these people are, the less likely they are to ever grow out of it. Take it from someone who was spoilt for a long, long time—it does not end well. It leads to laziness and self-entitlement.
28. You can be a grown-up but still have fun
The most important thing in life is to have fun without hurting anyone. If you can do that, you’re all set.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learnt in your lifetime? (You don’t have to list as many as your age 😂)