I remember when I was studying for my PGCE in Durham - which feels like a lifetime ago - Naomi and I would often cite 35 as a landmark age. When we were contemplating our futures and mapping out our lifetime to do lists over cups and cups and cups of tea, this is the age we often fell on when setting benchmarks. Those conversations seem so funny now, our little checklists, but I smile when I think of what we've achieved, and what we've let go of. Life's journey is nothing if not amusing from time to time.
I was mulling over what to write in this post for the last week or so. I knew baby photos were a must, and throughout this post I've shared dozens of pictures of my story so far - birthdays make me nostalgic. These pictures are chronological so they don't always go with the thought above (four-year-old me was not into cocktails)...but I hope they raise a smile. For the main part of the post, I wanted to share 35 things I've learned. So far. Some of these lessons came hard, some came easy, but a birthday felt like a suitable time to share them... I'd never claim to be the cleverest or wisest person in the room (to paraphrase Forrest Gump, "I may not be a smart girl..."), but I also feel like we all have a few things to share, a few pearls of wisdom to offer, a truth to tell. These are mine, in no especial order - I'd love to hear some of yours in the comments.
1. As much as you can, try to like yourself. It can be hard not to get over-critical and unkind when looking at yourself in the mirror, but extend yourself a little kindness. You're stuck with yourself for an awful long time, if you're lucky.
2. A warm bath and an early night can fix many things.
3. Vote! Participate.
4. Find a favourite cocktail (mine's a Tanqueray martini, straight up with a twist, extra dry).
5. Try to practice gratitude every day. If you can read this, sitting in a warm space, with a full belly, on a computer or tablet or phone, you are already a lucky human being. As am I.
6. Learn from your friends, family and others around you - their talents and skills can help you to improve.
7. In karaoke, go big or go home.
8. Ditto dancing. And Christmas decorating.
9. Don't just berate your body for what it can't do. Celebrate it for what it can do.
10. Surprise people with gifts, letters, treats, texts, emails, compliments whenever you can. We all have opportunities to improve another person's day.
11. Make time for silence and stillness.
12. Some people just plain will not like you. *dons sunglasses a la the 'deal with it' meme*
13. You cannot change people. People change themselves. You can help, you can hope, but you can't do the changing for them (or they for you).
14. If you're lucky enough to find a partner you love, appreciate them and help them as much as you can. To do life together is a privilege and a delight.
15. Friendships fade, and friendships fail. Learn to know the difference between those two things, and learn to let things go and move on, while still honouring the time shared. The best friendships will grow and change and strengthen, and if you're lucky enough to have friends like that, huzzah!
16. Put time and effort into your home, Nesting is worthwhile.
17. Sometimes a good cry is just what required.
18. Know when to leave a party.
19. Tell the people you love that you love them. Do it often.
20. Learn when not to say anything.
21. Hug often.
22. Don't apologise for guilty pleasures.
23. Appreciate those around you.
24. Be gentle, with others and with yourself.
25. Helping others is good for the soul. Whether it's helping a friend move, volunteering, or doing a little random act of kindness, there's so much to learn and gain from giving.
26. Find people who make you better, who make you laugh, who inspire you and challenge you.
27. Learn a few little frugal tips and tricks. You never know when they might come in handy.
29. Choose your battles.
30. Make time to learn & explore.
31. Respect people who disagree with you, and learn to argue with grace.
32. Learn a few great recipes, so you can rustle up a nice meal quickly and happily.
33. Always listen to children when they tell you their tales. There's a magic and a wonder to be found there.
34. Give second chances.
35. Put yourself out there. It's scary and nervewracking, but sometimes it's the leaping that makes us take flight.
Thank you all for indulging a birthday ramble. And thank you as ever to all the awesome people who make my little life such a joy. I have many blessings to count.