28 Life Lessons I Learned in 28 Years

On Thursday it was my birthday. I turned 28. I’m having trouble coming to terms with that age. I had no problems saying I was 27 but 28 is going to take some getting used to.  I think it’s the realisation of the age I’ll be in two years time. That scares me. But until then I want to make the most of the last two years in my 20s. I’m sad to leave 27 behind because it was such a positive age for me. In fact it was the best year of my adult life. I had a number of terrible years between the ages of 18 and 26 so 27 was exactly the year I needed.

In the last couple of weeks, while I was redoing my blog, I looked over some of my older blog posts and the words and pictures immediately took me back. I remembered just how unhappy and depressed I was for most of the years between 18 and 26. I was in such a helpless situation and saw no way out. As bad as anxiety and depression gets, I have been there. I relied on my blog so much because I had no friends in real life and what felt like no point to my life. I will forever be grateful for how blogging helped me during that time. My life isn’t perfect now but it’s changed dramatically. The days of sleeping until midday and having absolutely nothing to do all day were replaced long ago with 5am wakeups for swimming training and being way too busy during the day. In those hopeless dark times I never thought I’d be where I am today.

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To mark the occasion I’ve come up with a list of 28 things I’ve learned in 28 years.

1. Society’s expectations don’t bother me anymore:  its taken an incredibly long time to get to this point. I was told not to worry about societal expectations countless times in my early 20s but it meant nothing; it’s one I had to reach in my own time. For example, I have never been to another country. That’s right, in 28 years I have never left Australia. Since I’m in my 20s I’m “supposed” to want to travel. In reality I don’t have that desire. It might be enjoyable one day but right now I don’t feel I’ve missed out.

2. Anxiety will always be part of my life: my anxiety has improved dramatically over the past couple of years but it is still a struggle. I worry about everything.  I hate how it impacts my swimming and I get so incredibly nervous for even the smallest race. I’m grateful for the improvement (ie. I can actually function day to day now) but I’m not under any misconception it will ever go away completely.

3.  I can achieve my goals if I want them enough: wanting it enough is the key. There are areas of my life, now and in the past, where I haven’t reached my full potential but that’s not because of a lack of skill or ability. It’s because it hasn’t been a priority and I haven’t had the want. Right now swimming is my dream and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to achieve my goals. I’ll continue to train as much as I can and face the early mornings at the pool because I have the dedication to do whatever it takes.

4.  Take one day at a time: being so busy and struggling with anxiety, this is the only way I get by. I probably take it to the extreme which results in being less organised than I’d like to be. But the concept really works.

5.  It’s ok to take a day out to escape from real life: I use most of my annual leave days for this purpose. I have an incredibly busy life with training most mornings before work and most afternoons after work. Some weeks I feel so much burnout that a five day working week is an incredible struggle. So I’ll take an annual leave day where I catch up on sleep, organise the house and stay in my local area all day. I appreciate it’s not how everyone would use some of their annual leave days (most people are the opposite and want to save up the annual leave days for travel) but I like it and it works for me.

6.   It’s important to take photos and document events: I adore looking at old photos and always wish I had more from those pre-social media days. It’s incredible how much a photograph can take me right back to a situation or event. I’m so grateful to have my blog as a detailed record of my life over the last number of years.

7. It is possible to like both sport and fashion: whenever someone new finds out I do swimming, running and tennis, the reaction is always genuine shock. This is because of my clothes. There seems to be a perception that sport and fashion are opposing interests. I wish I could be a professional athlete but that’s a fantasy (not to mention I’m too old) so the reality of life is having a full time job. I might as well wear pretty clothes while I’m in the office all day. 

8. I love where I live: I live 5 minutes away from where I grew up and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the best area of Sydney. I would never leave the suburb if I didn’t have to; my trip into the big city each day for work is even too much of an adventure.

9.  I prefer mid-late 20s than early 20s: I like the freedom of being just a few years older. It’s the combination of having full time money, my own place, a car and no longer being a student. 

10. The realities of life cannot be avoided: such as working and earning a full time income. For example, I hate sitting in an office all day. The work I can handle and some of the people are wonderful. However, it’s the sitting there all day every day which drives me crazy. It’s too passive.  It frustrates me even more to be told ‘I’m an adult, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do, I’m choosing to be there.’ Sure, some people make money to support themselves in a non office setting. However, in reality most jobs involve sitting in an office. I can’t think of another way to make a full time income.

11. I don’t give my time to others who don’t deserve it: I’ve reduced to amount of time I spend with negative people and those who don’t put the same effort into a relationship as I do. I’ve stopped chasing people who don’t hold me as a high enough priority. It’s always hard to do but is necessary for improved mental health.  

12. Having a car improves quality of life: I bought my first car a year ago when I was 27 (rather late and 10 years after I got my licence). Sure, my husband had a couple of different cars when we were teenagers. But in our early years of marriage we didn’t have a car and I personally had never owned one. Until I had one I thought I was getting by well on public transport. However, when I bought my Fiat Daisy I realised how much broader my life became. 

13. I hate wasting time: and always have to be doing multiple tasks at any one time. Days off, catching up on sleep and rest time are not time wasting. However, sitting in traffic, watching tv, getting the train and sitting around are time wasting. I’ll always use the time travelling to do something else. I only watch tv while on the train, writing a blog post or doing housework. The other day I declared drying my hair after swimming to be time wasting so I made a cup of tea and updated social media at the same time.

14. Take comfort in life’s small pleasures: such as a day off, a night in during the cold rainy weather (such as right now), watching a favourite tv show, visiting a familiar environment, talking to a friend or having a nice cup of tea. It improves quality of life and makes each day a little better. 

15.  Overall I’m happy with what I’ve achieved in 28 years:  I never thought I’d say this because for so many years I was desperately unhappy and felt behind in life. Now I don’t feel that way and overall I’m satisfied. I graduated university, got married, have a good job and I compete in swimming and running. My return to competitive sport changed my opinion and gave me something to be proud of. The only thing I’d expected to do by now and haven’t is buy property. But it’ll come, no one is perfect.

16. It’s ok to be ‘boring’ and prefer nights in: there’s not much I love more than a night at home watching youtube and browsing the internet. By the time I’ve done a full day at work, and had multiple early mornings and nights at training, I almost never contemplate going out on a Friday or Saturday night. On the rare chance I do, I struggle to say awake past 10pm. That’s ok, different lifestyles work for different people. I don’t mind if I’m considered ‘boring.’

17. I wish I knew the importance of savings earlier: I’ve wasted so many opportunities when it comes to saving money. When I was in my early to mid 20s I simple didn’t understand the need to save and thought it would all work out in time. I’ll get there but I’ll be purchasing property much later than I should have. 

18. I see myself in a different age category compared to people in their early 20s: I must be getting old because people aged between 21-24 years old seem so young to me now; I pretty much view them as ‘kids.’ This comes up a lot because apparently I look younger than I am and people are always met with shock when they find out my real age. It comes up at work frequently and I’m always so frustrated. I think it annoys me so much because I don’t identify as being in the same life stage as someone in their early 20s. I don’t live with my parents,  I’m married and it’s many years since I was a student. It’s also because my sister is turning 25 this year so anyone younger than my little sister must be very young.

19.  Time feels limited at 28:  while I’m trying not to worry about turning 28, I know I’ll struggle to deal with being 30. There now feels a certain pressure to complete everything I’d planned to in my 20s. Also, a topic I’ve never discussed on my blog before is having children. I got married when I was 23 and ever since I’ve been frustrated by questions of when am I having children. I didn’t get married because I wanted to have children early. I do want to have them eventually but I’m in absolutely no rush for two reasons 1) the process still absolutely terrifies me 2) I don’t want to drop my routine of training and competitive swimming. The second point is the main reason I’ll delay as long as possible. Even so, the fact I’ll have to think seriously about it in a few years concerns me.

20. Nothing hurts more than people leaving my life: I’m not of the belief that people are only supposed to be in our lives for a limited time, or that everything happens for a reason. Whether it be friends or family members, it hurts and takes an incredibly long time to move forward. Communication is so easy these days so there’s really no excuses for entirely leaving. 

21. I have my own style and wear whatever I want: I always stand out for wearing bright clothes, having a defined sense of style and generally being over dressed. It’s always been that way. I believe it started when I was very depressed and anxious and couldn’t express myself or stand out for any other reason. It’s carried on from there. I’m pleased that, despite not being confident in all areas of life, I am when it comes to fashion.

22. I need swimming in my life: despite, a break in excess of ten years from swimming, it’s the only thing in life I’ve ever felt comfortable and competent with. When I returned I felt a sense of familiarity. It gives me a sense of achievement and purpose in life. Also, during training I usually don’t think about problems or other aspects of life. It works as an escape. Maybe for other people there are different activities which provide the same impact.

23. I wish I knew 10 years ago what I do now:  10 years seems significant because that’s how long ago I finished school and since I was 18 years old.  I wish I’d known how important that 10 years was as a foundation for life  and that I shouldn’t have worried about anything and everything. Above all, I wish I’d enjoyed the time more. I spent most of those years being entirely miserable when it should have been the best time of my life. 

24.  Work is not top priority and there’s so much more to life: do a good job at work but put it into perspective. There’s so much more to life and so much which can be done out of work hours. I don’t need work for purpose and sense of achievement; I have sport for that. A few years ago I put my entire life into work with so many late nights and it just wasn’t worth it.  

25.  Seeing movies alone is incredibly fun: I remember the days of being too self conscious to see a movie alone or, if I did, I’d have to enter the cinema late when it was dark and no one would notice. Now I prefer seeing movies alone and rarely go with other people. I often do this if I have a weekday off and the cinema is quiet. I also like it because I have an incredibly short attention span and find movies too passive. I always have to be doing multiple tasks at once. When seeing a movie alone I can also use my phone and no one gets frustrated. 

26.   I don’t like reading and never will: (with the exception of the Confessions of a Shopaholic series). Reading is supposed to be a good thing which society deems we should all do. However, I don’t enjoy it so I’ll stick to interests I enjoy. I’ve finished study for a reason. 

27.   I’ll never be too old for unicorns: I liked unicorns before they were cool and before unicorn related products were widely available in the shops. I often decorate the house with unicorns and I have no plans to stop. 

28.  Sport has made me tougher in other areas of life: the commitment, routine and dedication (especially the early mornings and runs in the rain) has made me stronger. I hope it continues because I’ve always needed to be tougher. The mental side of sport isn’t easy. For example, with my upcoming half marathon I know I’ll struggle to keep going mentally more than physically. But the reward is so powerful. 

Now I feel old because that was a long list to come up with 

28 thoughts on “28 Life Lessons I Learned in 28 Years

  1. Tia, thank you for sharing!
    I adored reading this post! On face value, we have such similar ideals and interests.

    I’m 27 myself and think quite similarly to you. Often known as a nanna – I love everything to do with a quiet night in. And I have only just embraced no caring about other people’s perception of me! My annual days are also used to stay in bed. And definitely haven’t felt the need to travel a great deal.

    And you have accomplished such a great deal in your life. I would be chuffed with that. Not many people can say they have done so much.

    Linda x

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  2. Yet you have learned so much in that time! You are so much wiser, more self actualized, and happier too. That will continue, even as the years pile on. Be glad that you look younger than your years, that will continue! Such a lovely, compelling post, happy birthday! May they keep coming, each year, better than the one before!
    xx, Elle
    http://www.theellediaries.com/blog/

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  3. I think you have learned some pretty great lessons over the years… I think it’s a great idea to take stock… I too wish I had known 10 years ago what I know today… it’s always a learning curve xox… I love to read by not everyone does, I think we should all do the things we love and that make us happy xox

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  4. Happy belated birthday. I have a good three years on top of you and I can’t tell you how difficult it is to even say that number. I found my twenties to be gruelling. I think more so than my teenage years since everything was in my actual control. I felt like I wasted a lot of my younger days stuck in a bad relationship then played catch up through the rest of my twenties. Failed businesses, being broke and battering anxiety too. It was one hell of a struggle, still is sometimes but it’s true. You learn and overcome so much. It only makes you stronger and helps you see the positives in every new day

    Sxx
    http://www.daringcoco.com

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  5. You learned a lot in your 28 years! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, I did enjoy reading about them. I must say that I feel better the older I get, I find the whole aging process peaceful and quite agreeable…not at all stressful as the magazines imply that it should feel. I feel more like myself, if that makes sense.

    I think that media puts a lot of the pressure on us by trying to convince us that early twenties are the ‘it’ times of our life…we should already know what we want and devote our time to having fun….but why should it be so? Many people don’t figure out what they want in their twenties, especially with this unpredictable job market that always keep us on our toes. A lot of time we’re forced to do a career change, study something else, change jobs etc….it doesn’t mean we’re a failure. Besides, life isn’t something that can be predicted, it doesn’t come with an instruction book. As you said, it is about finding what works for us. Similarly, some people don’t feel like partying in their twenties….some find love earlier and don’t feel the need to explore much… I’ve been with my husband since my early twenties and I don’t regret the fact that I haven’t dated more. I’m happy to hear that 27 was the best year of your life and I hope that 28 will be even better for you.

    I used to love swimming. If I had the opportunity to do so, I would take up swimming again. There just isn’t a sport that compares to it. No other sport has ever given me the feeling of strength that swimming used to give to me.

    I hate to waste time too. Watching TV or blogging while you’re on the train sounds like a great way to save up time.

    http://www.modaodaradosti.blogspot.com

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  6. What a great post, Imogen! First of all, belated Happy Birthday:) Oh….to be 28 again:) Even though we totally lead different lives, it’s a lovely surprise to realize that we think of the same things. For example, I also wish I knew things 10 years ago that I know now. I would’ve saved myself a lot of worries. And yes to wishing I knew more about saving $$$$ when I was younger. That is probably one of the few things I regret in life. All the money I wasted on stupid stuff when I could’ve save it….sigh….
    Anyhoo, just wanna let you know that I totally understand the fear of getting older, but really, 30’s is the new 20’s!:D

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  7. Happy birthday Imogen! Love reading your list. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles in your early 20’s and late teens but it sounds like going through those experiences really helped you to grow and become the well thought person you’ve become. There are so many things on your list that I feel the same exact way about especially #1 about society’s expectations, #2 I will always have anxiety but have learned that you just have to push past it and do the things anyway otherwise you won’t ever do anything, #6 it’s so important to have pictures of your life! Life goes by so quickly and things and circumstances change so much, it’s good to be able to document things with pictures, #7 totally possible to love fashion and still love sports <3, #8 I do love where I live. I feel like my hometown is the best in the world even though I seems all my peers have the idea that all they want to do is get old enough to leave and then move somewhere else, I say there's no place like home! <3, #9 I totally prefer my 30's to my 20's. I hope you feel the same when you get here ;), #10 sigh about the realities of life which is why I truly believe in #24 life is not work, work is just something you do so you have have the means to live life outside of work…. there's is just so much I relate to with your list. #11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 … still trying to learn #17. I've basically felt #18 my whole life until I turned 30 (which is why the 30's have been the best so far for me). #21 YES! #22 I don't have swimming but I think it's so important to have something that makes you happy and keeps you active and going. Lately I've really learned how refreshing and stress reducing hiking can be. Like swimming, it just feels like a total detox for my soul. I've also started to learn to sail which has been one of the best things I feel like I've ever learned to do ❤ In any case, I think it's so important for people have their own hobbies that are all their own. #25 I've only ever seen a movie alone once. I'd like to do it more. I actually would like to do a lot of things more on my own. That is something I'm trying to work on this year 🙂 It's good to be on your own sometimes. but #26 I do love reading. I love it so much. But it's okay if you don't. 😉 Not everyone has to love the same things. ❤ Thank you for writing this list Imogen! It was great learning more about you as a person. I feel like that might be something that lacks in my own blog (the person behind the outfits) but it just makes me so nervous to think of putting myself really out there for a wide audience I suppose. Love reading your list. And love hearing about your journey so far 🙂

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  8. I know I wished you a happy birthday on Facebook, but I’m wishing you it again on here too! I LOVED this post because so much of it rang true with what I’ve been going through in the past few years, and I can’t say enough how much your blog has helped me and made me smile over the past few years, so thank you. I’ll be 27 in July and while I know it’s not the same as 28, I am feeling many of the things you wrote about above. I’m so glad reading the first item in your list too. The older I get the more I’m just embracing what I want and who I am as a person without feeling the pressure of what I should and shouldn’t be doing I want to progress, do all of the milestone things etc. but I’m also happy to take my time and just enjoy where I am now – I don’t know if that’s what you were getting at, but I resonated with that, and reading about all of your swimming updates has really inspired me this year too. I definitely need to get fitter so I need to get outside more! Love the ones you wrote about work too, there’s definitely a lot of truth there. For a long time I’ve been chasing a career, but now, I just want a job, to pay the bills for the time being and already the pressure is lifting. I think there’s so much put on us now in society to always have a plan and be set up for life, but actually, having a job you enjoy, are good at and are comfortable in, would be enough for me. This post really got me thinking, so thank you, and here’s to another happy year for you too! – Tasha

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  9. Happy belated birthday! 28 is lovely, I love the number 8 at the end 🙂 I don’t think that turning 30 will hurt – on the contrary, the more we live, the better, and getting older is the only way to learn more, and that means – thankfully we are alive, we didn’t end like some singers wen they were 27! (Won’t name them, because some people may be offended). I didn’t know about anxiety – I am glad you have it under control and that you had a great year – and this year may be even better! I think you should do exactly what you want – have online friends if you want, go on swimming for sure, stay in Australia – you are not forced to travel just because people “expect you to”. That is their problem. And you don’t have to have kids now if you don’t want to. I, for ex., don’t want to have kids. People criticize me. Ask me. Etc. But I am fine with my decision. I also love photographing and I also feel sad when people leave my life – but you know what, sometimes it is needed. We have to stay with the ones who are nice to us. You really learned a lot and wiil, more and more! Hope you have a great day!
    DenisesPlanet.com

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  10. Happy Birthday, Imogen! This is a fantastic list of things you’ve learned over the years. I especially like “take comfort in life’s small pleasures.” That’s important to me too. : ) A nice hot cup of tea always makes things better. I’m sipping on one right now. You’re such a special 28 year old, and I just wanted to tell you that. : )

    love, ~Sheri

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  11. This is such a great and inspiring post. I am glad you were able to make friends through blogging. I don’t have a lot of friends in real life either. I met my husband in 2003, and I must say that meeting him at 26 years old was one of the best things that happened to me. I love your list. These are great life lessons.

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  12. Happy birthday! We’re the same age! (And I know what you mean about you felt turning 28.) This was a wonderful post to read and to get to know you better. #27 really made me smile. 🙂

    ~Lindsey

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  13. happy belated birthday! these are all important life lessons and it’s always good to hear you’re feeling better. and i’m sure you’ll come to terms with becoming 30 as well, but for now you still have lots of time to enjoy the rest of your 20s, lovely! xx

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  14. Happy birthday! Getting older is so hard. When I turned 30 I had a major freak out during the run up to it. But when it happened I saw it wasn’t a massive deal. You’ve learnt some great things!

    Love the new blog! Hope you’re enjoying WordPress!

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  15. Happy belated birthday! This was a good way to mark the occasion, maybe next year you can write 29 things? 🙂 You’ve been through a lot so you should be incredibly roud of where you are right now. And don’t stress about the big things like kids and properties, as long as you are happy right now that’s all that matters. Everything else can come eventually 🙂

    Hope you are having a fantastic weekend!

    Away From The Blue Blog

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  16. I am so sorry I missed this post my lovely girl! I am so happy that you are so much happier in life! You deserve success, joy and happiness.
    The ‘having children’ question is one I HATE. I am of the ‘not wanting to have any’ point of view and it is amazing how much grief and nosiness and probing I get.xx

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