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.
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