Twenty Eight

Essay

I usually write a life lesson for every year that I’ve been alive but I thought, just this once, I’d skip that.

 

I’ve spent the time I would usually spend writing my “life lessons” thinking about who I’ve been and who I am today.

I do think younger me would be proud.

I used to shy away from thinking of the little girl I once was because she was awkward, she was weird, she had crooked teeth and she cried a lot. Now, though, I’m awkward, I’m weird, I have crooked teeth and crying is second nature to me. I cry at beauty and I cry at heartache. I’ve learned to love myself, weirdness and all. Weirdness especially.

Sometimes I want to go back and tell her that it all gets easier, it won’t always be scary but really, life doesn’t get easier. You just get better at navigating it. It’s due to resilience and the shield of I’ve been through this before and survived, I’ll do it all over again. 

Sometimes I just want to tell her she’s great the way she is. Don’t think about the future, it’ll come whether you worry or not. Enjoy life now. Hey, have you watched Labriynth for the 15th time today?

 

Turning 28 seems quite strange. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived 1000 lives and sometimes I feel like I’m barely starting out. I am barely starting out, really. Still, it feels strange that I’ll soon be 30 and I am nowhere near where I thought I’d be at 30.

I guess, though, when you’re younger, you have complete tunnel-vision. Growing up, I thought that I’d be married, with children, by 25. I didn’t really want this, it just seemed to be how things happened. In reality, at 25, I did not want to be married or have children. Another kitten would have definitely sufficed.

I am glad that I didn’t live up to my own expectations. I used to hate being wrong so much that I’d cry when I lost card games (I was 8, I was sensitive, shut up) but now, proving myself wrong is actually quite enjoyable and sometimes even a relief.

I could have done everything step-by-step. High school – college – university- career. I sometimes wish I had. Poverty and lack of qualifications are not aspirational to anyone. But finding your own way, despite all barriers, despite personal struggles, is. I’m glad I always chose to take the long way around. I wouldn’t be me, otherwise.

 

If nothing else, I feel that I’m now the most comfortable in my own skin that I’ve ever, ever been. I’m happy to be turning 28 if a little bewildered. I never feared growing up, I looked forward to the freedom that adulthood would bring.

I think teenage me would be stunned at my stability. She didn’t hope for much, just for life to be calmer. I haven’t actually changed in that respect. I think stability is underrated though I envy those that live a little more on the edge than I do.

 


When life is tough, I’m still grateful for the roots beneath my feet. They never go. They never will. But, should the worst happen, and I find myself alone, I still have myself and because of this, in many ways, I’m fearless.

Anyway, back to my 28 lessons.

The thing with constantly providing life lessons year after year is, I have to think long and hard about them and some of them feel inauthentic. I’ll be honest, the older I get, the more I struggle. Sometimes you aren’t aware you’ve learned anything until much, much later on when you find yourself not repeating a mistake you would have previously eagerly made. Does that make sense?

So, I didn’t write 28 life lessons. I just wrote this ramble. I just wrote. That’s all I’ve ever done, in one way or another.

I recently saw an old friend’s mum for the first time in a few years. I always loved her. I kind of want to be her when I’m older; intelligent, silly and warm. I like to think I’m that now but I imagine my often anxious state doesn’t allow for that to be my consistent demeanour. That’s okay. It’ll come.

 

She told me that she’s delighted that I now (mostly) write for a living because if nothing else, I was always scribbling something down. I’ve always been scribbling things down. If the words weren’t my own, I was just rewriting somebody else’s lyrics or quotes. I wanted to absorb poetry and language in any way I could.

I’d forgotten that, though. I’d forgotten that I had always been a bit of a scribbler. I’d forgotten that I had endless, endless notepads filled with my ramblings.

On reflection, I love younger me, a lot. I love her for her resilience, her humour,  her ridiculous risk-taking at times, her determination to stay soft and I love her for always writing.

I love current me for all of the same reasons.

 

The biggest lesson I’ve learned, aside from gratitude, is that I am so much more than the things I’ve been through. I’ve learned self-love. I look at the photos I’ve shared here and I see a strong, kind, intelligent girl who’s carried these traits into womanhood. I didn’t always and if there’s one defining great thing about aging for me, it’s loving myself as warmly and entirely as I love those around me.

So, here’s the best I have to offer. Maybe not 28 life lessons but, for now, enough:

In 28 years I’ve learned that that life is rarely easy and in fact, it’s sometimes actually really fucking painful. I’ve learned that being kind is so much more important than being smart. I’ve learned that I will always be a child of the universe and will never have all of the answers and that this is a good thing! I’ve learned that love doesn’t conquer all but it does go a long way. I’ve learned that being enthusiastic about anything – from the stars at night to HOW CUTE IS THAT LITTLE TUB OF KETCHUP is something to treasure, never to be ashamed of.

I’ve learned that as long as I have myself, I will always be okay but fortunately, it’ll never just be me.

I’ve learned that coming up with 28 life lessons is quite menial in comparison to exploring the lessons you love the most.

So, here’s a happy birthday to myself. I hope at 28, I continue to thrive and be so unashamedly myself. It’s been a unique journey so far and I’m so excited for the years to come, pain and all.

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  • Your Secret Santa

    Happy birthday, beautiful.

    I’m glad you love the woman you’ve become. She’s smart, sensitive, funny and so incredibly kind-hearted. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

    x

  • Happy birthday, beautiful.

    I’m glad you love the woman you’ve become. She’s smart, sensitive, funny and so incredibly kind-hearted. I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.

    x

    • Sarah-Louise Kelly

      This comment made me cry, twice. I came back just to cry at it again. So lovely, thank you. xxx