As I’ve gotten older, I’ve thought more and more about the choices I made in past years and how they have affected my life up to now. This is not necessarily in a regretful or woeful ‘boo look at what I missed out on!’ – but I do think about how different my late teens and earlier twenties might have been had I made the opposite decisions to the ones I made. The following are the most important for me:
1. Started serious dating much later
What I thought then: We all know what it is like to be young and want to experience a relationship and that kind of connection with someone for the first time. When I was young, it was all we thought about between my friends and we had countless crushes on guys from the age of around 13. I was always quite wary and afraid of even the basic stuff such as flirting and kissing but I took it at my pace and didn’t rush anything. My first serious relationship started the day before my 16th birthday – and lasted for almost six years. It got intense pretty much straight away – and we saw each other every single night. At the time, we thought we were ‘love’s young dream’ and when our parents were telling us ‘it’s too much, you need to have more time apart, it’s far too intense to be like this at 16’, we thought we knew best. We assumed they were jealous and bitter and were trying to keep us apart (modern day Romeo and Juliet, huh?) We were unhealthily obsessed with each other, and constantly argued about little and big things. I gave up on huge opportunities for him and sacrificed friends because they challenged us. He would do things that hurt me, and I would run after him each time – didn’t matter if he was in the wrong or I was. After 5 and a half years of mind games, and more crying done than laughing in all that time, I became exhausted with it and decided it was time to end this toxic relationship that had plagued my life since being a young teen.
What I think now: Looking back, I wish I had at least waited a couple more years before considering getting into a relationship. I probably wouldn’t have ended up with him, and I would have saved myself all that grief and trauma that I still kick myself about today. I’m not saying it was always bad – there were obviously good times. But now that I think about it, I was afraid of losing what I was comfortable with – not what was good for me. Every time we had a fight and were on the brink of breaking up, I would think about not having the relationship that had consumed my life anymore and the thought scared me. Even when better people came into my life, or he did something that I could have easily ended it over, I couldn’t. I should never have given up on my dreams on his say so because it turned out that he was intimidated by my potential and worried I would realise there was more to life than his sorry-ass.
I gave up on scholarships for him, friendships, valuable nights and trips out with friends and family, so much stuff it’s unreal. I wish I could go back and sit down with myself at that age and tell myself that I was worth so much more. I didn’t deserve the way I was treated over and over and that life would actually be better without the relationship. It wasn’t healthy, and when I hear of people in similar relationships now, it makes me so sad to think that they can’t see what I saw. But – you have to learn the lesson for yourself. My mum always told me that it would never last and I would never marry him, and to just let it go – “PFFFTTT!” I’d say. But she was right because she had been there before like most of us have. You have to learn for yourself that it isn’t and won’t work out – because that is how you get to the end of your tether with it and move on. If I’d have ended it when people told me to, I’d probably still be wondering now ‘what if?’ – but because I saw it to the very bitter end, I never will go back there or be in that situation again.
2. Don’t stay in a job that makes you unhappy
What I thought then: My jobs as a young adult were usually in waitressing/hotels – and guess what, they were crappy! Easy jobs to get, regular shifts and money was all I wanted between being at school or college and that is what that type of work offered. I was usually on zero-hours contracts, and worked evenings and weekends. I had been bullied throughout school and had never learned to defend myself or stand up for myself, so it comes as no surprise that when that started happening at work, I did nothing about it. I took it. I thought this was what work was about and what being a ‘grown up’ entailed. I would be spoken to and treated like crap, told lies about and brought into meetings based on the say-so of the manager’s favourite who had taken a dislike to me for whatever reason. And I was never a bad employee or disrespectful. I’ve always been happy and chirpy and you would usually find me singing to myself as I cleaned or getting to know customers.
What I think now: DON’T EVER TAKE SH*T AT WORK! There are so many ambitious and driven people who will stand on you to make themselves feel better and to get to the top. Don’t let anybody treat you like that because no job is worth sacrificing your self-confidence. If I could go back now, I would tell myself to read my rights as an employee and stand up for myself through the right channels. I was so afraid of management and them ‘knowing more than me’ in terms of what they could and couldn’t do, I never challenged it. If you know that what someone is doing doesn’t feel right in your gut, and is making you unhappy and miserable at work, either quit and find something better or take it to the top. People like that don’t deserve to be rewarded – they need to learn that bullying is not acceptable in any job. Believe in yourself! Whether it’s as a waitress, a cleaner or in an office or whatever. It is NOT ACCEPTABLE ANYWHERE.
3. Don’t be worried that you haven’t picked your career before you hit your twenties
What I thought then: I have wanted to be so many things since being a kid, I couldn’t even tell you. When I was at school, GSCEs were EVERYTHING. We had so much pressure put on us to pass, my friends got private tutors, cried when they got B’s instead of A’s and really put their all into studying for them. I was the opposite – I knew I wasn’t 100% clever but I wasn’t stupid either – I was smart. I put in minimal study, and got pretty much C’s across the board. I knew I only needed C’s to get into college so I was pleased with that. I changed my mind so much over the years that followed, and it was only when I was about 21 that I decided my passion was people and supporting those who needed help. I did my degree in counselling and psychology and gained a 2:1 after 3 long hard years. I was so proud! But to my dismay, my course wasn’t fully-approved for chartership as a counsellor and so I couldn’t get stuck in to what I wanted to do. I had a tough time following university finding work and dealing with mental health due to factors beyond my control, and ended up in a random job that eventually excelled my career in an area I had no idea about – let alone intention of working in – and that’s where I’m at now.
What I think now: In short, we put so much pressure on kids to be the best at every single level from a young age when we shouldn’t. Nobody knows for certain what they will end up doing 10 years after finishing school or college. My best friend got a degree in law based on what her parents wanted for her, and nearly 10 years later, she’s doing nothing to do with law. She’s been in a job that pays the bills and she’s managed to save enough for a mortgage and start her next step in life. We can’t control what path our life decides to divert us on. Sure, we have an idea as to what we might like to do but seriously, it’s ok to change your mind! I must have driven my mum insane with the amount of swaps and changes I did, but I did them because at the time, they felt right for me. Just like what I’m doing now feels right for me. Maybe in a couple of years, it won’t feel right anymore and I’ll look for something else. Life is far too short to be in a job you hate, or a career you don’t enjoy, or on a college course that you realise 2 or 3 months in is absolutely crap and dis-interesting to you. Think about what feels right for you and go for it. Do what is best and right for you – now. Not for in ten years time.
4. Mortgages, renting, saving and… general adulting
What I thought then: “I am far too young to be thinking about a mortgage or savings”. Sound familiar? Yep, me too. I thought like this until I was around 24. When I finished university, I moved in with my long-term partner and I realised how little I knew! I had no idea about bills, renting – let alone even considering a mortgage – “mortgage huh? How does one buy one of them?” – to be honest, my life went so fast, I woke up one morning and I was suddenly what people would assume at first glance is ‘an adult’ and I just had to go with it…
What I think now: I really can’t emphasise enough how much I wish I knew more about how to adult before I… adulted. It wasn’t so much the cost of things – I knew life was expensive, meh – but preparing myself for the other things was not on my agenda. I didn’t have much whilst growing up and my mum would just get on with things. We never struggled but we weren’t given things like pocket money, chores money etc. – I never had money to save so I didn’t know how to save! What I will say is – it is so much harder to buy a house nowadays than when your parents did. *sounds obvious but a lot of people don’t realise it before they decide they want to buy!* I would advise you to start saving money, as little and as often as possible as you can if you know that in your twenties, you would like to buy a house. Currently, you will need at least a 10% deposit before you are even considered for a mortgage – which ranges from £8000+ depending on the value of the house you decide to go for. As it stands, I have no savings but I have realised the importance of savings in the past year or two. I have been working full time on a good wage so I can now afford to start putting money away. So if I could go back now, I would tell younger me to “not fritter every last penny away of your wage!!!” – who knows what could happen in your job. You could be jobless tomorrow and have nothing to support yourself on so just bear that in mind.
5. Take borrowing/credit seriously. Seriously.
What I thought then: “My phone bill is due out today.. but that’s gonna leave me with nothin’ for shopping and going out for the rest of the month so, I’ll just cancel that payment and pay it when I get paid”…
Except next time, I would be due to pay double the amount and I would be in the same predicament. I didn’t take credit seriously when I was in my late teens. I had just got my first proper job, was earning a regular salary and wanted to be more grown up with a contract phone. Thing is, I didn’t take it seriously, it eventually mounted up, I owed a chunk of money and it ruined my credit score. Although I was never one for credit cards, I worked in debt counselling for a couple of years and it put me off them for life. I saw what damage lack of control did and never want to put myself in that situation.
What I think now: I was so stupid. Now – you may probably be reading the words ‘credit score’ and thinking just like I did – “hey I’m only 18, credit scores are for mortgages and stuff, and I ain’t gonna be able to afford one of them so whatever”. Wrong. Your credit file is where all your applications for and credit history is stored for all financial lenders to see. If you screw up on that, then when it comes to you actually needing credit later on – maybe when you rent your own place and need some furniture, or want to get a new laptop or a washing machine on credit – you will be refused and have to go without. I have learned that the hard way – and as it stands, I’m ineligible for credit from major lenders. As much as it does also affect my chances of getting a mortgage any time soon, I have been unable – as an adult – to get things I need without having to borrow the money from a family member, which sucks. So I would advise that you take your credit seriously. Taking out a phone contract is credit – so if you start missing your payments and fobbing them off, you will affect your chances for supporting yourself later in life which is a pain in the ass. If you are going to apply for a credit card, make sure you educate yourself on how they work and how to manage one. It is not free money. A credit card is a loan – you have to pay it back and on time. Please do not take using one lightheartedly.
6. Make the most of being young and carefree – and get rid of negative ‘friends’ and people who bring you down
What I thought then: I started university much later than my peers – and I enrolled onto a degree that was popular with mature students. Whilst that was great – I learned a lot from the majority of my peers – I didn’t get involved in student life, and I never, EVER went on a night out during those 3 years. Similarly, whilst being bogged down in my toxic relationship, I never went on nights out or to events either. In school, I had a huge group of friends that I naively assumed would be my friends forever. How wrong could I have been? I finished school 11 years ago this year, and I am friends with – two or three out of what, 15? A lot of people outgrew each other, or simply drifted apart. Others changed and became negative to be around.
What I think now: Whilst going out and getting coma-style drunk has never been my style, I do wish I had gone on more nights out, trips out, holidays, days with friends and family… I really did miss out on making amazing memories and my late teens and early twenties are filled with memories of a crap relationship, spending weekends in on the couch eating takeaways and watching TV. I have lost a lot of friends over the years – not particularly because we fell out, but as time goes on, we change and we become different in certain aspects. And sometimes, that doesn’t fit with how someone else has changed and grown and that’s ok. I had some great times with people in school but that doesn’t mean I should stay friends with them because of that. If you feel that you don’t get on anymore, or there’s something about them that doesn’t sit right with you anymore, don’t allow yourself to be bogged down with that crap. Some of my friends have been crap over the years – didn’t deserve the title of friend and so they are no longer in my life. And I have no problem with it – I feel much better for it. I wasted precious time when I was younger, and it really is precious, because I’m at a stage in my life now that I want to be doing those things but my close friends have outgrown that phase from doing too much of it (lol, oh the irony). So for those of you that spend your days, evenings and weekends doing the exact same thing all the time, shake it up a bit and do more with people that make you happy. The times I did go out with friends on the rare occasion, I loved it and I cherish those times dearly. We don’t know when our time is up and I want to be able to look back and think, wow I really made the most of it when I had the chance. So that’s what I’m trying to do now. I’ve visited cities and countries, been to gigs and shows I always wanted to go to, I’ve made great and meaningful friendships, ticked things off that I wanted to do and made plans to do more.
All in all, I’ve learned to do what makes me happy now. I spent years trying to please everybody and not to upset anyone else – but ultimately, it was always me that got hurt or got upset and life is too short and precious to spend it unhappy. Do more of what makes YOU happy; you know, go and watch that film you like the look of on your own because your friend ‘doesn’t fancy it’, study that course even though your parent/s think ‘it’s pointless and won’t get you anywhere’, end that relationship that makes you cry more times than it makes you laugh. We are only here for a while and after that, life goes on for everybody else. Life is a gift so take advantage whilst you can of what it has to offer.
If you enjoyed this content, please like and follow and let me know your thoughts! I love your responses and ideas.