It’s my birthday tomorrow. Every year in the week(s) running up to my birthday I get a little weird. A little… nostalgic and melancholic, I think the word is. Pre-birthday blues, I like to call it. I guess it’s kind of like how around new years people get super intense with writing down their resolutions, as if January 1st is going to give them the opportunity to change their lives in all the ways they hoped for year on year…
June 23rd, the day after my birthday, is sort of the equivalent for me. And while yes of course you can change your life, change your motives, change your priorities on any given day, any given week or month, there’s something about having a marker, like a birthday, or a new year, that makes it all the more powerful.
I’m turning 28 tomorrow. I know people usually get funny about getting older but I honestly feel so blessed. This time 10 years ago, 5 years ago, last year even, I was a completely different person. Fuck me did I work hard to become the person I am now and you know what? I fucking love her. I know we’re not really supposed to say that, not really supposed to love ourselves so openly and powerfully and without abandon but you know what? I don’t give a shit because once upon a time I didn’t like myself at all.
Growth is the most important thing in the world. If you’re not growing, you might as well be dead. And so I hope I will continue to grow and change and learn. And maybe one day some of these things I now think I “know for sure” will cease to be that. But for now, this is what I know for sure.
1. Everything Is Temporary
It hit me like the truck I wished would when I crossed the road on my way to University the morning I learned the lesson that would change my life. My teenage boyfriend and I had just broken up a few weeks prior and I thought the world would collapse on me. It’s crazy how when you’re younger everything feels like it’s going to be the end of the world. Everything feels like yup, this may well be my last breath. Until, “everything is temporary” said the lecturer standing at the front of the classroom, snapping me out of my daze and back into the lesson on Buddhist philosophies: the idea that everything is temporary, that it’s our attachment to things that cause us pain, not their presence or subsequent absence in our lives. I’ve got the word ‘Temporary’ tattooed on my foot lest I should forget. When I’m having good times in my life it reminds me to appreciate them, when I’m having bad times it reminds me that this too shall pass.
2. The longest relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself.
I guess this follows on well from first thing I know for sure: the longest relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself. Not to say you should be a dick and not give any fucks about those around you, but it does mean that you should look after yourself first and foremost; that you should never disrespect yourself in hopes of keeping another; that you should love yourself most. Samantha from Sex & The City said it well when she said: “I love you but I love myself more.” That’s never a bad thing.
3. It’s Never As Bad As You Think It Is
We’re a pretty impressive bunch, human beings. It never fails to amaze me how much we are able to overcome. It’s never as bad as you think it is, even when it’s really fucking bad. Charles Darwin is credited as saying: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Human beings are so infinitely, incredibly adaptable to change and that is beautiful.
4. The Only Thing You Can Control Is Your Own Reactions
Sometimes it would be nice to be able to have the world behave in exactly the way you want it to behave. If only, right? But perhaps what’s even more empowering is the notion that the only thing you can control is your own mind, your own reactions to things. It’s taken me 28 years to learn that my reaction to situations can make all the difference in the outcome.
5. Don’t Cut Off Your Nose To Spite Your Face
I was a pretty spiteful child. I was angry, at my parents for fighting all the time, at moving across the world every few years, at never feeling at ‘home’. It’s hard when you’re young, you don’t know what to do with these things and the anger just spazzes out of you at random intervals. I remember clearly one time my “aunt” Randa looking at me in the eyes and saying” “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” She essentially meant don’t do something that hinders or injures you, just so you can express your annoyance at the situation to the outer world. She was right and it’s something I still remind myself of when anger, hurt or upset threatens to lash out.
5. Good Friends Are A Major Key
After yourself, chances are the longest relationship you will have is with your girlfriends. Not that I’m not a romantic (although I guess I’m not, really), but a good foundation of a friendship group can make all the difference in life. I’ve seen it firsthand back home in Egypt when family friends have gotten divorced, I’ve seen it firsthand when my parents split up and my mum’s friends helped her crawl out of the gutter. Seek not every quality in one individual. The one you love romantically (should also go some way to), but shouldn’t have to be the only one to tick all those boxes of requirements we have to live a good, healthy life.
6. Don’t Lose Yourself To Love Someone Else
Follow your heart, sure, but take your head with you forgodssake. This used to be my biggest fear, and one of my biggest achievements is that I don’t fear this anymore. I know that a romantic partner should come in addition to all the incredible things you already have going for you, not in lieu or in spite of.
7. You Have To Love Yourself Before You Can Love Someone Else
You can’t do number 6 if you don’t do number 7. Life is a million times better when you love yourself because it affects all aspects of your life including how you interact with those around you. One of my favourite quotes is “Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely, that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” Exactly that.
8. The Sea Can Heal
Travel as much and as often as you can. The sea in particular is a mind cleanser for me. There’s nothing quite like hearing the crash of the waves and looking out at the vast expanse of world stretching all around you to reposition you on earth. “There is nothing that salt water can’t cure: sweat, tears and the sea.”
9. We All Are A Bit Fucked
Probably a bit of an understatement, right? It’s taken me 28 years to conclude that we are all intrinsically flawed and at least a little bit fucked. All anyone of us can do is try our absolute bests. Most of the time, that’s good enough.
10. Kindness Is Free
And can make all the difference to someone’s life. We’re all fighting hard battles people on the outside may know nothing about. So be a bit kinder, when you can.
11. Home Is Inside You
I spent the vast majority of my life crying out for home on planes crossing either side of the oceans and in beds staring up at all sorts of skies. Originally from Egypt, I was born there before moving to Switzerland, London, back to Cairo then back to London over the course of the first 14 years of my life. I know this is a first-world problem but it was a bit of a mindfuck. Till now, people ask me where I’m from whether I’m in London or Cairo, both of which are
supposed to be home. It took me 28 years to figure out that home is inside you.
12. You’re The Only One With Your Face
And it’s fucking beautiful because of, not in spite of that. Same goes for your mind.
13. You Only Fail By Not Trying
The worst thing that can happen is you feel like a flop for a few minutes / hours / days but actually…
14. There’s No Such Thing As A Mistake
Only growth and lessons learned. We are all works in progress.
15. Everyone’s Blagging It
Also, actually no one else knows what they’re doing either. There’s no rule book to life. We’re all faking it till we make it and that person who looks like they know what they’re doing is in exactly the same boat as you, and if they’re not, they were once. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
16. No One’s Definition Of ‘Right’ And ‘Wrong’ Matters Other Than Yours
(And the police’s, of course.) Despite coming from a super open-minded family, the expectations and stereotypes I guess I placed on myself and my own behaviour have weighed pretty heavily on me over the course of my life so far. It took me 28 years to realise that the only definition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that matters is mine. That the only behaviour and rulebook I have to conform to is the one that would help me sleep best at night.
17. Say What You Mean And Mean What You Say
Confrontation makes me feel sick. Like, actually sick; like I want to projectile vomit and run away and never come back. Like I might actually prefer to die than have the conversation I’m dreading. But over time I’m learning that actually the worst thing you can do is avoid the conversation, the person, the situation; that the tension and wondering is always, always worse than the fact. That if you always say what you mean, and mean what you say, you’ll probs be okay.
18. Sometimes It’s better To Just Shut Up
And sometimes, you just need to let the moment pass. Sometimes there’s nothing you can say to salvage a situation. And that’s okay too. Because everything is temporary, remember?
19. Goddess Time Is Super Important
I used to cry if I spent more than 5 minutes alone (rewind to that spiteful, sad, angry person I didn’t used to like.) My thoughts would scare me and the loneliness would pulsate in my bones. Now, OHMYGOD do I love the nights when I have no plans and I can have what I’ve come to call Goddess time. One of my best friends coined the term that’s come to signify the however many hours we can salvage to give back to ourselves. My favourite things to do during Goddess time is turn off my phone and fall into a good book or TV show.
20. Turn Off Your Phone Every Once In A While
Oh, technology, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with you. I’m super grateful to you for my job, my livelihood, for making the world feel a little smaller, for introducing me to some of the best friends and food and for all the opportunities you have afforded me. But I guess I wish I / we had a little more control over you, that it wasn’t so much the other way around. Life is better when I’m not glued to you all day, when I’m not FOMO-ing and distracted by your incessant buzzing and etc. I know this “for sure” but I haven’t quite figured out the best way to deal with you, yet. For now, I turn off my notifications and I try my best.
21. You Are A Sum Of The People You Spend Most Time With
It’s taken me 28 years to figure out that the people you allow into your life should be carefully vetted. I had a lot of dickhead friends when I was younger. It was definitely a case of quantity over quality. I was friends with girls who literally bullied me, girls who would “steal” my boyfriends. I dated guys who treated me like shit, who allowed themselves to be “stolen”. Sometimes, it’s not even that deep, sometimes it’s just a case of understanding that someone else’s energy is not compatible with yours. Either way, your energy should be protected against all odds. The people you spend most time with will influence you in ways beyond what you would even imagine. The amount of times I’ve *finally* walked away from a situation only to feel the crushing weight of what had been weighing me down without me even having realised. It took me 28 years to figure out it’s never really that worth it.
22. When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them
One of my favourite quotes by Maya Angelou, it took me 28 years to learn that giving people the benefit of the doubt is only useful for as long as you’re not lying to yourself. We often fall in love with the idea of people, and subsequently allow that idea to cloud our views of their behaviour, and our judgement of it. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, as they say. J. Cole’s “fool me three times, fuck the peace sign, call the chopper let it rain on you,”continuation of the saying is perhaps taking it a step further than I’d be lawfully willing to, but the notion remains.
23. You Already Know The Answer
It took me 28 years to realise that a lot of the time when you ask a question, you already know the answer. Your gut is fuuucking accurate. It took me 28 years to realise that when I go against my gut, the outcome is never positive.
24. Be Grateful
They say if you’re grateful for what you have, more will come. It took me 28 years to realise that not only is that the case, but being grateful for what you have will make what you have all the more enjoyable, too. I recently started writing in a ‘5 Minute Journal’, first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Upon each entry the journal asks me what 3 things I’m grateful for, and what 3 amazing things have happened that day. It took me 28 years to realise that by taking the time to feel and express gratitude, as well as focusing on the positives, starts and ends each day on a beautiful note, and encourages even more positivity.
25. Going To The Gym Will Make You Feel Great
Go to the gym. Not because you hate your body, but because you love it. So says an ad campaign that went viral in London a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t agree more. It took me 28 years to realise (and I still, like currently, flop on this) that going to the gym regularly positively affects my mind (and my body, of course.) The effects it has on my mind and my mood are priceless. And my toned body after months of squats is a pretty good bonus, too.
26. Be Yourself
The right people will love you for being yourself, and the ones who don’t can fuck right off, tbh. You’re better off being yourself than having people love you for being a fake version. Not to mention the fact that you attract the right things when you have a sense of who you are.
27. Hard Work Pays Off
Sometimes I kinda feel like we’re so used to getting things instantly these days that we forget that it takes time to get to where we want to be. They say “it takes years to become an overnight success,” and it does. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory is one I return to time and again. It took me 28 years to realise that the journey is awesome, that that’s the whole point of this, that the destination means nothing without it.
28. Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
You’re doing great, dude! You learn as you go, that’s the whole point!
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below xxx