I turned 27 a couple of weeks ago. It’s a weird age, 27. Slap bang in the middle between 25 (oh, I’m a sassy mid-twenties chick, cool) and 30 (oh, I’m an actual FULLY GROWN ADULT NOW, fuck). All of a sudden, I feel all grown up, even though most of the time I still think (and probably act) like a teenager.
I considered doing a 30 before 30 list, since I see so many of them on blogs and on YouTube. But with only 3 years left before that milestone, I felt like starting a list now would be too much pressure. So, in the interest of jumping on another trend that I’ve seen floating around for years, I’ll give the “27 things I learned by age 27” thing a go. I have much wisdom to share, obviously.
1. You can’t call yourself a writer unless you write.
Okay, this might seem self-explanatory, but for years I dreamed of being a writer and thought of myself as a “writer type” but I barely ever wrote a damn thing. Why? I don’t know. Laziness? Scared of writing bad stuff? Fear of crippling self-doubt knocking me into a pit of depression? Yeah, all of the above. But I write almost every day now and I love it too much to let the scary stuff get in the way.
2. Dogs are the best
This needs no explanation. They are always just so happy to have you around.
3. Cats aren’t as evil as I once thought, but they’re still pretty evil
After being bitten by a neighbour’s (seemingly super friendly) cat when I was a kid, I become scared of these unpredictable, fuzzy little weirdos. However, my fiancé came with a cat (like a package deal – seduce one human and a get a feline companion free) and I was forced to face my mild fear. Now, I love the stupid cat. I realised that even the sweetest of kitties just get so happy sometimes that they want to bite you when you pet them. There is no explanation for this; it is just one of life’s laws that you have to put up with. But ultimately, cats are not quite as evil as I once thought. I mean, they’re still a bit evil – I swear my cat does everything in her power to make my life pure misery – but their heartwarming purrs, freakishly tiny alien faces, and adorable pink paws make them totally loveable.
4. Antidepressants and therapy aren’t lame
I was so resistant to both when I was first diagnosed with depression when I was 21. But they’re great things and they have, quite honestly, kept me alive.
5. Not everyone has their shit together
I think I’m going to write an entire blog post on this sometime soon (I did! You can read it here), but basically, I always assumed that all my wonderful friends had their careers and lives totally in order and knew who they were and where they wanted to be in life. I recently discovered that they don’t, and a lot of the time we’re all too proud to admit when things aren’t as hunky dory as we’d. The truth is that very few people have their shit together; most are just floating by, figuring life and career out one day at a time. And that’s cool.
6. You will never be totally satisfied with your lot – and that’s okay
This ties in with the previous point, I suppose. No matter what you achieve in life – whether it’s career aspirations, financial stability, or relationship goals – you’ll never feel totally satisfied. You’ll always wish things were different, or that you had more of this or less of that. I think this is both good and bad, because on the one hand it’s important to take note of the good things in your life and feel thankful for them, but on the other its always beneficial strive for more because it keeps you motivated to reach goals and chase after those dreams.
7. Cutting your own hair isn’t that bad
I haven’t been to a hairdresser for almost four years. And you know what? IT’S FINE. I never, ever came out of a hair salon feeling really happy with my new hair; it was always a little too short or a little too choppy or a little the wrong colour. And for that pleasure I had to pay a bunch of cash and stare at myself in a mirror for hours wondering how in the damn world my face got so ugly. Now? I cut and dye my own hair and, yes, it’s still often a little too short or a little to choppy or a little the wrong colour, but at least I can do it on the cheap and in the comfort of my own bathroom wearing nothing but knickers and an old Muse t-shirt. People (read: my mum) are so offended by the idea that I cut my own hair, but so far, I’ve had no major mishaps and if I do… well I’ll just go to a hairdresser to get it fixed. No biggie. If you’ve thought about becoming your own hairdresser and you’re pretty free and easy about your hair (‘cos it always grows back, right?) then just go ahead and do it. It’s not a big deal.
8. Life is too short to waste time on people who don’t value you
This sounds like one of those passive-aggressive memes that are always shared on Facebook and make me roll my eyes whenever I see them, so I apologise. But it’s true! For a couple of years, I wasted a tonne of time and emotional energy on a guy who didn’t even really like me that much. In one of my old jobs I regularly worked unpaid overtime and wasn’t even paid for my once-in-a-blue-moon sick days. I once spent months working at insanely low rates for a copywriting client who couldn’t even be arsed to pay me on time. I’m too old to tolerate that shit now.
9. No matter how much money you earn, you’ll always think you’re skint
I mean, unless you’re earning a six-figure salary or something, because surely then there’ll always be enough money to go around, right? I’m a freelancer, so my monthly earnings can fluctuate quite a lot. Oh, how I miss those regular monthly payslips from when I was a full-time employee, but back then I always thought I was skint as hell. I wasn’t. I was comfortable. I was secure. Now? I’m all over the place, and when I’m really skint, I know about it.
10. DIY will test a relationship like nothing else
Be warned. Try laying a laminate floor early on in your relationship to see if you’re compatible.
11. Sometimes it’s okay to not tick off every to-do on your list
I like writing daily to-do lists because I’m pretty scatter-brained and it helps keep me focused and (reasonably) motivated when my mental health isn’t good. But sometimes not all of the to-dos can be to-done. And that’s fine. The brain needs a rest sometimes. It’s taken me a little while to come to terms with this and not feel like a total failure when I haven’t completed everything on my list. There’s always tomorrow to do the thing you missed.
12. But ticking off to-dos, no matter how little, can really help on bad days
Like I said, to-do lists help to keep me motivated during depressed phases. Sometimes even just ticking off “shower”, “brush teeth”, “walk dog”, or “cook dinner” can make you feel like a slightly less useless sack of meat when your brain is telling you that you’re a useless sack of meat. Depression is so often a vicious cycle of “I have no energy to do this, oh look, I’ve achieved nothing so I’m useless, now I feel worse about myself so I have even less energy to do this…” Breaking the cycle is hard, but it really does help if you can manage it.
13. Writing an entire novel is unbelievably satisfying and emotional
I spent 15 months of my life writing a novel. 15 MONTHS. And it’s not even over. Now I’m querying, and if I’m successful in the traditional publishing route I’m sure there’ll be a tonne more editing. And if I’m not successful in the traditional route and I choose to self-publish, there’ll probably still be a tonne more editing. The whole thing is just constant peaks and troughs of “THIS IS FUN I LOVE IT” and “OH GOD MY WRITING IS AWFUL WHAT AM I DOING?” with just a lot of crying in between. It’s great, though. 10/10, want to do it again and again and again until I die.
14. Quality of friends matters, not quantity
I deleted hundreds of people from Facebook a couple of years ago because I felt like I was basically stalking people from school or university who I hadn’t actually spoken to for ages. Social media is nice because it connects us, but when you’re only connected to nosey into the lives of people who are practically strangers, it feels kinda weird, y’know?
15. Weddings are fucking expensive and it’s okay if you’re not down with that
I’m not going to ramble on about my wedding plans too much, but long story short, my fiancé and I booked a “big” wedding because we briefly thought it’s what we “should” do. Then we lost a bunch of deposits months later when we figured out that it wasn’t right for us. If you want a huge wedding, go for it. If you want to say your vows and then get pissed in your back garden with your nearest and dearest, that’s fine too. The day will always be memorable to you, and that’s all that matters.
16. It’s not possible to just “quit smoking whenever I want”
Yeah, past Ellie. IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. Now I’m one of those losers that vapes because I need my nicotine fix and am struggling to quit completely. (God, I miss cigarettes).
17. Losing a parent is hard
You know it has to happen at some point, as is the natural order of things, but nothing prepares you for the hole a parent leaves behind. I lost my dad in 2012 and I’m genuinely banking on my mum living forever so that I don’t have to go through that kind of grief again.
18. When you think your nail polish is dry, you should always wait an extra 15 minutes
Even with that bullshit “quick dry” stuff. It always lies.
19. Music can totally change your mood
It took me a while to realise this, because when I’m in a low mood I often just want to feel sorry for myself in silence. Now I put on something sad and wallow for a little bit, and then put on something upbeat and wait for my mood to lift. Usually its Smooth Sailing by Queens of the Stone Age because that’s my jam.
20. Expiry dates are open to interpretation
The sniff and poke test is much more effective, and it is yet to make me sick. Down with food waste!
21. Learning a new language isn’t as daunting as you think
I’m using Duolingo to learn Portuguese right now in readiness for my honeymoon in Madeira later this year. Now, I don’t expect Duolingo to make me fluent, but I’m surprised at how much I’ve picked up from just doing 10 minutes or so each day. I might never be able to speak fluently, but I think if I keep it up I might be able to read it reasonably well. You can teach a 27-year-old dog new tricks.
22. I am my own worst critic in all aspects of my life
It affects my writing, my work, my self-confidence, my relationships, my ability to socialise… the list goes on. When you hate everything about yourself it’s hard to not let it take over your life. I’m working on it though, and writing stories and blogs here is really helpful. I’m learning to listen to my inner critic enough to always improve, but not too much that I let it stop me from writing stories, which is something I love.
23. Having fresh flowers around the house is lovely
It’s just one of those little luxuries that brightens my day.
24. I was way too young to commit myself to tens of thousands of pounds of student debt when I was 18
I don’t regret my degree per se, but sometimes I wish I’d waited a few years to do it. I was too busy worrying about fitting in and making friends when I was 18 when I should have been focused on learning. If I went back to university now, I know for a fact I’d get far more value and pleasure from studying than I did back then. There was a lot of pressure to go to university when I was in sixth form; I always did well academically so I was prime material for higher education, and the “gap year” concept was kind of frowned upon. I think I could have done with a few years to figure out my passions and priorities in life before I committed to a repulsive amount of student debt. But what’s done is done, and my degree definitely helped me to secure my first full-time job and start my career in copywriting, so I can’t complain too much.
25. Romance is not like in the movies
Romance is not sweeping someone off their feet and wining and dining them at fancy restaurants. It’s not passionate kisses in the rain, or hours of wild, steamy sex in the shower. Romance is picking up your bae’s favourite bacon joint from the hot meat counter in Tesco even though you’re a vegetarian. It’s listening to your partner whinge about their existential career crisis over and over again and telling them it’ll all be okay. It’s binge-watching Rick and Morty together on a Friday night with a cat, a dog, and a packet of Cripsy M&Ms tucked between you on the sofa. AND IT’S BLOODY WONDERFUL.
26. Breathing is better than Spanx, every single time
It took me a long time to learn this one, but I got there in the end. Fat rolls be damned, breathing is important.
27. The older you get, the less you worry about the little things in life
Oh, how I’d panic if I woke up late and didn’t have time to straighten my hair to within an inch of its life before school. These days I regularly leave the house with a bird’s nest on my head. I think I care a bit less about what others think of me; as long as I’m polite and kind to others, nothing else matters. I’m still a raging ball of anxiety a lot of the time, but my anxieties are about bigger things, like paying the mortgage or fixing that weird leak in the ceiling. But I’m far more chilled out. Maybe by the time I’m 47 I’ll be totally zen.