I'm 26 and I live in a nice flat in a nice part of town and have a good job working for nice people. Yet like all young people, we feel old. And we feel that we're unaccomplished and that time is always running out too fast. You think you've probably left it too late to find the girl you're going to marry, or the one you'll end up having kids with, whilst at the same time, know you're far too young to settle down, or feel too immature to be given the responsibility of raising another human being. We see the likes of Harry Styles, Justin Bieber and Jayden Smith with millions in their bank accounts, and then on Monday morning check ours and groan. Yet, despite all this insecurity, here are fifteen things that if we've at least tried to achieve by the time we hit the end of our twenties, I'd say we're doing alright.
1. Make A Great Breakfast
This is something I'm so happy to announce I can do (although will let you be the judge of that once you've tried it). Breakfast is by far the best meal of the day, provided you have the time to do it right. I need forty-five minutes cooking time to produce mine. I'm vegetarian, so I'm afraid my 'great breakfast' doesn't include any meaty staples, but I make up for it with Linda McCartney sausages (18 minutes cooked from frozen), hash browns (cooked from frozen, cooking time 30 minutes - preheating the oven 15 minutes before), baked beans, portabello mushrooms (chopped up and fried in olive oil), cherry tomatoes (halved and fried) and a slice of toast on each side. I'm a terrible cook but I smash this one out of the park but it needs pre-planning. A trip to the supermarket on Friday night first, and a lack of hangover on Saturday alongside flatmates/friends to join you!
2. Argue Kindly
Even the calmest, nicest person will find themselves in argument once in their life. It's a fact of life - but the trick isn't to argue aggressively. It's defeatist. Especially if they're stubborn. Or you're stubborn. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, even if you know they're wrong. Patronising people or demeaning them isn't going to help matters, either. Instead, give your point of view in a spirited way that encourages others to challenge their own point of view. Play devil's advocate, not the role of Lucifer.
3. Hold A Conversation With Someone Of Any Age
We all grow up with people around of us all ages, but there's a real beauty in being able to speak passionately with somebody who is older or younger than you. London in particular I feel helps breaks down this barrier, but city life in general helps. When I first started coming to London, I'm sure my parents were alarmed to know some of my friends ranged from fifteen to fifty. Some of my closest friends are so much older than me, yet I also find exceptional intelligence in some much younger. Be inspired by everyone.
4. Learn To Drive
So here's something I can't do. I'm probably one of the few people who has never been in the driving seat of a car yet found himself banned from driving for a year. It was a medical reason rather than an botched army robbery, but still at the time when all my pals were getting provisional licences to mark their seventeeth birthdays, I was playing kiss chase in Trafalgar Square. It's one thing I wish I could just do, rather than have the patience to learn. And the theory test scares me: I took my last written exam in 2004. I don't ever want to take another one ever again.
5. Defend Your Tastes
I don't give a shit which bands you like. I don't care what clothes you wear. In fact, all the teenage bullshit of being scared to be seen as a 'sheep' doesn't interest you once you enter the real world. I remember there was a huge turning point in my life when I realised you didn't have to be cool just because you said you liked Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Regardless of your tastes, what's cool is your conviction. If you really do like Miley Cirus, then that's fine - but if you really hate her, articulate it. Learning to explain why you like the things you do should be just as important as the things you associate yourself with rather than how you feel they appear to define you. Don't be pretentious. Or a snob. Or a superfan. Just enrich the lives of your friends with your tastes. They'll value you for it.
6. Limit Your Online Life
Another one I'm guilty of failing to do, but something I'm making a huge effort on trying to change. I've lost many a day to social media. To reading random Wikipedia articles about serial killers whilst lying in bed, alone in my flat after a heavy weekend on a Sunday night and scaring myself that said serial killer is going to turn up at my front door and kill me in my sleep. Real life is there to be savioured. Want to take a picture of a moment? Not a problem. But just take one. Don't film an entire gig, or selfie your way through every moment of your night. It just shows that you're not fully immersed in your world - and if you find you can't stop yourself, delete the app that consumes you. I rarely use Facebook for that reason now. And if you sit down to dinner with me and your phone is on the table, you're paying the bill.
7. Approach A Stranger
A big part of my job is making sure strangers have a good time. It's something that doesn't come naturally, you have to work at it. From approaching a girl you fancy at the bar to somebody in the street who you want to offer a product to, it's nerve-wracking. It does get easier though, once you've done it a few times (more the product offering than the chat-up lines) and it's very rewarding when you break 'the ice' with them. I now love strangers, they are all potential exciting new friends who you can share your world with, and better too, they can introduce you to theirs. Which means new experiences, and the snowball effect of new strangers. I know a lot of people just because I don't ignore anybody. I spend most of my day trying to remember people's names and/or remembering how I met them, but I always make sure I pretend I do, just because I love meeting new people, and I think that's important for everybody to try to do.
8. Stand Up For Yourself
I've been bullied throughout various times in my life. In relationships, friendships, work, even online. It's not easy to be slagged off, it's hard to hear somebody say something nasty to you, and worse when you don't feel it is justified and you're being victimised. Don't let them get away with it. Hold your head high and show them you don't stand for their crap. If someone has a problem with you, confront them. Give them back as good as you can. But also remember, there's also an art in biting your tongue. Be smart. But don't ever be a wallflower.
9. Say "I Was Wrong"
I do this on a daily basis. Sadly. Yet not so sadly that I'm proud I can admit when I've screwed up. I'm very spontaneous, so I don't always think things through. Or I do stupid things and they come back to haunt me. That's life. Don't beat yourself up over it because it happens to everyone. I'm not a walking disaster, but I also know that if I've done something wrong, I can be man enough to admit it. I also know that people respect you for admitting your faults, and they respect you for not arguing out of stubborness, or lying. It's probably one of the hardest phrases to install in to your vocabulary, and shouldn't be over-used, but when it's neccessary, give everyone around you the respect they deserve in admiting you were wrong and you'll earn yourself back just that little bit of credit you needed to get out of whatever situation it is that you're trying to climb out of!
10. Brew A Great Cup Of Tea
Essential. Especially in Britain. Especially if you're looking for an extra holiday day at work. Or you've shown up late. Or you just want to make your pal feel at home after they've been dumped. There is a army regulation that says all tanks must contain a kettle and teabags. The bloody army think that's as important as artillery because tea has magical qualities. It's important to let the teabag brew. No dipping in and out - take your time with your teabag. Watch it infuse with the hot water. Add a dash of milk. Just enough to colour it. Then squeeze the tea bag against the mug and remove it then serve with a loving smile.
11. Tip Generously
The opening scene of Reservoir Dogs always sticks in my mind whenever it comes to the bill. Whilst I did recently kick off at a 'service charge' for an all-you-can-eat restaurant where everything was self-service, it's important to note that even in this country where the minimum wage applies, it's still not enough to live on. Make sure the restaurant isn't eating up these tips, empty your pocket of that loose change, and ask for a pen and write 'thank you' on the bill.
12. Stay Well Rested
"I'll sleep when I'm dead" applies only to those who hope to be dead faster than you. I've had my fair share of late nights - some of which I'm not so proud of - but there is nothing more relaxing and life-affirming than having a deserved night in. Even better, on 'schoolnights', push yourself to go to bed earlier. You'll find you wake up feeling much better - actually refreshed - and you'll also find yourself falling asleep easier the night following. That's called a sleep routine and something it took me over two decades to learn the importance of! Add to that productivity in the day (the best work always get done before lunch), and bam, life is good again.
13. Respond To Critisism
It might feel like when someone critises you that they are attacking you. It might also feel like you own the right to defend yourself. Yet sometimes there is nothing more gracious than accepting it and learning from it. Better still, you'll reduce the amount of criticism you receive if you learn to accept it in the spirit that it is offered and take note from what is being said.
14. Be Alone
There are times when being alone is the best feeling in the world. In all senses of the word. Don't ever be afraid of being alone. From Friday night to relationships, as human beings we need to be alone sometimes. We need time to reflect, to recharge, to think, to plot, to plan. I sometimes spend hours sitting in silence, gathering my thoughts. Loneliness is exercise for the heart and should be done regularly.
15. Hold On To A Good Friend
It's hard when you move away from wherever you grew up to keep in contact with your best mates from school just as it is as throughout your twenties you move around and meet friends who you become further away from, for whatever reason. You'll meet a lot of people in your life who you share amazing memories with - people of course move on, grow up, etc. They also sometimes forget that it's just as important to every now and again take yourself out of the madness and step back a bit and revisit them. Don't just send them a lazy text message, but instead decide you'll create another memory with them. Good friends are fucking hard to come by, don't ever take them for granted and more importantly, don't ever let them disappear.
And remember, Jesus was an unknown carpenter working in Nazareth until he was thirty. Heard of him?
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