At 16 I spent most of my time revising in my room, rather than attending camp-outs. At 18 I spent my summer reading, rather than jetting off for girls' holidays. At 20, I valued "an early night", would rather spend my student loan in coffee shops than on club vodka, and spent my Saturdays eagerly awaiting Casualty, rather than engaging in the kinds of reckless behavior that, knowing my luck, would buy me a trip to A&E. I have never been "cool". Perhaps I'm overly anxious, a tad too cautious, a "goodie two shoes", "old before my time"...call it what you will; maybe it's all that people watching, or reading one too many classics, and maybe it becomes a bit of a vicious circle. Either way, I've lived 21 years inside Yasmin's head, and so am going to sum up 21 things that 21 years have taught me..
1. Education is key and really does open doors. Your teachers are not lying. Education is the most powerful tool you can have. It provides hope and aspiration and it teaches that you CAN be, do and have opinions. This isn't just about maths and science, this is about LIFE. Nothing is a greater gift than having options. There is a world beyond the confines of those school gates and hometown perimeters. You are not destined to spend your entire life with the same postcode - fly the nest.
2. With regards to academia: there's more to life than school-work and exams. Know when to stop; know when enough is enough. Know that getting up at 5am to do revision before school is not only counterproductive, but verging on insane (been there, done that..deemed myself insane). Know that studying on Christmas Day is not necessary..nor on your birthday (yep, I'm definitely insane). Know the value of a BREAK and know that taking a break is okay. Know that you could have all the grades, awards and commendations in the world, but there's more to life than a certificate on the fridge.
3. You are enough. Ultimately, you are all you have. You have to learn to be enough for yourself. It's work in progress, and I don't know whether we ever truly accept it (I hope so), but it's something to bear in mind when your family argue, your boyfriend/girlfriend/best friend screws up (or gets screwed up)/leaves or doesn't agree with your choices and decisions. It's something to bear in mind when you're convincing yourself that you're unworthy, deserve the lies and are destined to be unhappy. You are not and you do not. Be kind to yourself - save yourself, you're the only one who can.
4. Perfection. Is. A. Lie. The sooner you realise and accept this, the happier you will be and the less time you will waste chasing a belief with absent foundations: an aspiration that is little more than an illusion..of which, the failure to obtain will be all consuming. Life isn't perfect. Instagram is filtered. Twitter is a safe hiding place. Facebook is a snapshot. Magazines are photoshopped. Snapchat is under time-constraints. Don't live your life for the sake of a photo. Don't let it suck you in. You're perfectly imperfect and no one would have it any other way. You're you, and only you can be you.
5. Leaving home to go to university/travelling/move out may well be the toughest thing you've ever done, but nothing compares to the friendships you'll make, the life experiences you'll encounter, and the memories you'll treasure. Admittedly, I can only really speak with regards to uni, but even so, I remember the terror of those first few months and the overpowering desire to turn and run back home all too well! The unknown is always scary to begin with. Two things: 1. Don't forget to make your bed - mum was, of course, right: a made-bed works wonders. 2. Buy some Colour Catchers - I am the most "organised"/safe/weary person ever; my approach to washing is the complete opposite: light and dark. There's no faffing with black, colours and whites..it's a level of decisiveness I'm yet to obtain in other areas of life!! Remember that, whilst uni may be about academia, the life lessons you learn along the way cannot be contained within a degree classification; university is about so much more than a degree and realising that saved my life.
6. When sober, no one "really" likes clubs as much as they make out they do when they're drunk. There's a reason everyone has to get "Lemmy-drunk" before gracing the Lemmy dance floor (University of Exeter reference, but works for most clubs!). And with that, you do not have to be on Tinder. And you do not have to get with the guy who has been groping you for the past half an hour. There is no rulebook to being young - whatever people may try to tell you.
7. Being a lightweight is perfect for your bank account, but it also makes you vulnerable: know your limits and stick to them. Have a good time, dance, but don't always be the friend who's a liability, needs escorting home in the taxi before 12am, rarely manages to put herself to bed, and spends more of her night with a bucket/on the floor of a club toilet. We've all been there, but we don't always have to be there. Oh, and if given the choice: champagne over vodka. And learn to pop the cork - celebrating requires bubbles.
8. Friendship comes on different levels. And that is okay. You don't have to be best friends with everyone - you'll find friends you know are for life, keep them close. But know that laughter does not necessarily need a back story - you can laugh with anyone. Do it. And smile at strangers.
9. You are never too old to be a child. Laugh with reckless abandon, release your inhibitions; they're only inhibitions because you've made them so. Get excited about ice cream, have pic 'n mix at the cinema, jump on trampolines, wear dungarees, hang bunting round your room and realise fairy lights are not just for Christmas. Always make a wish. Do not be ashamed of what you love: be that Disney, trashy novels, or milk before bed. Don't let the world of mortgages and Real Life Jobs consume you, and don't let the fear of that world scare you off.
10. Leading on from that fear: people asking "what next?" can, and probably should, be ignored. And that is okay. They probably only have your best interests at heart, but it is okay to take time. Time is a good healer. It's your life. You do not owe anyone an explanation. You owe yourself time to figure out what you want from life. Do not let people make you any more fearful than you already are.
11. "An apple a day" is not enough to keep the doctor away. A gym membership is not the be all and end all. Watch out for what may well be a blessing in disguise.
12. You are entitled to your own voice. You do not have to be the silent, shy, frightened child you always were. You are allowed opinions as much as the next person. Have an opinion on politics, but don't feel the need to preach it. Speak up for what you believe in - we are the future.
13. People care. And more often than not, it's the people you least expect. Let people in, even if it terrifies you, even if it risks abandonment. Let people help you - the ones who truly matter will not watch you sink without trying to grab the wheel.
14. Answer the goddamn phone.
15. Printers are not and never will be friends. That's okay - don't let technology turn you into a frustrated, tetchy monster! Learn to ask for human help; sometimes even Google doesn't know.
16. Every girl should own: a trusty waterproof coat that doesn't look like a sack, a rucksack that doesn't look like you're back in Year 7, a suitcase that doesn't risk your life every time you cart it on and off of the train, a go-to nail varnish, something to take stress/anxiety/... out on, other than oneself (colouring book, stress ball...) and for god's sake, find a pair of heels you can walk in. And if you have curly hair, buy a Tangle Teezer - at 18, it was the best purchase I ever made.
17. Post will never grow old (unless it's bank statements - but that's all good and avoidable: cue online banking!). Don't forget to send it.
18. If you are pale skinned, chances are, you may never quite manage that Grecian glow. This is not the end of the world. If it really bothers you, learn to fake it - and fake it well! Invest in sun-cream - you aren't too cool and you know it's for the best. Sometimes, you have to be the one to work that sunhat - don't spend your much loved holidays nursing sunstroke indoors.
19. Travel...even if it's just to the nearest town. Don't spend your life stuck in one place. Life really is too short and there really is a big wide world out there. Don't just be the one looking through other people's Facebook photos - let yourself live. Learn to surf...or at least try it once. Get really really lost in a new place (yep, Venice for my 21st, I'm talking about you..and, in hind sight, despite walking around for 2hrs, with suitcases, in the rain with a very dodgy map, I wouldn't have it any other way). Make memories that will make you smile when you're 96, and know you lived well.
20. Home is home. Let home be people, rather than a place. Don't forget your roots. Be proud of where you've come from, and be proud of where you're heading.
21. Nothing is more important than happiness and health - the rest can, and WILL, wait. Learn to believe it before time runs out. And let yourself believe it. You are not immortal, but you do deserve to truly live.
I know these to be true of my life - you may disagree, and that's okay. Some of them are, indeed, work in progress...I'm really trying to believe them. Others, I'm pretty certain on: education will take you places, a Tangle Teezer really is a must have, and nothing beats a hand-written letter.
Remember everything that little you believed in - little you wasn't burdened with a paralysing fear of the future.