What I Learnt From Chapter 23 (Before I Turn 24)

The past year of being 23 has been an interesting one. I look back at what I’ve learned and how I’ve been affected by my experiences.

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Taking some photos in Thailand (photo credit: my friend, Liz)

Last year, I wrote a blog post on my very inconsistent blog (Stars, Strings and Seas) called, ‘Turning 23 in Vietnam’. I remember exactly where I was when I wrote it.

It was Sunday 18th November and I was on Phu Quoc Island. I found a café across the road from where I was staying. I ordered a Vietnamese Iced Coffee, pulled out my laptop and I started typing.

Writing is a very cathartic experience for me, especially as I am someone who usually thinks a little slower. I feel I can be witty but only if you give me some time…

So here I am now, almost a year later (it’s the 15th November). I am sat on a beanbag, that my parents bought me for my birthday, and I am overlooking our slightly waterlogged garden, with a hot coffee by my side.

I believe the kids say nowadays, ‘same, same but different’.

It surprises me to say this but I am happy right now, at home.

For sure it is the right place for me to be right now (although I have got two crazy weeks coming up where I am going to catch up with as many friends as possible!). The stability is comforting, whilst I am going all out and pushing the borders of my creativity.

In the space of a year my life plan has quite literally turned upside down. That evolution and change is partly why I’m resistant to make a concrete plan beyond a month at the moment, because I just don’t know what will come up. Or where I’ll end up…

I figured now that I am blogging more consistently (and thoroughly enjoying it too), I would write a little piece about what I have learnt in this (slightly crazy) year (or chapter) of being 23.

“now this is a story all about how, my life got flipped turned upside down” ~ Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Home is not a bad place to be

This time last year I was secretly looking forward to coming home. I had been feeling homesick for most of my time in Malaysia, so at the end of October I had booked a return flight home, without telling anyone. Arriving to Vietnam and hanging out with my friends, Nick and Vera (check them out at Hippie Go Lucky), did re-ignite my passion for travel but I was still content with my decision to be home for a couple months.

That didn’t last long and before I knew it I was booking trips left, right and centre (to Slovakia, Hungary, the Philippines and Thailand, with more plans, on the horizon to visit friends around the world).

It took me until October of this year, after a solid 3 months of being home and a month of being offline, for me to finally appreciate home.

I remember a Canadian dive buddy of mine saying that the more she travelled, the more she appreciated home when she returned. I kinda held onto the hope that it’d be similar for me. And in some ways it was, for the first week or two, until the novelty of being home would wear off and my feet would get itchy for some travelling times. But everyone is different.

In order to appreciate home, I personally needed to stop chasing those adventurous highs and I needed to see and feel the beauty of the simple things.

I love those out of body moments when you feel very present in a point of time and you think to yourself, “this is awesome, I am so glad I am here”. I remember drunken gatherings with friends used to yield that feeling but now a conversation with my mum, dad and brother, round a home-cooked meal, yields that same reaction. And it feels so damn good.

You don’t always need to stick to the plan

A year ago I had a plan; an outline for the next year or two. It involved doing a masters — a ‘realistic’ masters with the intention of aiming for a respectable job in the environmental sector. But that didn’t quite coincide with my dreams.

There’s nothing wrong with that life path or even with planning out your career and goals. I kinda did it more to appease those around me; to show some direction after my year or so of gallivanting around the world. However, now it has become back up plan C… or maybe even D.

This year I have met tons of people of all ages. I have met business owners, freelancers and backpackers. Through these interesting people and my own experiences I realized that a certain lifestyle was a more important thing for me to ascertain than any type of career in particular.

I like flexibility and I enjoy a good level of freedom. I also love to create stuff.

Although at the moment I’m not travelling (much), I am pretty flexible with my time (only at the weekends do I have strict work hours) and I am creating a LOT (3 blogs and 1 video each week).

I honestly was striving for the masters (and I put in a lot of work to kick off the application process) but at the end of the day I knew it wasn’t right for me. At least not right now… and that’s totally cool with me.

Stick to your own lane

This leads me on to an important thing that is hard to do when you’re young and trying to find your own way… sticking to your own lane.

I can’t remember where I came across this point but it is so true. And taking time off social media did really help me to stop second guessing what I was doing. I couldn’t see what others were up to and as a result I wasn’t constantly comparing what I was doing to what others were doing.

It’s hard thing to do because it is part of human nature to compare ourselves to others.

Looking back at the songs I’ve written, the blogs I’ve produced and the videos I’ve made, they’re not half as bad as I initially thought they were. But I compared my ability to create to others abilities to create, rather than feeling pride for what I had made.

Whenever I start to get crippling self-doubt I go offline and I do something fun, like going outside to kick a football around. I don’t want to let this kind of fear of not feeling good enough to stop me from doing what I wish to do.

Keeping up with friends is hard

I’ve let a lot of people down this year. And that doesn’t feel great.

I’ve said I’ll visit and then haven’t been able to. I’ve been shown limitless support by people and not always been able to reflect that for them.

I showed myself a lot of love and worked hard to get myself into a good place but in the process ended up being pretty distant at times, and for those who experienced this, I am sorry.

I remember when I left university I promised myself that I would never let a year pass without seeing friends. That’s a hard promise to keep with friends in the UK, let alone abroad. And I guess that’s a reality of life that I have had to realise; you don’t need to see people every year to uphold a friendship.

The greatest friendships last the test of time so well that when you next meet up — be it in 9 months, 18 months, or longer— the conversation will just flow like it used to.

Life is totally all about balance and one of my next major goals is to nourish friendships because I truly am in awe of the incredible people in my life. You guys inspire me with your ambition, your perspectives and your love. Thank you for being a friend and I promise I will do better at being your friend too.

Celebrate yourself

This year I’ve gotten better at loving myself and feeling pride for my successes.

This is something that I want to share. And I intend to bring it up as much as possible when hanging out with friends and family.

Many of us are harsh on ourselves for our failures but we don’t celebrate our successes.

This year I have been in a couple of situations where interesting questions have been posed by friends.

What are 3 things that you love? (and then ask them to name 3 things that they love about themselves, because I bet they didn’t mention anything about themselves)

What is one thing that you have done this week that we should celebrate? (even something small)

I remember both situations I was with 3 other friends and we had just met up for a drink. These questions stick out to me and were good ways to connect and celebrate ourselves and each other.

What better way to share the love?

My favourite times this year have been when I have throughly consumed myself in the company and love of those around me. The laughs, the unexpected situations, the random coincidences and even the good, old conversation about the weather. Nothing can beat time spent with others.

Thank you for reading

I always say this but it seriously means a lot that you’ve read this. I know I’m not the best writer and my thoughts often meander a lot but I enjoy getting things out of my system (and into this little space on the internet).

I wonder what I’ll be saying about Chapter 24?! It’s time to go live it and find out, I guess…

BUT before you go, why not check out the video I made, that tells the story of my year, called ‘Chapter 23'.

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Exploring Budapest (photo credit: my friend, Sophie)

I write about my curiosities and experiences. My background is in Biology (Oxford Uni) and scuba diving. Subscribe: creativelyadventurous.substack.com

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