What. A. Year.
Throughout the past few months, despite seeing our lives drastically changing, I’ve cultivated an increased space of motivation, drive and hope that I was always on the perimeter of entering. The news has been tragic, scary and, at times, borderline unbelievable. It’s been exhausting, mentally draining and sad. But, if I had to pick one facet of life that I’ve learnt which overrides them all, it is the necessity to be grateful for the position we are in, and not to waste our opportunities – whether that comes from the fear of failure, self-doubt, or a presumed (or very real) sense of judgement from others. Even though I had realised the importance of mental liberation, gratitude and having the confidence to-do-your-own-thing before 2020, I have to say this year has seen those notions be catapulted to an incredible level: It is as though this knowledge fully settled as active thoughts within my psyche and turned into unstoppable action.
As I approach my 22nd birthday this Monday, I’ve been pondering over the idea of making a tradition of writing a “What I’ve Learnt This Year”, “What I Wish I’d Known Sooner”, or similar posts, almost like a yearly roundup: A time where I can sit back, self-reflect, and take a moment to acknowledge the start of the next chapter of my life, while recognising the one that is about to close. The death of Naya Rivera last week was the final push I needed to let any inhibitions or worries of judgement fade into the background completely: Life is short and I should be living it to my fullest, while hopefully helping others to feel comfort, inspired and supported.
So, with all that said, I decided to write this article in a different way. I’m going to make my points by including quotes which embody knowledge of life that I wish I’d known sooner, but I’m so glad I know now, and that I think are especially important for girls! These words of wisdom come from two women who inspire me – Michelle Obama and Elaine Welteroth, who is the second youngest, and second ever black editor-in-chief in Conde Nast history. Conde Nast is the magazine giant that houses Vogue, Glamour and Teen Vogue, the latter two of which Elaine worked for.
Without further ado, let’s start my ‘Turning 22’ roundup with some quotes I think all us girls need a little reminder of every now and then…
“If you have people… around you that are bringing you down and not lifting you up… you have to learn how to push these people to the side.”– Michelle Obama
I used to battle with trying to understand why I struggled to find consistently supportive and kind friends. However, now I know the importance of pushing people who drag you down to the side, and not taking on the emotional load of believing there is a problem with you. It only hinders your ability, drive, motivation and ambitions, and those are elements of life that you should never allow to be overpowered by the behaviour of others. Those ‘friends’ may not be around forever – don’t sacrifice your goals because others put their feelings (normally of insecurity) ahead of being a true friend and supporter.
“When women affirm women, it unlocks our power. It gives us permission to shine brighter.”– Elaine Welteroth
The worst form of stagnation, neglect and hurt I’ve experienced has come from other women. And yet, the best support and acts of kindness have, too, come from women. As each of us are one of ‘our kind’, we understand each others psychology: We have the power to inflict the most damage, yet help build the most hope. I wish I had recognised the effect of women supporting one another sooner; I now realise the necessity to call out women who do the opposite.
I’ve been lucky to have met a few incredibly supportive women, one being my psychology teacher at college, Tracy, who was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best teacher I have ever had. Not only was she a fantastic teacher, she was a true friend, too – someone who unequivocally showed faith in my ability, a cheerleader and carer both academically and personally, and who cracked me up continuously with her Scouse humour and sayings, reminding me of my family. She was like a home away from home: A source of comfort, fierce protection, and unwavering support.
“Women aren’t taught to get comfortable with making people uncomfortable.”– Elaine Welteroth
Gender inequality wasn’t something I experienced until recently. I’m a big believer in standing up for justice and against acts of unkindness and discrimination. It is rare for young people, never mind young women, to know their minds and use them with intelligence and power: It makes people feel a sense of unfamiliarity, almost vulnerability. It seems that young women eloquently questioning the status quo make people uncomfortable. I think this is a huge reason why Greta Thunburg is lambasted by the public: She speaks sense, her words are backed up by evidence supported by 97% of scientists, yet her credibility is questioned, her personality and presentation ridiculed. I’m proud of Greta, and I can’t wait to see her continue to push any adversity to the side.
“You do not have to say anything to the haters, you don’t have to acknowledge them at all. You just wake up every morning and be the best you can be and that tends to shut them up.”– Michelle Obama
I used to think that it was essential to pull people up every time they were rude, offensive, hurtful, thoughtless, dismissive, disloyal, untrustworthy – now I know that sometimes silence can be the best, and most effective, option. It’s self-preservation at it’s finest.
“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”– Michelle Obama
The ability to empathise and understand others is invaluable. Facing adversity, healing from hardships, and rising from the ashes of pain, gives you emotional knowledge and incredible strength. The power you hold comes through as an extraordinary capability to support people in a way in that would be impossible had you not faced your toughest moments. Being able to relate to others feelings, understanding the necessity to listen, and having the knowledge of how to comfort without the presence of judgement, are all vital to embody what humanity should be about.
Let me know what life lessons you wish you had known sooner. I’d love to know any that I may not have thought about yet! x