I count myself as very fortunate. I’ve met lots of different and incredible people throughout the trajectory of my life so far, and they have imparted words that have resonated with me far longer than they may have realised would at the time. I’ve been reflecting on these lately; this year has thrown lots of curve balls at me and everyday I am trying to move forward and face those challenges. I’m a thinker, perhaps more aptly an overthinker, and my overthinking has led me to writing this blog post and sharing these nougats of wisdom with ye all.
1. On not being a lemon
Best friend growing up: “He ain’t thinking about you so why you thinking about him?!”
I remember being in Year 8 and getting my first mobile phone – it was a black Siemens with a glowing orange screen. God I used to love topping it up and texting Uzma. We’d giggle over the boys we’d fake car race to Secondary School every morning. I was in love with this dude from way back in Junior School – who attended the ‘sister’ all boys Secondary School of ours (I went to an all girls’ school and yes it was horrendous). I think I nicknamed him something like ‘Loverboy’ (LOOOL) – and it got to such a point of ridiculous fantasising about my future with him – the wedding, marriage, babies, white picket fence etc. – that my best friend, positive I’d lost the plot, snapped at me one day, sick of my constant whining and pining: HE AIN’T THINKIN ABOUT YA SO WHY YA THINKIN BOUT HIM. I was a bit like O__O for a few seconds and then the penny dropped. Yeh. Self-explanatory really. Kinda just clicked after that. I realised I was wasting mind space and capacity on someone who probably hadn’t thought about me twice since we sat awkwardly together in Year 6 staring at the word ‘breast’ (we were reading Macbeth and increasingly becoming traumatised by it); I could, and really should, be investing on expending such brain energies on more productive things. Mind these are the wise words of like a 12 year-old girl. I got over dat boy fast and stuck my head in books for 10++ years+
Footnote: Funny thing is that I was reunited with Loverboy at sixth-form/college, and we even work in the same organisation today!! Crazy how life works round in circles like that – and my feelings today? ZERO TO THE ZERO. But at one point in-between Junior School / Secondary School / College I did find out he had a thing for me – so maybe I wasn’t wasting time daydreaming after all haha! I also went through a similar thing at uni (probs why I didn’t get a first lool that’s what I tell myself!). Life lesson: don’t spend time on people who aren’t spending time on you. If you want em – make it clear and go get them. Wanting them inside your head isn’t going to bring them any closer. Don’t waste yo time pplz. Study hard. Cultivate those mental faculties of yours. You’ll be better off. Trust me.
2. On love
A guy I was seeing: “Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge.”
My response? I remember looking over at him in the car with big eyes and saying: “But the plunge has to be worth it, right?” God I regret saying this so much. I honestly don’t even know why I said this. I think I saw some random self-proclaimed ‘love-guru’ on YouTube once say this lame-ass line, and it just came out of my mouth like a caterpillar without me even thinking twice about it. I thought I sounded great saying it, like all high and mighty and shit. Playing hard to get or whatever. When it comes to love and falling for someone, THE PLUNGE IS ALWAYS WORTH IT. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS. JUMP INTO THAT GAPING WIDE HOLE WAITING TO SUCK YOU UP. No matter how scary, how daunting, how terrifying – the plunge is always, always, worth it. I cannot stress this enough. Otherwise you’re just putting up barriers. Those who wear their hearts on their sleeves get so much more from love, relationships and life. Easier said than done, but it’s worth looking at love and life this way. Go all in.
3. On making solid investments
Managing Director of the previous company I worked for: “In life, the two most important things to invest in are a good bed and a pair of shoes, because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other.”
Best piece of advice I’ve ever heard if there was one. She told me this over company drinks when I ended up hovering in front of her and was like ‘SHEEEET HAVE TO MAKE CONVO WITH THE MANAGING DIRECTOR’ (this was inside my head of course). She was tipsy and we got talking and when she came out with this line it was like the stars and rainbows and unicorns had all aligned inside my head and the galaxies of the universe. I was like HOLY MOLY ROLY POLY this is all I need to know to be happy and comfortable for the rest of my life! No more skimping on dem shoes!!
4. On smashing exams and tests
My favourite English teacher: “Go in there and enjoy it. Show those examiners what you are made of!”
I had one of the most inspirational English teachers in Secondary School: Mrs Cosford. I absolutely loved her – not only did she believe in me and my writing, but she had a way of galvanising all her pupils to become scrupulous students and ignite their passion in English Literature – even the chavs in our class. She gave me the best piece of advice when it came to accomplishing exams and all manner of tests: “Go in there and enjoy it. Show those examiners what you are made of!” No one had ever framed exams as something to be enjoyed. It was always foretold as something negative, as an opportunity to be tested, held up to scrutiny, to fail. By saying this to me, when I was a wee bairn getting ready to sit my GCSEs in Year 10, she completely turned the whole notion of sitting exams for me on its head. I took this piece of advice and attitude, and applied it across my whole academic life. And it has made a wonder of difference for me. It really made me enjoy what I was studying and look forward to the prospect of – as my friend would say –‘smashing it’ – in exams.
5. On pursuing whatever you want to pursue
Friend of a friend I met at a party: “You should do it. Go for it.”
I was at a friend’s annual Christmas party when I noticed a guy from uni that I had always seen and known of – you know when you have lots of friends in circles of friends but you’ve actually never spoken to each other – so since he was one of the few familiar faces in the room, I decided to make my way and say hello and see what he was up to. We got talking and I started to share my wistful writing dreams of becoming a published novelist one day. He simply just looked at me, directly in the eyes and said: “You should do it. Go for it.” The enthusiasm, poignancy and the belief with which he delivered this sentence to me, practically a stranger to him, really struck a cord. When he said those words, I could literally picture myself going from city to city on a book tour. It was so simple, but for a moment, it was as though I was taken out of that room with a renewed sense of confidence and self-belief. I was also speaking to him about going to New York and how I was in two minds, and he just simply looked at me and said the same thing. “You should do it. Go for it.”
In many ways, it’s exactly like Wayne Gretzky said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” After that party, I did start making written plans for my novel, and I did book my flights to New York with my friend. It was just a simple push, but it reminded me that there was no reason to doubt myself. Doubt kills a lot of dreams. Really, what have you got to lose by taking chances or pursuing what you really want to pursue? Apart from your pride, dignity and face? (LOL) At the end of the day, do those things really matter? Because let’s face it, the things we regret the most are the things we didn’t do or were afraid to do. Oh, and we all die so, it’s ok. Embarrass the crap out of yoself.
6. On trying your best everyday
University friend: “If and when you feel down, actively distract yourself with something. Make every effort not to wallow in your thoughts.”
Life is tough. We all encounter personal challenges daily, and I have been in the presence of those who have fought bravely in the face of some of the most difficult challenges that life can throw your way. A friend of mine who died from cancer last year, fell into depression when she first found out she was diagnosed with the disease. Yet, incredibly, she made every effort – and was determined – not to actively let herself get lost in her depression. I try and remember these words when I’m feeling down and fighting my own demons. My mental health is not as good as it used to be, and sometimes it’s just so much easier to give in and wallow in negative, self-sabotaging thoughts. It’s an ongoing battle, but you just have to get up everyday and fight it with your sword and armour. Knowing you’re striving towards your goals everyday helps I find. If you’re making every effort to actively distract yourself when you feel like you might let yourself be swallowed up by black thoughts – taking little steps everyday to avoid doing so will eventually make a change.