At the end of this year (27th December to be exact), I’m turning 30.
When I tell people this they often want to relay their deepest sympathies, or feign shock; “but you don’t look older than 26!” etc. (By the way, I enjoy this – keep it coming, people.)
Oddly, it’s not the birthday I’m fearing, it’s simply “the end”. My OCD likes to latch onto the smallest seed of dread and replay it in my brain until the echo becomes too much to ignore. Late into the night, my mind calculates my life expectancy and the eventual absence of everything once it’s all over. And it simply started because I one day realised I had reached a level of happiness I hadn’t experienced in years.
I’ve been trying to be better recently at taking in my surroundings, enjoying seeing the world as part of my job, and – perhaps my age is a factor in this – I’ve become far more aware of my environment. Instead of inwards thinking, I’ve moved towards the opposite, and the idea of losing it is terrifying.
It turns out that the hardest part of being a freelance host is the downtime – I love working, I love being busy. Suddenly at home in an empty house, while friends work towards the weekend, I find myself thinking too much.
But I was always a self-starter – and so now I need to kick myself into touch and make something of my time off; be it heading into the outside world, streaming, podcasting and writing.
So let’s reflect on the good stuff; here are some of the life lessons – frivolous or otherwise – that I’ve learned so far.
Girls are natural born leaders, but we’re told to be quiet and commonly called “bossy” as a negative trait as soon as we start speaking. This often follows us through our teenage years and even into the workplace. After being bullied for years at my primary school, I took the 11 Plus exam and ended up going to a totally different school from everyone else bar one girl, and found my voice. I’ve lost it again in previous workplaces, but I’ve found it again in the past year or so and it’s incredibly freeing.
Losing a job doesn’t mean losing everything. Admittedly the biggest heartbreaks I’ve experienced have been from work rather than relationships. I’m absolutely someone who throws themselves into work – especially given that it takes up so many hours of the day. However, just because you didn’t “fit” somewhere, or there wasn’t a perceived need for your area of expertise, there’s a place for you and people who will love you and your work.
I’m 21 in this photo. It would be another five years before my fringe made its debut.
If you want to do something, do it. So, if you want to be a writer, write a blog – practice and publish. In this day and age, there’s no reason why not. If you want to be an esports caster, cast your friends playing a competitive match or watch out for events that allow you to “co-stream” tournaments with your own commentary. Although my break into hosting was through standing in for people onstage when I was a producer, I also made my own video content for years and got practice through interviewing people, so when I did stand in, it wasn’t obvious I was new to being onstage in that kind of environment.
Endings can make the best starting points. Work hard, and be good to those you work with and it’ll pay off when you really need it to.
That said… If someone isn’t nice to you, you don’t have to be nice back. It’s not unprofessional to not pander to someone who is making your life and your job difficult. Be firm, and stay focused on your own lane. And make sure you share your experience of this behaviour with someone you trust, so you know someone has your back when the going gets tough.
Focus on your strengths. Don’t worry so much about “weaknesses” – collaborate with others and delegate according to each others’ strengths. Team work makes the dream work, after all.
When I was younger, all I wanted was a place of my own. I managed it – buying a shared ownership place in Bow when I was 23, with savings and by selling some shares my late granddad had left to me and my sister.
However, in the process I sacrificed freedom to move; I could not leave my place for long periods of time or take risks in work. But the same time, I loved living by myself – with subsidised rent I wasn’t paying any more than any of my other friends in London; I could play guitar, bake without feeling guilty about taking up space and exercise freely.
The results of baking in my first proper home
Being a single woman in a city like has its disadvantages. Pre-Uber I’d want to get the night bus home but I’d also be terrified of walking late at night on my own. I armed myself with door keys and occasionally ran part of the way on the nights I did “risk it”. One time, I even went into the MacDonalds at Bow Roundabout and stuffed my valuables in my bra before I took the 4am trek.
I look back now on my fervent savings and my fear of the dark and wonder how much I missed on my “responsibility-free 20s”. (It’s probably why I rarely miss an after party these days.)
Exercise is a tough habit to form, but feels awful to break. Although I did some ballroom dancing classes at uni, I didn’t really have a routine as such. Several years ago I discovered Davina McCall DVDs and got hooked. I do associate my thinnest periods with my saddest – nightly solo DVD workouts followed by a lonely microwaved fish fillet in Willesden Green is apparently an incredibly fast way to lose weight (do NOT see this as a recommendation) – but I’m bereft without my near-daily sessions of Fitness Blender or Yoga with Adriene videos on YouTube. Exercise puts me in control of my body, and gives me energy; dumbbells have made me feel powerful, and public classes have pushed me to give it my all.
When you lose a friend, they’re never truly “gone”. My friend Ben passed away just over a year ago. I’d never experienced the death of someone so young before, or so unexpectedly. Without him, life continues, but when those milestones – weddings, christenings and the like – arrive, we raise a glass to our absent friend, and in the day-to-day we see him in the most ridiculous of observations.
My older sister recently gave birth to her first child. My impatient niece arrived a month too early while I was in the middle of a production meeting about the Overwatch World Cup. I finally got to meet her a couple of weeks later and, while it was lovely to finally see the new arrival, I was also very much overcome with just how incredible my sister is – I’ve never been prouder of anyone my entire life.
It appears to be a horribly unfair reality that a lone woman in a workgroup of men will represent “all women”. Whereas if there is more than one woman, then they will be pitched against one another. When I appear onstage or play games online I always have that lurking within my subconscious. However, I also use it to drive me forward; if you want to place me on that “all women” pedestal, I’m going to show that women can absolutely knock this out of the park.
Women are also pitched against each other in contemporary updates of the “whore/madonna” parallel. I can hardly see my friends’ posts on Twitter for a sea of dirge – boys (and sometimes grown men) projecting their fears via critiques of how women present themselves. Notice that they don’t critique how other men are appearing on stream.
It’s very easy to give up part of your life to accommodate your partner’s. It’s not even always your partner’s fault – women in particular will make the effort on entering their other half’s life and feel guilty about asking their partner to reciprocate the effort. Don’t lay your identity down for anyone. After years of automatically doing this, I had the most “selfish” year of my life, spending long weeks (often consecutively) away from home – and it turned out my boyfriend just wanted what would make me happy. And when he was offered a three-month theatre tour, I supported him back.
If you start to feel like a shadow of your former self, leave. Even if you’ve got a mini break to Venice booked and you know for a fact he’s already bought you a Christmas present.
Just cos your mate fancies him, doesn’t mean you have to fancy someone else.
Jealousy is natural. Making someone change the way they behave because you don’t trust them isn’t. If you can’t get past that sinking feeling, maybe they’re not “the one”.
Nan knows best. Or at least she does in my case – she decided my boyfriend was a catch when they first met six weeks into what became a long-term relationship. Although explaining you met on Tinder to someone close to 90 is quite the challenge.
Dating apps aren’t bad, but they get repetitive. Although I’ve not used Tinder for close to four years now, I lost count of the number of profiles that featured men skiing, surfing or in groups where you couldn’t determine who the eligible bloke was. Sometimes profiles were solely comprised of the latter. I have only met one man who I couldn’t impose my Tinder profile feedback on (I’ll admit, I’m terribly nosy on this front).
Arguing doesn’t mean you’re going to break up – just don’t be stubborn and talk it through. If both sides aren’t out there, it’s going to be hard to move forward.
If someone doesn’t like you, that says more about them than it does you. That goes for all aspects of life.
I realised recently that my boyfriend is my best friend. It’s quite helpful as we share many things (including moisturiser, inventing our own catchphrases and doing impressions of Tom Hardy in the vastly overrated BBC drama Taboo), but if anyone wants to know our “secret”, I think our relationship works because we’re privileged enough to be able to afford a cleaner.
Finally, if you want a damn fringe but your hairdresser won’t give you one, find a stylist who will. Bloomin’ gamechanger. (Although, don’t do DIY highlights on your own… trust me on this one.)