So today is the day I turn 25! Woo hoo!

If all has gone well, I will be at home in Margate, having spent at least 9 hours on a coach (seriously..) from Exeter yesterday. And I'll be doing the same again tomorrow - hooray for written-off cars and living miles and miles away from your family! I'm going to load myself up with books and magazines so it flies by (hopefully!)

I've always wanted to do one of those "things all girls should know" list - I really enjoy reading them but there's always an item or two on there that makes me a little uncomfortable because it's just on the wrong side of benevolent sexism. Something along the lines of "it's ok if you push doors that say pull and count on your fingers in maths and burst into tears for no reason, you're a woman and that's what being a woman is all about!" I wasn't aware that these were the requirements for entry into the club but there you go.

I guess my main problem is with the idea of telling a huge group of people what they should "all" know or think. We're a pretty diverse bunch and whilst knowing where to get the best foundation might be relevant for some, it's not a priority for others. (I'm aware I'm getting pedantic with semantics here). So instead of telling people what they "should" know, I thought I'd tell you what I've learnt and have found useful these past 25 years (and could have done with knowing a little earlier perhaps...)

1. Take a tupperware everywhere. This is number 1 because it is probably the most important habit I've ever gotten into. You never know when you might come across free food that needs a home. More specifically, so much free food that you can't eat it all at once, on the spot. Dinner parties, cake Fridays at the office, conference lunches... tupperwares are golden.

2. It's not your fault. When I was younger, I really believed that other people's actions towards me were a direct reflection on my worth as a person. Years of counselling taught me that actually, other people are responsible for their actions and it has nothing to do with you.

3. Your parents probably know best. Ugh, I'm sure you all know this one too. When has there ever been a time when my mother and I disagreed and I turned out to be right?!

4. If it's not making you happy, it's not worth it. Sometimes we push on with things because we think we should or because other people are doing it. But why waste time going clubbing when you could be eating pizza in the bath with a film on your laptop?

5. Say no sometimes. Ok, I've learnt this one in theory - still waiting to put it into practice. But it's very important. Being overloaded sucks.

6. Put yourself first - you can't pour from an empty cup. Some people never think about themselves (and others do just a little bit too much but that's beside the point). If you're always thinking about other people and trying to help them with their lives and sort their problems, you might not be taking care of yourself enough. Especially if the people you're trying to help don't realise how much effort you're putting in and don't think to return any of the care and thoughtfulness. If you give everything away, there's nothing left to give anyone.

7. Always have a wee after sex. Wise words from my Ma. I'm pleased to announce that I have only had cystitis once in my life (touch wood touch wood touch wood) and I'm pretty sure it's due to this handy routine.

8. Ask questions. About everything. About life. About concepts and theories and opinions and ideas. About stupid things. About other people. I always used to respond to other people's questions and forget to ask them any back about them and their lives. Happy to say that I'm now often the asker!

9. If you judge somebody's behaviour, imagine why you would behave like that. I'm a mental stresspot, tense and loud 🎵  (to the tune of little teapot, ofc.) I always get pissed off by other people's behaviour, far too easily. People who don't let you cross when it's raining, people who walk in front of you and then stop on the pavement etc., (I basically just have really bad pedestrian rage). Whenever someone else's behaviour elicits a negative reaction in me, I imagine why I might have done what they did. Instead of seeing everyone as selfish and uncaring and ignorant, I've started seeing them as simply human and prone to making errors. (Well, duh.)

10. Back everything up. My entire portfolio of GCSE English coursework was wiped from our computer once. Before the deadlines. I had to redo it ALL. I didn't learn. I no longer possess any of my work from the entirety of my undergraduate degree. Back it up.

11. Accept you're not always in control of everything. My area of Psychology focuses on how our behaviour is prompted by controlled decisions but also automatic reactions to our environments that we are not necessarily aware of (e.g., if we glance at an advert for a chocolate cake without consciously attending to it, we're more likely to buy a cake later without realising what prompted the cravings in the first place). Lots of people are resistant to the idea that some of our behaviour and thoughts are beyond our control but I find it incredibly comforting - reduced responsibility, yippeee!

12. Let yourself cry. I wrote a whole post on this. Enough said 😊

13. You don't have to wear make up. Another obvious one for the list. But perhaps it isn't always so obvious. I used to have a real make up habit. And whilst sometimes I took joy in it, sometimes it was such a chore. Then I read The Equality Illusion by Kat Banyard and just the introduction was enough to make me realise - holy shit, men don't feel like they have to cover their faces in slap every day so why they hell should I? It was a real lightning bolt moment that made me truly appreciate this for the first time. Now I wear make up sometimes... and sometimes I don't! Simple! I know for some people it can be a real confidence crux and I don't mean to overlook that. I just wish we didn't feel obliged to do something that half the population don't.

14. Friendships end too. We often say that boys/girls come and go but friends are forever - but they're not always. And I think that can stop us from walking away from destructive friendships when we should.  See number 4 in the list.

15. Try something new every now and then. I'm all for comfort zones - until I break them. Travelling to a new place, trying something scary, mixing up your recipe repertoire - it just makes life so much more fun! Annoyingly I am a creature of habit and have to think hard about doing this.

16. Write to-do lists at the end of the day. I've gotten into the habit of writing my to-do lists just before I head home from the office and it's so much better than writing them in the morning. I know exactly what needs doing (because I've just been in the middle of it all day!) and it means that I can get cracking as soon as I get in in the morning.

17. Your body is a vehicle for your life, not an object to be stared at. We're constantly being conditioned into believing our bodies are only worth their appearance. I used to hate my legs but after forcing myself to focus on the facts that a) I'm actually just really lucky to have legs that work and b) my legs give me an awesome kick strength in the swimming pool, I've completely changed the way I feel about them.

18. Live by your principles. Sometimes we realise our way of living clashes with our morals. This creates cognitive dissonance, that uncomfortable, awkward feeling in your brain when you detect this kind of conflict. Instead of compromising on your morals so you can lead an easy, habitual life, do something and make a change.

19. Take care of your things. Don't dip your new camera in a pocketful of sand and then drop it on almost every use. It will break.

20. It's ok if it doesn't go to plan. Having a plan is good but it might not always work out. And that's ok. It might take you down roads you'd never dreamed of. I didn't get into uni the first time around but met Michele on my gap year and now have the best fiancé I could have asked for and get to go to Italy all the time - yay!

21. It's never the end of the world. No matter how shitty it gets, it's never the actual end of the actual world.

22. Unplug. It's so easy to get into a tech habit and spend all your free time in front of a screen. But I don't know about you but I'm pretty damn happy in the bath with a book or at the table with a notepad or on the sofa with a friend.

23. People can be selfish. Some people will stun you with their selfishness. Don't worry about them. They're not worrying about you.

24. But others can be the best. I'm pretty sure you can fall in love with friends in a completely platonic way. There are some people I just feel connected to and who make me so happy just for being in my life.

25. "Fuck it" is the most therapeutic thing to say. And now for the final thing I'm trying to teach myself this year. It's the adult's version of "Let It Go" - same message, just a little more succinct 😉