twenty things i’ve learnt before turning twenty

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I turn twenty today. Mad. Actual mad. Two whole decades of me. RIP.

The end of a year is always a time for two things – reflecting on the past and looking to the future. We look back on the year we’ve just had, and we plan for the year ahead. We look at what we’ve achieved so far and what we want to achieve next year. For me, having a birthday on the 30th of December cements this even further. I turn a new age two days before the new year starts, so my age basically changes as the year does and it’s almost like I have a double clean slate.

Looking back on 2018 isn’t just looking back on the year for me, it’s also looking back on what happened for me as a 19-year-old. I’ve been planning to do one of these posts for my 20th birthday anyway, but my god is it perfect timing. A lot of these life lessons I’ve learnt up until now have probably only come about in the last year and, more to the point, in the last five months. I’ve droned on for the last few months about how difficult it’s been – because it has been – but December has finally been the start of things looking up, so it’s the perfect time to reflect.

At the start of the month I had a sort of epiphany. I knew my birthday was approaching, and December is also the time I finally let Christmas into my life. The festive cheer was a positive push alone but realising that I was turning twenty at the end of the month was a bit of a wake-up call. After everything that’s gone on in recent months, there were two things on my mind. I wanted to enjoy my last month as a teenager, and I didn’t want to enter my twenties feeling low and struggling too much with my mental health. So these things, coupled with the help of Christmas cheer, helped me finally start to pick things back up over the course of the month, and now I can’t think of a better time to share my fave ~life lessons~ with you all.

So think of this as a combination of the things I’ve learnt in 2018 and the things I’ve learnt in two whole bloody decades of being on this planet. Two decades. Wtf.

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top: topshop // jeans: topshop // shoes: topshop


Everything in life happens for a reason. My fave. My life motto. I live my life by this, and I’ve written a whole bloody blog post on this before because it’s my number one life lesson to repeat to everyone. But I will always make a point to say that it shouldn’t be used as your excuse to not work for something you want. It’s not your excuse to sit back and see what will happen with your life, it’s the thing to tell yourself after you’ve tried your hardest and are yet to see the results you want.


Ask for help – it’s not a weakness. And the sooner you do it, the better. I think I have a bit of pride that I don’t always like to swallow but, more to the point, I just don’t ever see it worth asking for help because I know that my problems will never be as bad as someone else’s in the world. But does that matter? Of course not. I don’t like making a fuss or looking like I can’t handle things myself but sometimes you need to ask for help and I’ve always found it worth it when I do eventually give in, swallow my pride and reach out to whoever is appropriate to ask for that help. It shouldn’t be seen as something to give in and do though, it should be seen as something totally fine and ok to do, and should be done ASAP before things get worse or more difficult. Probably reiterating that more for myself than anyone else but still. Asking for help is half of the way there, the other half is realising that it doesn’t make you weak or dependant.


You can still have fears, but you need to be able to silence them and put them to one side. I think we hear that we need to have no fears and be scared of nothing but, in reality, it’s ok to be scared and to have fears. We just need to be able to act against them and silence them sometimes, for the better. That said, I keep trying to tell myself that I’m not afraid of anything because, let’s be real, when you start struggling and/or lose a lot then you start feeling like you have nothing to lose and you can’t be scared of anything if you’re still going after everything that’s been thrown your way. So if you can fear nothing, good on you. But if you do have fears, don’t worry, don’t try to get rid of them, just find it in yourself to put those to one side every so often and do something outside of your comfort zone that’s worthwhile. My only big fears (apart from shit like natural disasters lol but we can’t control that, who isn’t scared of the thought of their house bursting into flames am I right x) are rejection and judgement, and even those I’m learning to get over or, at the very least, forget about for a few minutes so I can get shit done. Which leads me onto –


Your fear of rejection will hold you back and isn’t worth the hassle. Put it to one side, get rid of it, whatever. Rejection has got to be my biggest fear in so many different forms, whether it comes to opportunities, friendships, career stuff, boys. I will never ever tell anyone I fancy them even if it’s like a year deep (if you know, you know x) because the fear of rejection is way too strong but now I can see how many times it’s fucked me over in the past. And when I put it to one side recently to just go get something I wanted, it was v worth it. So it’s not worth wasting twenty years of your life too scared to put yourself out there for a job or opportunity or friend or boy, just get over it ASAP because that’s when the good stuff starts happening.


Stop worrying about things you can’t control. If you know me, you know I worry about everything and stress way too much. Let me tell you, it is not the way to live life. I think I’ll always be a bit of a worrier and always get stressed a bit more easily than other people but I’ve had to learn what’s worth that stress and what isn’t. And absolutely anything that you cannot control is not worth worrying about. They’re probably the things you worry about the most just because you have no control so they’re the most uncertain, unknown things in your life but if there’s nothing you can do about it then you just have to try and let it go. And, in those situations, the only thing you can control is the way you handle it, so focus on controlling that instead. If there’s ever anything you’re stressed about, either deal with it if you have any sort of control, or leave it be. See what happens. This is when the everything in life happens for a reason motto comes in.


Find your thing. Find what makes you happy and find your escape. Find whatever it is that’s going to keep your spirits up when you need it and find whatever it is that you can always use as a distraction when real life is getting a bit too much. For me? It’s tennis and the gym. Tennis is my thing, I can’t play to save my life but I can drop you facts and stats from recent years like that. Watching it just makes me happy, the saddest and wettest thing I have ever said but it just does. Wanting to know what’s going to happen in the next match or at the next tournament keeps me going. And I’m not gonna sit here and say I’m some gym lad or I know what I’m doing or that I have a good body but going to the gym is literally my escape. I do not think about anything else or worry about anything whilst I’m there, it’s just my place to get on with it and do my own thing. Finding somewhere I can go to do something by myself and not have anything else on my mind is actually a saviour and I could not recommend anything more to anyone. Find your version of that.


Work hard for everything you want. If there’s something in your life that you aren’t happy with (and you have control over it) then change it. If there’s a goal you want to achieve, work towards it. I think my new year’s resolution every year subconsciously ends up being to work harder. I am never satisfied with how hard I’m working and always think that I can work harder, and that push is the nicest lil driving force to have. It’s a good mentality to adopt. Not to sound drippy or like I rely on horoscopes but my god this is the one Capricorn thing about me. The ambition and drive and work ethic. But it shouldn’t be a Capricorn thing, it should be an everyone thing. Adopting this mindset, without going to extremes ofc, will get you through life and get you to where you want to be. This is basically the mentality behind my blog post on why I think destiny is bullshit – if you want something you need to work for it instead of sitting around and waiting for it to happen. What’s that Michael Moon from Eastenders meme? While you were sitting there doing nish I was out making moves or whatever. Go out and make moves x


Those who don’t matter, mind and those who matter, don’t mind. Is that how it goes? I’ve really learnt this. I’ve had to drill this into my head because of the whole fear of judgement thing. People who truly matter won’t judge you for whatever stupid thing it is you think you’ll be judged for (aka me trying to hiding my love for watching tennis because I know normal people find it weird af). And if someone who you think does matter to you starts acting like they do mind (any form of treating you like shit for no reason basically lol) then they don’t actually matter and you need to realise it ASAP.


Holding a grudge isn’t worth it. Forgive but don’t forget. Issa two in one for you all. Buy one get one free x. I’ve always found myself to be the type of person who forgives but doesn’t forget when someone does something actual bad to me. But I think we need to approach the don’t forget part in the right way. We shouldn’t constantly be thinking of that bad action when we think of said person who was behind it, we shouldn’t judge them for it and we shouldn’t constantly remind them of it. Holding grudges is draining and immature. It’s what I did when I was fourteen and still hated people for calling me a bitch in primary school (you might think that’s too young to call people bitches but oh no, a group of us girls got kept behind at break in year four once because teachers found out people calling each other bitches lol awful). It’s not what you do when you’re a grown adult. It’s totally find to forgive but not forget, gotta look out for yourself and all that, but make sure it doesn’t turn into you holding a grudge.


Try not to let anything ruin your happy moments. This Summer I went to New York for what was literally the dream trip. Everything I loved in one. My dream come true. I’ve already lived it and it still sounds too good to be true. I went for a week in Summer, spent four nights in the Palace and two in the Empire just because they’re both in Gossip Girl. Saw Drake in Madison Square Garden. Went to two night sessions on Arthur Ashe at the US Open, one night in which I saw Serena vs Venus. And did I mention that earlier that day, because half of the tennis players were staying at the Palace too, I was training in the hotel gym at the same time as Serena with her about two metres away from me and she looked me in the eye at one point? That trip alone is the thing where, afterwards, I can die happy with my life completed and fulfilled. Except, I cried every day. I had a panic attack almost every day. I had to leave Arthur Ashe stadium in the middle of Delpo and Verdasco’s match to go have a panic attack. I cried and cried every single day in New York over dumb shit because I was at a bit of a low point. And I regret nothing more. Not towards myself, I can’t be annoyed at myself for having anxiety, but it still hurts to think about how bad all of that affected my dream trip. I didn’t deserve it at all, and all I want is to be able to re-live it all without crying every single day. I don’t think it could be helped, but I definitely think it’s worth trying so hard not to let anyone or anything at all ruin your happy moments because you deserve to look back on them fondly rather than hurting about the fact that you didn’t deserve to feel so low during it all.

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Pls stop caring what other people think. I didn’t think I’d make this point because I thought touching on the fear of judgement thing was enough but actually this is worth covering. I used to be too scared to tell anyone about this blog up until like Spring this year, even a few weeks ago I found that I had people I knew from back home blocked on my blog Instagram back from when I wanted nobody to know about it. Everyone went through their high school phase of being scared to do something against the norms or whatever – think Stick to the Status Quo from High School Musical. It is not worth wasting your time doing all that. Do not stop yourself from doing things that make you happy because you’re worried about what someone thinks. Do not hold yourself back because you’re worried about what someone else thinks. You are literally doing yourself a disservice, you’re delaying whatever it is you’re meant to be doing. It will never be worth it, and the sooner you learn it, the better.


Give yourself a break. I wrote a blog post sort of on this, explaining why taking a break doesn’t make you any less hardworking. But in general, you have gotta give yourself a break. This is one of those pieces of advice I’ll always dish out but never actually take myself. You’ve got to be kind to yourself and you can’t be your own worst critic. I know that I’m like that as is, but when someone says or does something negative to me I will 100% believe it and use it to fuel the fire of self-criticism. It’s not worth it though, there will be enough people in your lifetime that will have some sort of issue with you or just not like you – you can’t please everyone, not everyone in life will like you, that’s find. But you don’t need to add yourself to the list of people and things that make your life difficult.


Focus on yourself and do your own thing. This is a bit of a combination of some of the other points but you should always concern yourself with yourself. Do your thing, do what you need to do, and don’t worry about anyone else other than yourself when you’re doing that. You’re at work to do a job, not to get involved in office politics and gossip, so if you ever found yourself caught up in those things then remember what you’re there to do and focus on yourself, even if that means getting lunch alone to avoid the workplace drama. You’re at the gym for yourself, so don’t worry about what hench boy in the weights area is doing and whether he’s judging you (he’s not but either way you shouldn’t care). You’re at school, college or uni for yourself so don’t give up and drop out or fall behind on your work just because of anything else that’s going on around the subjects themselves, do your work, get the best grade you can get and then get out of there having accomplished what you went there to accomplish in the first place.


Make good things a habit. I’m a bit iffy about this one because I don’t wanna be that person telling you that you need to get up early in the morning, become a morning person, go to the gym or eat healthy. If you don’t want to, you obviously don’t have to and those aren’t life rules to live by. But if there’s something you think would be good for you or beneficial to you and your life, make it a habit. If you want to become a morning person because you struggle with motivation during the first half of the day, always end up groggy or tired, feel as though you’re wasting half a day or whatever, then just make it a habit. If you want to take care of your body and be more healthy, then make things like walking to work or going to the gym on your lunch break a habit. Create good habits for yourself – whatever your perception of good in this sense may be, I just went for the cliche morning person and health goals – and they’ll become a part of your life.


In a similar vein, be kind to your future self. Making good things a habit is almost like being kind to your future self in the long term, setting yourself up with habits that will help you over the course of years to come. But do it in the short term too, with the little things. If you know you’re going on a night out and you’ve just done your makeup and tried on twenty outfit options before deciding on one, tidy it all up or at the very least make sure it’s not thrown all over your bed because you’re gonna hate that when you get home. If you’re doing a bit of work and breaking it down into smaller chunks so it’s easier to handle and you’ve set yourself a certain amount to do one day but, once you’ve done that day’s worth of work you still feel like you can do a bit more then do it even if it’s off-plan. Your future self will be v grateful when you come to do your next chunk and see that you’re already ahead which leaves you with less to do. Just do the little things to make your life easier in the future, whether that be in a few hours, a few weeks or a few years.


Be confident, even if you need to fake it til you make it. If you can’t be confident in yourself, how can you expect anyone else to have any confidence in you either? Even if you don’t feel confident, as long as you act it people will be none the wiser and every single day you spend pretending to be confident, you will actually become confident. Be confident in yourself and your abilities, and others will be too. If you want something, you need to back yourself before others can too and the second you show confidence in yourself, it will give someone else a reason to. If there’s a job you want, showing confidence makes them feel confident in you as a potential employee. If there’s a good grade you want to get, showing confidence makes them feel confident in your work and ability. You should be your biggest supporter.


But don’t cross the line of becoming cocky or egotistical. Having a big ego or, worse, wanting people around you to stroke that ego is one of the worst things you can do, so be careful that you don’t cross that line with your confidence. Being confident is about supporting yourself and backing yourself, it’s not about feeling superior to others, putting others down or trying to make them give you an ego boost.


Kill them with kindness. It’s a very good Selena Gomez song. And a very good piece of typical, cliche advice too. At the end of the day, do you want a guilty conscience? Do you want to stoop down to the low level of anyone who has wronged you? Or do you wanna be the bigger person? Keep your morals right and be a good person.


Your mental health is the most important thing ever. This is one of those things you already know but gets cemented in your mind if you ever start to struggle with it. I’ve known it since I was twelve, I was shocked into knowing it even more so this year. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you do start feeling low, just do everything you can to try and protect and improve your mental health. It should come first, above anything else. If you need to quit something, take a break from something, cancel a plan, cut out certain people from your life just to improve your mental health – do it, and don’t worry about who else it affects. There are times in life when you need to be selfish, and taking care of your mental health is the most important time to do it.


Surround yourself with the right people. There are people who will think you’re a lil bloody weirdo for watching tennis every day for 11 months of the year, and other people who will tell you that all they want is for you to get a job in tennis or marry a tennis player. I know which ones I keep in my life as my friends x. In all seriousness, this is one of the most important things. It can be very tricky to know which people are the right people but sooner or later, you’ll figure it out. You need people around you who will support you, lift you up and fight in your corner. You can have pals who are there just for a good time but you need to know the difference between those people and the people who won’t leave when the going gets tough and will continue to support you and be loyal to you in difficult times. And, as unfair or backwards as it may seem, you will be judged on the company you keep and people will see you as a reflection of the people you surround yourself with, so you need to have the right people around you. You need people who are a good influence, have similar morals to you and will always have your best interests at heart. And you need to be this person for others too.

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So potentially the wettest post I’ve ever written (I find anything the least bit deep / emotional / sensitive really cringe and wet lol can you tell x) but I think those are the most important things I’ve learnt in twenty years of being alive, and have been even more significant this year.

A lot of them focus around the one key topic of being kind to yourself because I think that’s just the most important thing. Anyone else in your life can come and go so you have got to learn to be your biggest supporter, you have got to treat yourself well and you have got to be strong for yourself.

Hope you enjoyed and can take something from this for yourself, even if it seems rly drippy and cliche.




  1. March 30, 2019 / 9:47 pm

    Happy belated birthday! I’m 26 and hear to tell you that no one has it figured it out, and that’s okay. It’s great that you already have self-awareness about things you can and can’t control in life. Great post!

    • Yasmin Stefanie
      April 12, 2019 / 10:42 am

      awh thankyou so much, that means a lot! X

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