Now, in my mid 30’s, I look back on my 20’s with a slight tinge of regret. Although I spent the decade doing all the things I was supposed to do, building a career, buying a home (and populating it with pets,) and planning my wedding, I very much feel as though I wasted a lot of that time.
During my 20’s I was so unhappy with myself that it was paralyzing. I didn’t want to go out and let everyone see what a fat mess I was. I didn’t want to shop for clothes and have to accept the size I was. I felt that there was no point in getting dressed up, or getting my hair and nails done. No point either in putting on make-up, because as the saying goes “you can’t polish a turd!” So, I became an insular person. I withdrew from people. Socializing only when I couldn’t get out of it, and feeling deeply uncomfortable when I did. I was lonely and I was sad. Of course, if you had asked me at the time, I would have told you I was fine, and I would have believed it.
I remember distinctly the moment at which I realised I needed to make a change. I was getting ready to go out somewhere, nowhere special, just a movie I think. I had ironed a pair of jeans and laid them out on the bed before getting into the shower. When I came back into the room and saw them lying there all I could think was “oh my God, they are absolutely enormous.” Tears of shame flowed freely as the reality of what I had let myself become came over me. That was the point of no return and the story of how the change came about is one for another day.
A couple of years ago I was listening to some silly talk show on the radio. The host was talking about the top 10 regrets of women in their 50’s. She said she was surprised by the number 1 regret, and I admit I was too. I was expecting to hear that women regretted staying in bad relationships, or making poor career choices. However, overwhelmingly they reported regretting not appreciating how beautiful they were when they were young.
This has stayed with me, and I have tried to apply the wisdom of these matriarchs to my own life, and particularly to my journey towards well-being. At each stage of the journey I have tried to remember that although I might not be where I want to be right now, I am going in the right direction and that is something. I have tried to be conscious that I will never again be as young as I am now, and to try to be grateful for the youth that I have. I have a strong body, capable of amazing things and that is to be celebrated. I am trying to create a better self and although I may not feel beautiful, there is beauty in that.
So, with all of that in mind, I now try to live the 20’s that I missed the first time around. I say yes to the invitations. I take the trips. I wear the make-up and the high heels. If I think to myself that I have always wanted to try something or to wear something, I do it. I buy clothes that my 25 year old self would have been jealous of.
My latest such purchase was a pair of white jeans. I have wanted a pair for ages, but I was afraid. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off. I plagued my ever patient friends with requests for their opinions. Eventually I bit the bullet and ordered a pair from River Island. I was so excited when they arrived, but that excitement didn’t last long. As I pulled them out of the bag, I felt the familiar tears of shame threatening. I thought to myself “oh my God, these are tiny!” I felt sure they would never fit and instantly admonished myself for stupidly ordering such a small size. Amazingly, they fit perfectly. I was so delighted I wanted to sleep in them.
There will be moments like these in everyone’s journey and I urge you to delight in them as much as I did. Don’t become so focused on the destination that you forget to enjoy the ride. Wonderful things happen everyday, but often we are so caught up with ourselves that we barely notice. Be open to experiences as they come your way and don’t take it all too seriously. As they say, you only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough xxx