What I wish I had have known 15 years ago

My best friend George recently turned 30. Tomorrow morning he will be heading to Leicester so that we can spend time together. We met on the first day of uni in Cardiff, and over the last decade have lived together there, in Leicester and also Asia. Both of us have changed so much over this time, yet the friendship remains.

And like all good friendships, it doesn’t matter how long it is since we last caught up, it’s always easy. We pick up where we last left off.

With two of the greatest people on this planet. Geroge Ashdown and Richard Ashby Harris

I recently read my very close friend Holly’s blog post “A letter to my 15 year old self” and it got me thinking. What advice would I give to my teenage self? What if I’d known my best friend then? He’s the man I go to for advice; he’s thoughtful, contemplative and level headed. He’s the friend I wished I’d known at 15. Maybe I’d have made less mistakes? Maybe I’d have ignored him, who knows.

What I wish I had have known 15 years ago
You cannot buy a view like this.

So here is what I wish I had known then:

  • You do not have to have one job for life. It’s okay to change your mind. I have had so many jobs over the years. Every job you decide to leave takes you closer to the thing you love.
  • Buy experiences and not possessions. We all like to have nice things, but having amazing memories with friends is far more valuable. Paying for your friend to come out with you when they are skint, rather than buying that jacket you wanted will bring your far more joy. I have been on both the giving and receiving end of this. I don’t look back warmly on having bought a designer bag (which I later lost), but I do have fond memories of climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower with good friends and sharing a cigarette as the sun went down.
  • Be  ‘pro-quitting’. Throughout my childhood I was told to stick at it, keep going, don’t be a quitter etc etc. This is utter rubbish. I wasted so much time “sticking at it” with things I clearly didn’t enjoy. This is not to say that you should drop out as soon as it gets tough, but know when it’s time to move on in life.
  • Never underestimate how lucky we are to live in the age of the internet. If you love something, you can connect with anyone around the world who also loves it. Become a master at what you love and all of a sudden you have a career. You can monetise anything. And the internet has made work a moveable feast. Work is a thing you do, not necessarily a place you go to.
  • Beware of trying to please your parents with life choices. Your parents want what is best for you in their eyes, but remember everyone brings baggage with their advice. No one knows you as well as you know yourself. Do what makes you happy, ace it and you might just find your parents more than a little bit proud of you.
  • Don’t take hard drugs. You will regret it later in life. Memory issues, loss of smell, a face that betrays you and looks ten years older than you actually are, falling out with friends, wasting money and embarrassing yourself. Don’t do it.
  • If your friends stage an intervention, it is time to stop partying.
  • Learn a second language. This is such a useful tool. I am very embarrassed to say that even though my Dad speaks Spanish and hardly any English, I can only speak English. This is a massive regret of mine.
  • Losing someone dear to you does not have to define your entire life. Bad shit happens, but you will be alright. Time is a great healer. After my partner committed suicide in Shanghai, the loss became who I was. It took me a long time to realise that this event was not ‘me’, it’s just something that happened.
  • Don’t choose your career based on salary. I have been utterly miserable earning lots, conversely, I have made cocktails on minimum wage and had a ball. You spend so much time at work, make it count.
  • Be easy on your knees. I was a cyclist for years and I was not easy on my body. I am now 30 and everything hurts. Stretch, do yoga and be nice to your joints, your older self will thank you for it.
  • Good people do bad things.
  • Polish your shoes. People can and will judge you on how you present yourself. Yes it’s shallow, and hell, I don’t agree with judging anyone based on appearances, but it’s the way of the world. Don’t lose out because you didn’t take 10 minutes to buff your shoes. I also take great pleasure in polishing.
  • Your success with women will increase when you grow a beard. I know, not every lady likes a beard, but since growing one the amount of female attention I receive has increased. Granted this isn’t a scientific study, but I have enough friends who can vouch for me.
  • Be careful who you listen to. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. (And they often don’t even realise it). This doesn’t mean that they are trying to sabotage your life or are malicious in any way. It’s just human nature for some folks. Only you know who you are and what you are trying to achieve. Always listen to what people have to say, who knows, it might be helpful. But proceed with caution. You know you best.
  • You have two ears and one mouth. Keep this in mind when having conversations. You already know everything that you know. Listen and learn.
  • You are the sum of the 5 people you spend the most time with. If you are not happy with where you are in life, look at who you are spending time with and see if you need to reassess your social circle. Are they radiators or mood hoovers?
  • Don’t make excuses. I come from a very poor family. When I wanted to be a photographer I realised the pros had £100,000+ of equipment. I had £200 to get started with. You have to break it down into small chunks. There is always a way. If you can imagine it, it already exists and you can have it if you put the work in and surround yourself with the right people.
We didn’t have a lot growing up, but my Mum made the most of everything and we had so many great experiences
  • Never go scuba diving.
  • Try everything twice. Just because you didn’t like it before, doesn’t mean that your tastes won’t change in the future. I recently discovered that I like really strong blue cheese. Previously it made me retch.
  • Those cool trainers that you really couldn’t afford were completely pointless and a waste of your Mums money. Years later they look embarrassing and are in a landfill site somewhere. Save the money to do something meaningful.
  • Work abroad at least once in your life. Learning how different cultures tackle tasks is a major asset to have. There’s more than one way to get stuff done.
  • Work in a bar and a factory at least once. My favourite ever job (not including my current career) was working in a nightclub. I loved it. The pay was rubbish, the hours were long and you were treated like shit by the customers. It taught me humility and tolerance.
  • Altruistic acts of kindness are important. If you can help someone out, do it. Be a good person and treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Everyone behaves the way they do for a reason. Don’t judge people on their actions, you have no idea what they are going through.
  • A day job does not give you security. If you have a passion project, go and follow it. Companies go bust, owners make bad decisions and have to lay people off, your boss may simply just not like you. The best security is being in charge of your own future.
  • Ask children for advice for they do not care about all the daft grown up pressure you have placed upon yourself. We adults devote far too much time worrying what others think. Kids value happiness first. What a way to live.

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