21 Things I’ve Learnt in 21 Years

So I dropped the ball. For a year. The last post I did was a while ago, and I probably should be more sorry, but I’m really not. Life (and laziness) gets in the way, and I’m now almost at the end of my degree. Since this year is all about things ending and beginning, I decided to reflect back in a series of little life lessons. These may not apply to you, and I know that 21 years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, but I hope to be able to look back one day and remember what life was like. For now, here it is.

1.  It’s really difficult to get hair-dye off painted walls. Hairspray doesn’t work. Seriously, don’t spray hairspray on walls.

2. In school, people respect you for being the same. In university, people respect you for being different. Seriously. If you want to go to lectures wearing bright pink pyjamas, you do that.

3. You don’t have to read adult books just because society says you’re an adult. Difficult books are boring if you don’t understand. Read a YA book about wizards. It’s fun.

4. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to go out for an evening. You probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it anyway if you weren’t in the mood.

5. In relation to that, BEING ALONE IS OKAY!

6. If you think an item of clothing won’t suit you, try it on anyway. You’ll always wonder.

7. It’s never too early to start celebrating Christmas, no matter how many people post statuses about it.

8. I’ve learnt so many things at university outside of my course, but that doesn’t mean you have to go. Get an apprenticeship. Get a job. Go to college. Work for your parents. Do whatever the hell you want. There’s no right way.

9. One thing that I’ve seen circulating online is that you should surround yourself with driven people who will make you want to achieve your own goals. As much as I do believe this, you shouldn’t rule out a person because they aren’t as driven as your other friends. Maybe you can be the person who will push them to dream. And if not? Well, at least you tried.

10. You can celebrate your own little achievements. You went to a dentist appointment by yourself? That’s brilliant!

11. Make up is fun. And it’s for you. If someone says you’re doing it wrong, don’t listen to them. Wear it however you like.

12. Dogs are very important.

13. Never go to someones house and refuse to eat what they make for you, unless you’re allergic or vegetarian. It’s rude.

14. If you’re playing Ring of Fire, you don’t have to drink the dirty pint. Seriously.

15. Don’t be afraid to return your drink to the bar if it doesn’t look/taste right. They’ll remake it for you!

16. Dressing up for costume nights is fun. Don’t be the person who didn’t make an effort.

17. Your relationship problems are your relationship problems. Unless you know they cheated on you, don’t post about it, tweet about it, or write a song about it. We don’t want to know, and it’s a low blow to your partner.

18. Buy Dettol wipes. They are lifesavers.

19. Don’t do all the work in a group presentation. Split it into equal parts and only do your bit. They’ll be the ones who look stupid when they have nothing to say.

20. Going to bed with a cup of tea early is okay. My housemates think I’m a grandma. I’m okay with it.

21. The last thing is that 21 is not an adult. I still feel 18. I don’t even remember being 19. Don’t expect to suddenly grow up. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen. Revel in your youth.

The Life and Times of a Serial Fainter

Lots of people experience anxiety or nervousness in their lives. It manifests in many different ways, some being more severe than others, but it’s never a nice feeling. Unfortunately, mine is something that’s very difficult to hide.

First of all, I want to discuss how fainting is portrayed in television, films and fiction. Suddenly, she fainted. A character sees blood, and all of a sudden collapses. There is no ‘sudden’ about it. This may be different for others, but in my (very informed) experience, the fainting process takes a good while to actually occur. First comes the nausea and sweat, which lasts for at least three minutes, depending on your situation. If you’re in a very stressful environment, it could take less time. Then comes the inability to steady your breathing. Then the eyes start to go, with black dots slowly closing in from either side, until you feel so sick, hot and dizzy that you lose consciousness. I normally come round after a couple of minutes. Even after waking up, you can’t move your arms and legs straight away because the blood has gone somewhere else. So all in all, the process is quite long and uncomfortable.

Having fainted so many times and in so many places (bathrooms, open days, work experience, you name it), it’s difficult not to be scared of it. You know what the recommendation from the doctor is? Don’t get yourself into stressful situations. How am I supposed to get along in life without doing just that? I can’t stay at home every day doing nothing. I have to do exams, go on trains, go to interviews, and meet new people. What’s the point otherwise? I mean, I take as many precautions as I can. Always have a bottle of water and food with me, glucose tablets, trying not to get too stressed. There has only been one time where I’ve actually managed to avoid fainting after getting to the black dots stage, and that was actually in an exam. I don’t know if it was because I was sitting down, my breathing or just sheer determination, but somehow I got through it. And, despite having my head in my hands and the amount of sweat I was producing, my friend sitting next to me didn’t even notice. I call that one of my greatest achievements.

Other times I wasn’t so lucky. The first time I fainted, I managed to hit my head on a sink on the way down, a bruise which didn’t go away easily I can tell you. The worst time was probably on work experience when I was 15. It was my first day, and the shop was absolutely boiling. I was already incredibly nervous of this new place, so this wasn’t a good situation. I was talking to an old woman, explaining about a product, when I swayed into her, before falling backwards and collapsing. I woke up to people crowding around me. I didn’t go back for a couple of days. Even though the process and the build up are completely horrendous, the embarrassment just tops it off. Fainting in my home, that’s fine. Fainting in public is not. Knowing that I could faint in public makes it worse because I know it will be embarrassing. And you always get those people who think they know what’s wrong with you. “You must be anemic,” I hear a lot. Guys, I’m not anemic. I’ve just been dealt this card by the hand of life. And I have to deal with it. And I’m not going to let it stop me from fulfilling my potential. There are other people who have far worse problems than me, so I choose to laugh at my previous fainting episodes. Hey, do you remember when I fell into that old woman at work experience, that was soooo embarrassing! Well, maybe not exactly like that, but I can still look at it positively.