Growing up is a confusing and surreal experience. For years, I have been confused about who I am – consistently shifting and moulding my identity. I have toyed between living as myself, and being ridiculed, to trying to shy away from others. I have closed myself off after being hurt, failing to let others in. I am constantly evolving as a person, learning who I am, what I love, what I hate and what I want to be.

Everyone states your 20s are a confusing point in your life. Some of my friends are settling down, looking at mortgages. Some of my friends are moving away, starting their lives. Some friends are, like me, never wanting to grow up. We are all at different points in our lives and feel this pressure to know how we want to spend the rest of our lives. For my entire life, I have planned every moment. Knowing what I want to be when I am older, what age I want to be married at, when I want children by. Life is not that simple though, and part of me regrets wasting all of this time planning. Have I truly wasted 21 years worrying about the future, instead of enjoying what is right in front of me?

I always used to laugh when adults would tell me school was the best years of my life – I hated it with a passion. Looking back, school was full of great memories, along with bad ones, a lot of teen angst, and trying to discover myself. A lot of school was spent hating myself, my body, worrying about the judgement of others. But then there were the funny memories, the ones I could speak about till there are tears of joy in my eyes. However, I never felt completely comfortable, I fit in but not truly.

College will always be the best days of my life. They truly hold the fondest memories, and I still wish I could relive them. This was a time when I began evolving as a person, learning more about myself and what I like or dislike. Finding my voice, laughing unapologetically loud. Starting to appreciate life. Yet, I still felt uncomfortable in my own skin, itching to get out. College was one of the most beautiful times in my life so far, yet also brought along a lot of experiences that crushed me completely. I began losing my fight, but had friends, who are my family, that kept me standing. They held onto the last part of my spark left, and gave me a reason to smile.

I never learned to love myself, at a time where it is fundamental to learn who you are and love yourself – flaws and all. At such a young age, I was vulnerable and so full of love – just wanting to give my all to someone whilst still so timid and scared. I wonder, if I had gave myself all the unconditional love I provided to someone else – how would I be? If I learned to love myself, my body, my obnoxious laugh would I look for someone who truly respects and loves me?

All the books we read, all the love stories, all focus on broken teenagers finding someone to love to make them whole. Someone else to fix them. For so long, this is what I longed for. In my 20s I have learned that finding someone else to fix you does not make you whole, but leaves holes. Giving someone that power over you, someone who knows you’re close to breaking, allows them to shatter you completely. Why, are there a lack of books talking about ‘broken’ teenagers learning to love themselves? Young adults learning to fix themselves, to heal alone, and enjoy life with their friends and family and living their own dreams? I wonder, if I read these books instead, would my perspective on life be different?

Coming back from a volatile few years, losing my spark, my fight and my will, I am shocked at how content I am with myself right now. Despite this time in my life being daunting, confusing and unknown, I feel happy in knowing it will all be okay.

For so long, I was scared to leave something due to fear of being alone. Looking back, I was already so alone, and the minute I broke those chains that had been weighing me down from a young age I felt free. I realised I was never alone, my friends were always waiting for me on the sidelines. My best friend, my sister, never left my side and always came back to me – even if it was only when I needed a shoulder to cry on every so often. My other friends gave me the space I needed, and the fear I felt when reuniting was paralysing. However, it was like being reborn – it was welcome arms, no questions, and calling me the only nickname thats ever made me feel like me. Home is never a literal place, its a feeling – a feeling of peace, safety and comfort. After so long searching, I was home again.

I have never loved myself. Not truly. I have hated myself, felt uncomfortable with who I am, searched for others to fix me. I have numbed myself to deal with pain, looking for things to fill the hole. I have ran for years instead of facing my trauma head on. All along, the answer has been right in front of me. As I write this, I have learned a lot through my life and my perspective has completely changed. I don’t doubt it will continue to change.

I should never rely on others for my happiness. I should never validate myself by others’ opinions. There is a difference between being lonely and alone. Trauma will always exist, but over time it heals. Experiences make you who you are, and for that I don’t regret them, I learn from them. I am okay on my own. I am surrounded by loved ones. I dance by myself around the house again, something I failed to do for years. It’s okay to cry – big girls do cry. Emotions exist for a reason – feel them fully and understand them, then let go. Don’t hold onto hatred, it makes you a bitter person. Instead of always looking back, look forward.

A lot of people always state I speak the truth, I don’t hold back and I say it how it is. That is partly true, but if I’m honest I have been holding back. I was scared, no, fucking terrified. I have spent half my life running from the truth, hiding myself. I like to think I don’t care about the opinions of others, but I do. We all do, we are human. But I am no longer hiding who I am, and silencing myself to please others. I am going to live unapologetically.

I will continue to laugh ridiculously loud till there are tears in my eyes and everyone is staring at me like I’m crazy. I will talk about ghosts until people think I need professional help. I will cleanse my crystals and read books about honing psychic powers if I want to. I will still make a fool of myself to make my friends laugh, especially if they are struggling. I will continue to dance in public like an idiot, without a care because music is meant to be enjoyed. I will sing at the top of my lungs until I’m blue at the face and someone’s ears have burst. I will make stupid mistakes, have arguments, and cry when I am sad. I will stand up for what I believe in, and never change my view to appease someone else.

I will wake up every day with my mind set on loving me.

I will no longer let someone shout at me and just take it. I will love again, without fear of being hurt. I will love so much, that my heart will hurt. But that’s okay. What is love without hurt? What is life without happiness?

I don’t want anyone to fix me. I am whole on my own. I am no longer looking, especially at such a young age, to find someone to settle down with and spend my life living their dream. Rather, I will meet people I love. I will fall in love. But my dream will come first. My life will come first. And for everyone I love and will love, I hope to God that they do this too.

The goal is to ensure when I’m old, probably still trying to shuffle to 90s house music with my friends, I look back on my life with only a smile. I want to know I lived my life how I want it. I want to know I’ve loved too hard, I’ve grown as a person, that I know who I am. I don’t want to regret not doing anything. I want to live my life to the fullest, unapologetically. That my dream, became a reality.

So fuck it, post that Instagram story even if you know others will laugh or send it around. Thats a them problem, not a you problem. Take part in that song challenge, share the songs that make your heart burst with the world. Show everyone you love them. Don’t be scared of being hurt – hurt comes with love, its inevitable, but being true to yourself and not putting up barriers has more advantages than disadvantages. Stop hiding yourself to appease others. If you’re young and your relationship isn’t full of respect and you’re crying more than you’re laughing – leave. Hell, if you’re old and your relationship is like that leave. No one should ever experience less than they deserve. Everyone deserves respect. They’re not the one, and the one will come when you’re ready. When you have all of these stories to share with them. When you’re still learning who you are, but know at your core your values.

Kiss who you want. Laugh when you want. Dance when you want. Sing when you want. Do what makes YOU happy – not what makes others happy. It does not matter what you do in life – people will always judge. So fuck it, give them something to judge. It’s a reflection on them, not you.

And most importantly, love yourself. Love your insecurities – they make you who you are. Remind yourself, you’re beautiful inside and out. People are blessed to have you in their life.

Some songs that make my heart warm, make me know its going to be okay, and are a constant reminder of everything I want in life;

  • Holy (Reprise) – Jamila Woods
  • Doing Me – Ray BLK
  • Keeping Your Head Up – Birdy
  • Unwritten – Natasha Bedingfield

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