Three things I learned at 23.

So I’m 24 and kinda wanna stick my head in a blender.

Jokes. I’m fine. I’m so fine.

It’s just that one second I was 21 and drinking Vodka Smirnoff and sugar free lemonade from a pump bottle AND THEN I BLINKED AND NOW I’M ON THE CUSP OF MY MID TWENTIES AND LIVING OUT OF HOME AND WHAT THE FUCK.

Anyway, 23 was a seminal year for me – as I’m learning every year in my twenties is. I learned a lot about myself; my mental health, love, career, grief, and loss.

Here are the three big lessons I’ll take into 24.

1. There is no shame in admitting you’re not okay.

For a large part of last year, I wasn’t okay. I just wasn’t. I was so fearful of life – of terrorism and strange men and death – that I couldn’t leave my apartment. I was paralysed and sick with anxiety. I was also quite depressed.

And so I decided to see a psychologist, and the sessions I’ve had with her have made my life so much better. More balanced. So, so, so much clearer.

I won’t blab on about all the things psychological help has done for me – I’ve already written about that here – but I do want to say to anyone reading this: if you’re struggling, please speak about it to someone. You’re not crazy, and you’re certainly not alone.

Wading through the sludge of your mind can be really tricky, but it’s not so bad when you have someone holding a map, and guiding you through it.

I still have my bad days. I had a panic attack last night, actually. But I’m so much better than what I was, and with more counselling in the future, I hope I just keep on getting better.

So if a friend or loved one tells you they’re not okay, then please gently nudge them towards getting professional help.

If you’re struggling, please please please take the first step of booking an appointment with your GP.

We wouldn’t try to mend our own fractured limbs, so we shouldn’t try to mend our own fractured minds.

2. Make it happen for yourself.

Sometimes I think we get stuck in expecting opportunities to fall into our lap. It’s not always our own fault, either; you can work really bloody hard at something, only to find nothing comes from it. And that’s frustrating.

But something I think I’ve learned this year is that getting opportunities doesn’t boil down to hard work. It boils down to taking extra initiative.

It might have only happened in the last month or so, but launching my podcast Shameless with Zara has been such a highlight in my year of being 23. We taught ourselves how to create podcast artwork, use Audition, and bought hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to make it happen. I am so happy we did.

It’s a monumental project that sucks up a huge amount of time and energy, but I have no regrets. I really love working on every episode together and hope even a handful of people enjoy listening to it.

If you’re into podcasts, listen to Shameless below. You can also subscribe in iTunes!

3. Losing a grandparent is raw heartbreak.

In late November I lost my beautiful, gorgeous, cheeky grandfather.

My Poppa. Our family’s sun and light. Despite his terminal cancer diagnosis it was a brutal blow. We knew he was sick, we just didn’t expect him to leave so soon.

Every time I’d walk into my grandparents’ home his tall frame – arms outstretched, beckoning a hug – was one of the first things I’d see. As I write this, I can hear his British accent in my head loud and clear.

“Hellooo Michelle,” he’d greet me, every single time.

I miss him so much. I miss his jumpers and his barbecues and his laugh.

On the day of his funeral, it was so ferociously hot and sticky it felt like one of the days we’d jump in Nanny and Poppa’s pool as little kids. Hundreds of people turned up to say their farewells. I listened to stories about Poppa’s life that I’d never heard before, from times before I even existed. I placed a flower on his coffin. I said goodbye.

Poppa was the first person I’ve lost. I’m pretty lucky to get to 24 and still be so foreign to grief. In the moments something reminds me of my Poppa, I feel it crash into me like a wave. And then it passes, and I’m left with all the beautiful memories of a man who changed so many lives with his unrelenting kindness.

But losing him was such a lesson. One that has made me so grateful for my grandparents, and the joy they continue to bring to my life.

What lessons did you learn in the last year? Let me know in the comments…

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