At precisely 2.22am this morning, I turned 30 years old.
In the weeks leading up to this milestone birthday I half-expected to feel a mixture of panic and dread, but instead I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished over the last three decades and excited for the next stage of my life.
I wanted to mark the occasion with an extra-special blog post, something that will hold a lot of meaning for me for years to come. I had visions of writing a detailed autobiography-style essay, but that would possibly have ended up being a little too long and complicated.
Instead, I decided to just allow myself to write. I’m in the mood to reminisce about my childhood and early adult life, so I made sure to pick a couple of memories that I feel really capture my personality and say a lot about who I am.
To set the scene, you should understand that I was painfully shy as a child.
One of my all-time favourite books has always been Matilda, by the wonderful Roald Dahl. As a little girl I identified so strongly with the quiet and introspective Matilda – minus the telekinetic powers, of course.
She loved to read, and so did I. We even looked alike – at least, according to the film adaptation!
I especially loved reading about Matilda’s experience visiting the library, along with the kind librarian who took her under her wing and opened her eyes to the millions of stories out there just waiting to be devoured.
One of my favourite quotes from the book reads: “So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”
My own memories of visiting the local library after school are still fresh in my mind, and remain some of my favourite times to reminisce over.
During one of my countless trips to this safe haven, I struck up a friendship with one of the librarians – just like Matilda!
She was a stern-looking older lady who was often very sharp with anyone who dared to break the silence. She didn’t tolerate any nonsense, and most of the other children were a little scared of her.
But she always reserved a small smile for me, and we formed a sweet little relationship that I will never forget.
The thing that I most loved about her was that she didn’t expect me to talk. She seemed to understand that I was shy and preferred to live inside my own head, so our interactions were mostly silent.
Her actions conveyed much more to me than words ever could.
She noticed that I always checked out Goosebumps books, so she began keeping the latest releases aside for me. I can’t help but laugh when I remember a little boy watching jealously as she handed me a pile of crisp new books. He crossed his arms and announced, ‘I want those Goosebumps books too!’
Her smile disappeared instantly as she turned to him and snapped, ‘Well, you can’t have them!’
One day the library ran a competition with a £5 book token as a prize. I wanted to win so badly, and was thrilled when I was announced as the winner. The librarian handed me the token and whispered, ‘I couldn’t wait to see your face when you found out.’
These seemingly small actions helped me to realise that my natural shyness and obsession with books could (and did!) actually make me likeable. I didn’t have to be loud and funny like the other children in my class. Simply being myself was enough.
I wish I could somehow find that librarian and tell her how much her acceptance and kindness meant to me.
Along with reading, I also loved to write. Whenever the teacher asked us to write a story, I would turn in pages of scribbled words that weaved long, intricate tales. I was in love with the feeling that writing brought me – that I was lost in my own mind and creating something beautiful, that I was handing a piece of my soul to the world. That feeling has never left me.
Of course, I didn’t spend my entire childhood reading and writing.
There are so many films, TV shows, games and books that I could list here that all had a huge impact on my life. But the one that stands out is Pokemon.
I remember visiting my cousin Toby one weekend. He always had the newest toys and video games, so I looked forward to hearing about his latest obsession. On this particular day he pulled out a small handheld games console – a Gameboy.
‘This is the best game ever!‘ he announced.
That game was Pokemon Blue. From the moment I heard the catchy 8-bit music and saw the cute animations flickering across the tiny screen, I was hooked.
My parents bought me my own Gameboy along with Pokemon Red, and I’m not kidding when I say that I played that game during every waking moment that I wasn’t at school. I only stopped to watch the Pokemon anime on TV, collect and trade my Pokemon cards and scour my Pokemon handbook for tips and tricks on perfecting my battle techniques.
Yeah, I was pretty obsessed.
So how did this brand come to play such a key role in my life? Why does it still fill me with warmth and nostalgia over two decades later?
Well, Pokemon entered my life during a pretty pivotal time. At age eleven I could see two clear paths ahead of me, and I was heading down one of them with no idea what the future would hold.
After living my entire life in a small English village, my parents were uprooting our family and moving us to New Zealand. I was leaving my home, my best friend, my extended family and even my dog behind.
It was terrifying.
As I sat down in the plane to begin my first international flight and the start of my brand new life, I felt my little Gameboy in my pocket. Playing Pokemon became a huge source of comfort for me, and this seemingly silly game helped me to get through the transition of adjusting to an unfamiliar country.
While it was difficult at the time, moving to New Zealand is still one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It took me completely out of my comfort zone and allowed me to experience a new lifestyle and a totally different culture.
Of course, I was still shy and quiet. It took me a little longer than most people to find my feet and gain confidence in myself, but I got there in my own time. I would never be the most outgoing girl in class, but something clicked on my first day of high school. I slowly began to come out of my shell, making friends effortlessly and letting my silly side shine through.
As I grew older, reading and Pokemon began to fall to the wayside. I was far more interested in partying and hanging out with my friends, which is pretty normal for someone in their teens and early twenties.
But looking back, I feel as though I lost myself a little. I stopped writing for fun, as high school and then university seemed to take up all of my creative energy. I no longer curled up in bed with a good book at the weekend – instead, I was out clubbing every night!
After graduation, I had my sights set on moving to London. I wanted a cool social media job, an apartment in the city and the glamorous lifestyle that I had seen on TV.
So I booked a one-way plane ticket and set off for the not-so-sunny shores of England!
Before I settled down, I wanted to see a little more of the world. I travelled through France, Holland, Belgium and Spain, immersing myself in these exciting new cultures before putting down roots in London.
After an immense amount of work and more time than I had anticipated, I finally managed to land the type of job that I had always wanted. I was working in Shoreditch, earning a good salary and managing the social media accounts for a large rail company.
The thing is, I still felt a little lost. I had allowed myself to become swept up in the thrill of shopping, partying and spending time with people that (with the benefit of hindsight!) weren’t right for me.
I thought I was happy, but I can see now that I simply wasn’t being true to myself. I don’t know who that girl was, but she definitely wasn’t me.
Then I met Elliott. And my life would never be the same again.
How can it be, when you’ve met your soulmate?
When I first saw him smiling at me outside North Greenwich station I felt as though someone had hit me over the head with a frying pan, cartoon-style. I’m not sure if I believe in love at first sight, but I definitely felt something.
We moved in together after a month of dating, and the rest is history. Earlier this week we celebrated our five-year anniversary, and it makes me so happy to see how much we have both grown together.
It’s impossible to put into words just how much Elliott has changed my life. He inspired me to stop drinking alcohol (one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!) He has always told me that I’m beautiful, even when I really didn’t feel it. And most of all, he has shown me that amazing things can happen with just a little bravery and self-belief.
Oh, and I can’t forget that he introduced me to Japan. As I fell in love with him, I also fell in love with the beauty and culture of this wonderful country.
I hope there are many more trips written in our future!
My life wasn’t all sunshine and roses, however. I unexpectedly suffered a number of setbacks, and as a result my childhood anxiety developed into an uncontrollable monster. I had panic attacks, struggled to leave the house and isolated myself from basically everyone.
It was a dark time in my life, and I don’t want to dwell on it too much. But thankfully, I pulled through!
After a few months of therapy sessions focused around CBT, it felt as though a fog had lifted. I finally had my life back, and I was determined to experience it to the fullest.
I can pinpoint this period as the time that I truly began to find myself. I started reading again, delving into a wide range of topics such as health and wellness, politics and the universe. My creativity was sparked, so I created my blog and began writing again!
These aspects of my personality aren’t new. They were always there, hidden behind a facade of bubbliness and faux confidence. To find myself again, I had to go back to my roots and rediscover that quiet, shy girl who was happiest curled up in bed with a pile of books.
This newfound feeling of being sure of myself helped to spark one of my biggest decisions. In September last year I left my comfortable job in digital marketing and jumped head-first into the self-employed life, working with Elliott to grow his app business.
It has been stressful, scary and difficult. But it has also been rewarding, fulfilling and a huge life lesson.
Remember my childhood obsession with Pokemon? Well, our current app works with the latest 3DS games and allows players to create any Pokemon that they want.
It sounds crazy, but right now I earn money simply by thinking about, talking about and playing Pokemon. Can you imagine how thrilled I would have been as a child if I had known that this was in store for me?
My life has come full circle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Of course I’m still shy, and I still get anxious. But I’m also brave – I moved across the world (twice!) and started a new life, I left a secure job to pursue a business with Elliott, I faced my anxiety head-on.
It may seem as though I’ve become more introverted as I’ve gotten older. But really, I’ve just stopped putting on an act.
As a teenager and an adult, I always thought there was something wrong with being quiet. Now that I’ve started to celebrate my shyness just as I did as a child, I finally feel confident enough to let my true self show.
As I leave my twenties behind, I’ve been focused on decluttering my life, my home and my mind. I’m making room for the things that inspire me, while getting rid of those that don’t.
For me, this involves working with my therapist to clear out my brain and replace unhealthy thought patterns. It involves Marie Kondo-ing the heck out of my apartment. And most of all, it involves giving myself a little pat on the back for everything that I’ve accomplished so far.
A few months ago, I stumbled across the film 13 Going On 30 while browsing through Netflix. I didn’t end up watching it that night, but it triggered a long-forgotten memory.
I saw this film at the cinema when I was fourteen and found myself in awe of the main character, coincidentally named Jenna. She lived in a beautiful apartment with a handsome boyfriend and a great job – in my young teenage eyes, that was the epitome of a successful adult life.
I vowed that I would be just like her by the time I turned 30.
I’d completely forgotten about that movie until it showed up on Netflix. The crazy thing is, my life didn’t turn out all that differently to what I had imagined! I have the beautiful apartment (rented, but we’ll ignore that part), the handsome boyfriend and a great job.
Isn’t it funny how life works out? I wish I could go back in time and tell my fourteen-year-old self that everything would be just fine.
In my thirties, I hope to get married and be lucky enough to have a child. I also dream of buying a cosy little home in the countryside, and with Elliott by my side I’m working hard to build this future that I can already see so vividly in my mind.
In the past I’ve been a little too hard on myself for not achieving these things already. But I’ve come to learn that there is no rush, no race, no competition.
As always, I’ll get there in my own time. Besides, I’ve achieved so many wonderful things already!
And I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.