Since I'm only 21, this is the first time that I understand the significance of a brand new decade, and I'm finding myself being increasingly excited as 2020 approaches. It’s a perfect opportunity to restart the engines, with a fresh mind and with lots of motivation, but with saying that, it’s also a time where I think a lot of us will be reflecting on the past, with the last few years, especially, at the forefront of our minds. I’ve always loved reading posts like this, where people will share little nuggets of wisdom and lessons that I might not have experienced or considered before, and I thought it would be a great chance for me to write down some of my realisations on to paper, so I could see for myself what my progression from an 11 year old to a 21 year old has been over the last decade. 




You’re constantly going to make mistakes. 


When I was in my early teen years and I was struggling with friendships and learning about the world, I thought that as soon as I’d hit 18 that I would know everything about life and things would be all good in the world of Tori Vale. Naivety at its finest. It was quite a sweet thought, but one that I’ve learnt will never happen at any point in my life. Yes, you will learn more as time goes on, but nobody ever stops making mistakes, and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of the definition of mistakes – it’s not intentional and so you shouldn’t beat yourself up about making one! 


Ignorance has nothing to do with age, but everything to do with experience.


When I was poorly and was struggling to be diagnosed, I became incredibly anxious to the point I struggled to talk to people without feeling sick or even bolting from the room. I found myself, heartbreakingly, being subjected to comments suggesting that I was “socially inept”, particularly from somebody who was in their 80s. I thought that this age group would have been the most understanding, as their life experience would’ve lead them to understand the mental toll of a health battle. However, this individual hadn’t, remarkably, suffered significantly with his health before, but a few months after he made the unkind comment about me, he became unwell himself. Now we have many conversations about how we are feeling as he knows I understand, and when you are, or have been, poorly it’s comforting to not have to explain every emotion as the other person just knows. Even though he’s never said “sorry”, I know he means it.



Life is short.


During the two years that I was ill and was starting my recovery, I was terrified at how quickly the months were passing by, and suddenly I’d passed my 18th, 19th and 20th birthday and was half way towards my 21st when I got better, in what felt like a flash of light. Even though I developed skills and tried to keep myself as occupied as I possibly could, having a debilitating condition stopped me from going about my life in a way in which encompassed the true meaning of the word “living” – I was just surviving. I appreciate now the importance of not wasting your time doing something you don’t have the passion for, and how we all have to appreciate our lives since we don’t know when a spanner could be thrown into the works. 



Only some people can handle hard-hitting conversations.


I love talking about world issues - hence the category on my blog - but I've found myself disappointed by a few people who say that they have no interest in, or even "hate", topics such as politics and climate change, even though it's such a crucial part of all our lives. Every time I find someone who I can have a discussion with about current affairs, it's causes, it's effects and what could be done to improve it, it's an incredible opportunity to learn more and the conversation could go on for hours if it wasn't for life and a diary full of commitments! I've learnt to pick and choose who I have these hard-hitting conversations with so I don't have my enthusiasm squashed out of me. Don't get me wrong, I have no desire to talk about current affairs all day every day, but I can't deny the disappointment and excitement I feel in those two conflicting situations! I suppose I appreciate when people understand the importance of raising awareness about issues that may not impact ourselves due to our privileged lives, but which effect others gravely every single day who may not have the voice to advocate for themselves.


Protecting your stability is vital. 


Your mental health will be the deciding factor on how successful you’ll be in life. If you are stressed, upset or down, you will not be in the right frame of mind to push yourself towards your goals and ambitions, and, if anything, could stop you from thinking about aspirations at all. I’ve learnt to remove myself from situations that cause me to become unhappy – there are so many different opportunities in life where you can feel at peace, and so you don’t have to be somewhere which provokes the opposite emotion. 


Good friends are rare to come by. 


During school I always struggled to find good friends. I was bullied often, and for a long time I thought “why is this happening to me?” Every time I came across a new person who happened to become an amazing friend, I was incredibly grateful. It’s a fact of life that many people will let you down, and so it’s important to cherish the good friendships that you’ve got. 


Your qualifications follow you everywhere. 


A lot of people say that grades don’t matter, and, to some extent, I agree. Even though amazing grades do not indicate that you have any other hobbies, are socially confident, a nice person or even happy, they do prove the qualities of dedication, hard work and organisational skills, which are vital to a professional working environment. When I went for my first job interview the first thing that was said to me, besides “hello, how are you?” was, in an impressed tone, “your grades are good”. 


Further to this, unfortunately, a lot of people, both professionally and personally, change their attitudes towards you if your qualifications are good, and having experienced the attitudes shown towards me when I failed my A-Levels and when I got A*A*A*, I can vouch for this behaviour. Even though I feel that this is wrong, and everybody should be treated with equal amounts of respect, it happens.



Some people dislike other’s being successful.


Jealousy is a toxic trait that can overwhelm an individual because of their own insecurities. Ignore it, be proud of yourself, surround yourself with supportive people, continue to push towards your aspirations with confidence, and celebrate accordingly along the way.



Food is medicine.


There is a quote from Steve Jobs which says, “eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicines as your food”. I suffered badly from a handful of autoimmune conditions and my diet transformed my health. Cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar, and introducing the vitamins and minerals I required, was a game changer for me, and even though I now have a bit of these foods from time-to-time, I will forever be grateful for the knowledge about what good diet can do for the body – it’s remarkable. 



Don’t downplay your achievements because of other’s jealousy. 


This is similar to point 8, but, as an example, after I achieved my A-Level results, I found myself unable to express my excitement, and my miraculous turnaround, because when I told my “friends” on results day, I got an incredibly underwhelming and so obviously put-off “oh, well done” response. For years I felt so awkward whenever somebody asked me what I got in my exams, and then after a while, I had the realisation that I cannot downplay in my own mind how awesome my achievements are, and that I should be able to talk about them with my head held high. The people who respond dispassionately are not people you want in your life anyway.



Just because someone is in a position of power, doesn’t make them right.


When I was younger, I used to make the connection of somebody in a professional position, such as a teacher or a doctor, as somebody who was going to know everything about their field. No – everybody makes mistakes from time-to-time, and some people can have views, opinions and behaviours which are not right. Do not feel pressured into a situation or a viewpoint because somebody is in a position of power professionally – trust your gut instinct, and/or your better judgement, and walk away.



Life truly can be cruel sometimes.


There will be instances in life where you will think “why is this happening, it is so unfair”. Life really can be unfair, but we have to learn from our experiences to not take it for granted and enjoy our time while we’re able to. Occasionally, it can be difficult to move on from situations, especially grief, but I’ve learnt that even though it’s OK to find it difficult to move on, it is essential that you continue to live…the world can be a beautiful place and it’s important you keep your head held high to see it.  



Don’t get down by or drawn into people’s competitiveness.


I used to find it so bizarre that, occasionally, when I’d bump into somebody I knew, and very quickly after saying “hi, how are you? How’s life going?”, they would start talking about absolutely every single incredible, amazing thing that they’d done since I’d last seen them, without prompting and room for me to say a word in edgeways. Once they were finished, they’d either say “so, what have you done?” in a smug tone or will be in too much of a rush to ask, and they’d scurry off into the distance, leaving me slightly bewildered. Some people encompass a competitive nature due to insecurity and feel as if they have to be “the best” in order to feel good about themselves. Do not get drawn into this, just keep doing you and what you find enjoyable, and let others behave frantically around you. 



You get to a point in life when you start meeting the same people but with different faces. 


In other words, you start to meet the same personalities in different people, and this is an amazing tool, as suddenly your mind becomes a “b***s***” detector. However, it’s important to use this tool and acknowledge any red flags that are being waved right in front of your eyes, and this will help prevent you from wasting your time with people who just aren’t beneficial to be around. 



If you do not respect somebody’s behaviour, don’t validate their treatment of you.


I feel like this point is pretty self-explanatory, but I’ve found that if I don’t respect how somebody treats me or others, for example, then I will not hold any truth or validity towards their behaviour or opinions about myself or about others. How can you believe somebody who shows themselves to have poor moral standards? Just let any of their nonsense go over your head and rise above it.



Educating myself has been fascinating, inspiring and motivating. 


I love academic subjects, however, I’m now struggling to see the benefit in how the current English education system makes us learn, especially after I started reading incredible books about climate change, international relations, wars and conflicts, inequality, disease, immigration and domestic, continental and global politics. These books were so interesting and left me with countless “oh my god” moments. Knowledge is power, and it has inspired me to create the World Issues section of my blog, and try and educate as many people as I can, in a way in which is enjoyable and accessible to all. 



Your attitude determines how people treat you. 


If you portray yourself to be a positive, hard-working and sensible person, you’re more than likely going to be treated differently than if you portray yourself as a negative, lazy and immature individual. It’s so important to be in tune with how you present yourself to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward. Sometimes you really don’t know who you’re talking to, and if you end up unknowingly talking to a very important CEO or one of their co-workers, a good attitude could open up some doors for you. Who knows!



It’s important to appreciate the simple things in life. 


Many of my generation never seem content unless they’re striving towards a massive goal which they believe will make them incredibly happy. However, I think it’s more beneficial to aspire to be content with what you’ve already got and appreciate the little elements of your life which make your day better, which are usually ones which you don’t necessarily notice. May this be listening to your favourite songs on the way to work, relaxing by the fire after a long day or eating yummy food, being grateful for these everyday luxuries can make all the difference to whether your mindset is positive or negative.



Silence can be the loudest answer. 


Sometimes you don’t have to verbalise your answer to a question or your feelings towards an opinion or situation for the person you're conversing with to know your standpoint, and sometimes that’s the best and simplest way to handle some situations.



You can choose to be a victim or a fighter.


When I was recovering from my health problems, I was stuck in a depressed and anxious rut that I was really struggling to get out of. One of my dad’s clients happened to be one of the UK's leading sports psychologists, who offered me three free sessions to help pull me out of this situation. I was so reluctant to go, but I did, and when I was there he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “in life, we can choose to be a victim or a fighter, and right now, you are choosing to be a victim, and if your attitude continues, it is no one’s fault but your own”, which I found so harsh to begin with! I was taken aback by the brutality of his words - all I wanted were some comforting phrases (i.e. unhelpful s**t), and I was adamant that my problems were more than just my mindset. This was true, in part, since I had significant issues with my gut, which is where 90% of your serotonin is produced and regulated alongside other mental health hormones, which was an issue I was addressing and have continued to address since. In hindsight, I know now that biology isn't the full story when it comes to mental health, and despite the abruptness of his advice, a thought was stuck in my mind: "since he's helped some of the most high-profile athletes in the UK, both professionally and personally, then surely he knows what he's talking about, right?" So, I trusted him. 


Sometimes it just takes a specific person to give you the necessary talking-to for you to listen and push you into the recovery mindset. Attending those sessions was one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made, and after just two sessions the psychologist said that he believed that I’d be OK now, but that the third session was still available if I ever needed it. I didn't think I was ready after just two sessions, but I continued to trust him because he had helped so many people before me who said that he had positively influenced their lives beyond measure. Since then I’ve encountered many issues, which before I would’ve run straight back to him for that third session - I wouldn’t have believed that I’d manage to overcome the problems without guidance, especially if it was offered to me on a plate. However, I knew that if I ever needed that third session, it would have to about an issue that I had no idea how to deal with, and so, with that knowledge, even though it was particularly tough at times, I’ve managed to tackle countless of obstacles with the confidence that I'm more than capable of getting through them. The psychologist wanted me to be a fighter, he wanted my mind to become a warrior, full of courage and bravery - he wanted me to fight and know that emotions are normal, and therefore shouldn't be catastrophised by others or myself. I will forever be grateful to him for giving me the gift that was to kickstart the re-strengthening of my mind.


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