25 lessons I've learnt by 25

By Paula-Ann Smit

25 lessons I’ve learnt by 25

25 life lessons - Paula Ann Smit

Our co-founder Paula-Ann Smit shares her musings after 25 revolutions around the sun.

1. Your weight doesn’t define you

The first memory I have of worrying about my weight was in Grade 6, before a pool party. How ridiculous is that? Society has a lot of work to do surrounding the impact it has on body image. I’ve gone from scrutinising my body, stuffing it with junk and starving it, to respecting it and appreciating it. I still have a long way to go, but I now know the importance of loving my body, whatever it’s going through.

2. Save for a rainy day

Because rainy days will come; enter global pandemic. A rule of thumb is usually three months’ salary, which I find impossible with car payments, student debt and monthly rent. I have, however, learned to live within my means, to say no to outings I can’t afford, and that keeping up with appearances is for the rich and stupid. Save what you can and put it somewhere you won’t be tempted to touch it – preferably in an account that will reward you, not under your mattress.

3. Take care of your skin

To quote Baz Luhrmann, WEAR SUNSCREEN. Where are the days of spending all day on the beach, getting sunburnt, and not worrying because the red will be gone by tomorrow? Now my poor skin gets a dark spot at the mere mention of the sun, not to mention the creases starting to make an appearance, and of course, the serious health risks linked to too much sun. If I could go back to my teenage years I would stop sleeping with makeup on, stop picking at every pimple (curse you, scarring) and boy would I drink a boatload of water.

4. It only matters what the right people think of you

It took me a long time to stop worrying about what people think of me, and honestly, I’m often still guilty of this. However, the following question has saved me many sleepless nights: who are they to you? I’d much rather worry about making my parents and siblings proud than worry about the rude comment from a stranger who I likely won’t see again. You don’t like everyone, and not everyone will like you.

5. Be part of the solution

There are many injustices in the world: racism, sexism, poverty. Feeling sad or powerless about these issues won’t make a difference. Instead, call out racism and support black-owned businesses. Challenge the patriarchy and support your community’s outreach programmes. These are obviously all superficial ‘solutions’ to deeply-rooted issues in society, but doing nothing just won’t do.

6. Call your parents and grandparents

That is if you like them and they aren’t inherently bad people. If that’s the case, make time in your schedule for a catch-up sesh with moms and pops, especially now that you might not be able to see them as often.

7. Let go of toxic people

Ever feel worse after a coffee date with a specific person? Stop seeing them. Unfollow and unfriend hateful people on social media, and stop obsessing over ‘influencers’ who make you feel worse about yourself. It isn’t always possible to spend time with the people we truly love and adore, and I won’t be wasting time on people who steal my sunshine.

8. Don’t quit just because you’re bad at something

Ask anyone who’s had the unfortunate experience of playing 30 Seconds with me; I’m extremely competitive. Unfortunately also very lazy, thus if I wasn’t naturally good at something I would simply stop doing it. Goodbye ballet, piano, hockey and guitar. Gosh, how I wanted to play the guitar. I thought I’d be able to teach myself but grew bored and impatient. Now I’m trying my hand at gardening. One plant has died but I vow to not quit.

9. Women should support women

If movies would stop depicting women as always having feuds with each other, that would be great. Twitter threads are the best places to look for women uplifting each other: “Girl, I love your hair.” “Thanks, love, your skin is glowing!”. Yes, this is what I’m talking about. Congratulate career successes, give advice when asked, and for goodness sake say where you bought the cute top.

10. Stop and smell the roses

I’ve spent most of my young adult life studying and worrying about finding a job, now I’m here and what if this is it? Perhaps this is a quarter-life crisis? I refuse. My headstone cannot just say “She worked, she ate, she died.” Make time for friends, hobbies and adventures.

11. Sort out your sleep cycle

And please let me know when you figure out how to do this. I would like to enter my 30s without bags under my eyes.

12. Take care of your mental health

Awareness surrounding mental health has increased so much since I was younger, which makes me hopeful for the future. Now I’m able to recognise the signs of anxiety I had when I was growing up, and now I know how to manage it.

13. Everyone has a backstory

I try to remember this when someone flips me off in traffic or is rude in the coffee queue. On that note, I sincerely apologise to the girl who I was horrible to for drinking my coffee by mistake in 2017. It was mid-exam time and I really needed coffee. You’ll be happy to hear I’ve since become much nicer, hope you are doing well.

14. Stop acquiring stuff

I know certain things give you joy – I’ve heard of Marie Kondo. But anything that can go into the junk drawer shouldn’t find its way into your home in the first place. Once I stopped hoarding and started shopping more responsibly, my space made me so much happier. No clutter, no problem. Same goes for printing documents and hoarding these. Get digital, babe.

15.  Don’t read the comment section on Facebook

Life is exhausting, right? People are horrible, especially on the internet. Which is why I’ve started to pick my battles – and arguing with a Susan on social media won’t make the cut. Spare that energy for things that actually make you happy.

16. To study is a privilege

And knowledge is power. I wish I could go back to being a full-time student, cherish every moment of going to class and stop complaining about 8am classes. But who am I kidding; I’m not a morning person.

17.  It’s OK to be picky

Whether it is choosing who to spend time with, qualities you want in a partner, or your career hopes: your standards are your standards, and you don’t need to make excuses for what you want.

18. Not everyone wants the same thing

Some people dream of climbing the corporate ladder, while others were meant to be stay-at-home moms. One of these roles isn’t worth more than the other. If everyone wanted to be in finance you’d have a hella boring blog to read.

19. Sort out your digestive system

And eat fibre, my word. Also, drink more water, your skin will thank you.

20. Finish what you start

Even this blog post took much longer than anticipated because something else caught my attention. And that’s usually how it goes, just ask the around 50 other half-finished projects I thought were fun and brilliant at the time. Get it done, girl!

21. Find a balance

I’ve never had a healthy balance between work, hobbies, socialising and fitness. Maybe 2020 will be the year to figure it out; advice pending.

22.  Think before you speak

Not only when talking to or about others, but also when talking about yourself. You’d never tell your friend that she’s a fat pig, so why are you degrading your self-worth?

23.  Success has many faces

Some days success is getting a promotion at work, other days it’s just getting out of bed and doing the dishes. Celebrate small victories, especially when you’re going through a challenging time, and don’t compare yourself to others. Sure, their LinkedIn is shiny and impressive, but remember what we discussed at point 13.

24. Celebrate other people’s victories

Some people don’t like the idea of someone having a bit of sunshine – I’m sure this is deeply rooted in man’s need to survive, or whatever, but get over it. Be happy for people and move on

25.  You’ve made it this far

And baby, it can only get better from here. Be proud of your achievements, learn from your mistakes, and for goodness sake, don’t be so hard on yourself.