This week I turned the big 3-0! And seeing as I'm being asked quite a lot about it, I thought I would try and sum up a little of how I feel in a blog post. It's obviously difficult to concentrate my life leading up until now into a few short paragraphs but I wanted to touch on a few things I've learnt and how I've changed. So how DO I feel about turning thirty? Pretty good actually! It's a massive cliché but with each year that's gone by I've learnt a little more about myself and have grown in confidence. I feel quite satisfied by what I've achieved and my life as it is. I have my dream career as a full time artist. I'm a wife to a lovely husband (which still feels much too grown up!) We now own our very own home which would of been unbelievable to me a few years ago and I absolutely love living by the sea here in Hastings. It's felt like it's been a very long struggle to get here but I can finally say that I'm happy! In fact, I'm the happiest I've ever been.
I felt like the majority of my 20's was spent desperately floundering around trying to find my place in the world. I'm not sure being young and carefree is all it's cracked up to be! Sure there are a lot of fun, boozy late nights out but there was also a lot of uncertainty, pressure and rejection. I've always been a very driven person. I'm naturally someone who needs a goal to work towards so as soon as I left education and it was time to find a career I felt completely lost and lacked purpose. I compared myself to my peers, who were all beginning their exciting careers when I was struggling to even find an unpaid internship. What was wrong with me? Was I really that useless? After a while I started to believe I was. I lacked confidence anyway, so being repeatably turned down for jobs was pretty soul destroying. Most of the time I didn't even get a reply. I felt an enormous sense of pressure to succeed and to make something of myself and I had an overwhelming feeling that I was failing at it.
I got stuck in a trap of working in retail, as it was all the experience I had and I needed to pay the bills. The pay was crap and the hours were crap. I felt undervalued - both by the companies I worked for and the public - and each day I worked behind a till I felt a little more dead inside. So after a stint of various jobs I hated and trying out different creative outlets on the side - potato printing, taxidermy and paper pom poms to name just a few! I stumbled upon Pet Portraiture! After feeling undervalued in jobs for so long, it meant so much to feel like something I had made was making an impact and that my skill was being appreciated. I finally had something to throw myself into and work towards again. It's not been easy, but I've learnt that perseverance is key. I have faith that it will all work out if I just keep showing up and making the work.
My relationship with my body I'm ashamed to say has so far been a pretty typical one of a young woman. Mainly wishing I was thinner or more toned or obsessing over my weight. Now I'm approaching my 30's I feel way more accepting of my body, comfortable in my own skin and have finally started to realise there is way more to life than how much you bloody weigh! I look back at pictures of myself from my early 20's and wonder what the hell I was worrying about anyway! As long as I feel fit and healthy I usually feel okay in myself - although there are of course days when I have to remind myself to be kind! Becoming vegan two years ago has massively helped as I'm so much healthier now and I have a lot less guilt surrounding food. Becoming vegan has made me so much more empathetic and understanding of how our actions have an effect on the planet. It's one of the best things I've ever done!
Another huge positive for me has been coming off hormonal contraception and although this is a very personal subject it's something I feel strongly about. I first went on the pill when I was 18. No doctors ever really explained any of the side effects to me and I honestly think that because hormonal contraceptives are so successful at preventing unwanted pregnancies that little research has been done on the side effects and therefore people are not being warned about how dramatic they can be. I struggled with depressive episodes for years and I always put them down to external factors - i.e bereavement, job stresses or house moves - or the fact depression runs on both sides of my family. As I was only a teenager when I first went on the pill, my body was still developing and changing so I didn't really know myself well enough to see what a huge effect they were having on my mental health. After years on Cerazette (a hormonal pill you take everyday), I switched to the hormonal implant and that was the final straw. I felt like there was an alien in my arm, slowly leaking it's poison into me. My skin broke out worse than ever before, I was paranoid, irrational and even suicidal. Now I've been off hormonal contraception for around 3 years, I can see just how much of a negative impact they had on my well being. Of course, I'm not saying that the pill caused my depression entirely but it definitely made my moods much more extreme.
My skin also completely cleared up after years of painful, cystic acne. I'd experienced the odd pimple as a teenager, but that was nothing compared to this. I couldn't leave the house without piling make up on to try to hide it and there were times I looked in the mirror and just wanted to cry. I remember during a particularly bad flare up I bumped into someone I hadn't seen in years and I honestly wanted the ground to swallow me up, I felt so self conscious and disgusting. Getting rid of it became an an obsession. I tried herbal remedies, prescriptions from the doctor, every over the counter cream or scrub. It sounds so daft now but I'd be eaten up with jealousy over peoples skin - on T.V, in magazines, my friends, people in the street. Now I can see a few little wrinkles forming here and there, but I can't tell you what a relief it is not to have bad skin anymore! I'll take the wrinkles over that any day!
Relationships / Friendships
This past year has really made me realise that people must actually like me?! I definitely suffer with Imposter syndrome which not only affects my work but extends to my friendships as well. I have an inner monologue that loves to tell me what a horrible person I am and that my friends don't really like me. But things like my hen do, our wedding in May and the surprise 30th birthday party my husband organised last weekend are obvious proof, PROOF that my friends genuinely care! It's been much easier to tell my inner critic to shut the hell up!
I'm not going to lie, I've found making new friends tricky as I've gotten older. We moved to Hastings not knowing anyone, I work from home and Ollie still commutes up to London. I really thought it would bother me but to be honest it hasn't too much. I have such an amazing bunch of friends who I talk to all the time and often come down to visit, so it really hasn't been an issue. It's also meant that Ollie and I have spent so much more quality time together which has brought us closer than ever. I'm slowly getting to know people in the area now, these things just take time.
I think Ollie and I's relationship is fairly rare, as we've been together since we were 18. This is SO cheesy but he really is my best friend. We've constantly been in each others pockets since we first got together but I never get sick of him! I honestly love that we've been together such a long time and that we're the same age - although he loves to remind me he's three months older! We've grown up together and been there for each other through so many different milestones. I'm so excited for this next chapter in our lives together, and think our thirties will be our best years yet!
23 year old babies! Ollie looks like such a sleaze in this photo I love it.
Ollie and I on our wedding day earlier this year.
For the first time in my life I'm not frightened of my future! I'm excited about the art I'm going to make, the skills I'm going to learn and the opportunities that may present themselves. I'm also very much looking forward to settling into married life and maybe one day having a family.
So what advice would I give myself at 20? Mainly, just to keep bloody going! Don't worry so much about the future and don't be afraid to take risks. Everything I have today is from trusting in my (slightly impulsive) decisions. Just keep preserving with your art and at friendships and relationships you value. It'll all work out I promise! Oh and you don't have to pretend to like clubbing. It's totally fine to stay at home in your pyjamas....
If you would like to hear me chat in more depth about this topic listen to my 'Turning 30 Special!' episode of 'The Cute Life' podcast here!