The 30 Best Things I Did Before 30

A Girl, A Style _ Best Things Before 30

Today is my birthday, which means I get to eat cake for breakfast, drink pink champagne and get spoiled by people I love. In the year since I reached my 30s, in thinking about what I hope to achieve this decade, I’ve been reflecting on the best things I’ve done so far (and the lessons I’ve learned). Here are my favourites:

Fell in love. No explanation required, but without a doubt one of my favourite things yet.

Travelled the world. I’ve seen the sun set over the pyramids of Giza, climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, seen the cherry blossoms in Japan, slept under the stars in the red dessert in Australia, visited temples in Thailand, explored the souks in Marrakech, swum with rainbow-coloured fish in the Great Barrier Reef, and walked through a snowy Red Square at nightfall. I am so grateful for the adventures I’ve had seeing this incredible world of ours, and can’t wait to keep exploring.

Graduated from University. 3 degrees, 8 years, and countless essays later, I am thankful for the knowledge, experiences and life lessons I came away with.

Worked overseas. Half way through University, I went to Washington to intern with a Senator on Capitol Hill. It remains one of the best experiences I had, and was the catalyst for my career in my politics.

Moved abroad. Leaving behind people I love and moving my whole life to the other side of the world (with nothing but 2 suitcases and my boyfriend by my side) was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but also one of the best. I see the world from a new perspective, made wonderful new friends, and had opportunities and adventures I never would have otherwise.

Learned to accept and value myself. Like anyone, I am certainly flawed and wish I could change some things about myself, but I’ve learned to make peace with my flaws, appreciate my differences and make the most of my strengths.

Built a circle of friends and loved ones I treasure. I am so lucky to count some incredible people all around the world as my friends and family, and try to make sure they know how much I adore them.

Stretched my talents. I’m still horrible at karaoke and team sports, but I’m grateful I learned to tap dance, took ballet classes, performed Shakespeare and trained in classical piano.

Earned my career. By no means do I have it all figured out, but I’m proud I worked hard to build a career I value.

Ran for Parliament. Even if you know you’re going to come in second place, it’s pretty wonderful to be a part of the democratic process and see your name on a ballot paper.

… And drafted a law. I’ve done many things that I’m proud of, but negotiating a piece of crime legislation through Parliament is up there.

Volunteered. I’ve learned that helping a worthy cause is one of the most valuable uses of my time, and helping others always helps me get perspective on what really matters.

Invested. I don’t yet have a mortgage or own a house, but I’m pleased that I have savings, investments and no debt.

… And learned how to spend my money. When I first moved out of home and started earning money, my approach to shopping was more about quantity than quality. But as I now know the reverse to be true, I know when to save my money and when it’s ok to spend a month’s rent on a bag (hint: only if it’s something you’ll keep for a decade).

Achieved goals. Whether major life goal or small achievement, it’s an incredible feeling when you reach what you set out to achieve.

… And learned it’s OK if life doesn’t work out as planned. When I was 20, I mapped out my next ten years in silly detail, but life sometimes has a way of taking you in a completely different direction. And that’s definitely OK.

Learned to say ‘yes’. Because sometimes the best adventures happen when you’re willing to depart from your comfort zone and accept the opportunity.

… And also ‘no’. I will always have an urge to please people, but it’s important to know when to politely decline that which does not bring joy.

Started this blog. Unquestionably one of my favourite pursuits yet. I’m eternally grateful for the people I’ve met, the adventures I’ve had and the opportunities which have presented themselves as a result of this blog.

Appreciate small pleasures. Perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned not to place all my emphasis on those big life events, and instead to also make time for those small pleasures (buying myself flowers, skipping lunch to have afternoon tea with friends, a spontaneous kiss or a trip to the theatre) which make every day a little more wonderful.

What are some of the best things you’ve learned or experienced? Please do share your wisdom below.

Love, Miss B xx

 

10 Ways to Find Balance in Your Life

Hello my lovelies! Firstly, I must begin with an apology for my prolonged absence the past few weeks; anyone who visits often will have noticed my inactivity on here and I’d hate you to think I’m neglecting you all.

The truth is, no matter much I view the world through my own rose-tinted lens and actively seek out pleasure each day, sometimes circumstances can be beyond our control and life can get a little stressful. The dichotomy of my serious political day job and my evening fashion, writing and blogging pursuits are not, I’ll admit, a common combination, but I love the balance of the two and generally merrily juggle each side-by-side. But right now, my day job (to which I am nothing but loyal) is taking a little* more of my time and energy than normal, so other pursuits, by necessity, had to receive less attention.

But because life is rarely constant (and really, wouldn’t it be boring if it were), I’ve been reminding myself of a few important lessons  (and learning some others) about finding balance. So when life throws you a curveball or things get hectic, here are 10 ways to find a sense of calm and happiness amidst the stress:

1. Get organised. When things get hectic, it can be all too easy to try and avoid dealing with the situation (a fast route to chaos!). Instead, take stock and neutralise the situation as best as you can by getting organised. Break things into smaller, manageable chunks and set daily ‘to do’ lists you can work towards each day. As humans, we are naturally spurred on by success, so it is immensely satisfying to tick things off like a series of mini-accomplishments.  Re-assess each day until things calm down, and take control of any situation before it escalates.

2. Set limits. Recently, I found myself working 60 hour weeks as the norm in my day job which, after travel, sleep and basic daily tasks, left just one hour to do everything else I enjoy each day (which explains why things got a little quite around here…). Needless to say, I was tired, stressed, mentally exhausted and frankly un-productive, and realised that running myself down was helping no one. Because everyone can only be stretched so much, I’m now making it a rule to set limits to what I can reasonably achieve in a day be as strict with those boundaries.

3. Switch off and take time to recharge. When I leave the office each day, I put some happy tunes on my ipod and use the journey home to literally switch from ‘work’ to ‘home’ mode. I’m trying to find moments, no matter how brief, to recharge with some peace and quiet; a good book, a yoga session or wind-in-my-hair bike ride, a favourite movie or a non-essential activity that makes me smile (because no one needs afternoon tea with girlfriends, but oh how fun it is!) If you’re not getting enough ‘happy’ time in your schedule, then literally block out some time (and stick to it!) in your diary each day or week to do something just for you the same way you would any other important appointment.

4. Make peace with the word ‘no’; embrace ‘yes’. When you’re already over-stretched, it’s entirely acceptable to put yourself first and say ‘no’ to absolutely any invitation you’re not enthused about or eliminate things which add little value or pleasure to your life. One of the great joys of being a grown-up is that we’re allowed to say ‘no’ if we want to, and not feel guilty because of it. Conversely, life sometimes throws up wonderful opportunities at the most unexpected moments, so recognise the surprise chances when they come along and say ‘yes’ to a few new things outside of your normal routine. They might just lead you to something wonderful!

5. Be kind to yourself. When stress kicks in, your body goes into ‘emergency’ mode and releases a high dose of cortisol (the ‘stress’ hormone) which, over longer periods, can have detrimental effects on your cognitive processes, weight and metabolism, immune system, skin and just about every other important bodily function. Be sure to counteract the effects by being as good to yourself as you can; eat properly (that means vitality-boosting, nutrient-rich meals rather than reaching for the sugary ‘stress snacks’), get enough rest (because no one can function properly when they’re tired and run-down), make time for your grooming rituals (because when you look good, you’ll feel good), get some exercise (happy endorphins and stress-release), and generally treat yourself with kindness.

6. Nurture an optimistic outlook. Sometimes when things get really hectic, optimism doesn’t flow as freely. But here’s the thing: while optimism seems to come more naturally to some than others, positivity is still a choice. Actively choose to view things more optimistically, and it will be easier to recognise difficult situations as an opportunity to grow and learn a new life lesson, rather than the disaster a pessimist may perceive them to be.

7. Treat yourself to a few small pleasures. Sometimes, a bit of pampering does wonders for a stressed disposition. When things threaten to get too much, I book myself straight in for a massage (my ultimate stress relief), buy myself some cheering flowers, and indulge in a small treat I’ve been longing for. It needn’t be expensive, but it’s important to show yourself kind gestures when you need a little spirit-lifting.

8. Surround yourself with those who uplift you. Who we are is so often a reflection of the company we keep, so make sure that company truly makes you smile and encourages you to be the best version of you (here’s a secret: that person we all know who secretly wants you to fail to make themselves feel better? It’s totally okay to let them go, guilt-free). If you’re having a particularly stressful week, make time to nurture your relationships and see someone you love or send a thoughtful note to a treasured friend.

9. Send out some love. Tell someone you adore just how much you appreciate them, send a surprise letter to a friend, help someone in need, pay a stranger a compliment or practise random acts of kindness. Doing something nice for others releases seretonin (the hormone responsible for feelings of bliss) in the brain, so you’ll feel happier while making someone else’s day too.

10. Feel gratitude. When feeling overwhelmed, focus on all the wonderful things you have already achieved and already have and those positives will in turn appreciate in value. Be grateful for the wonderful things – big or small – that already fill your life and you’ll find a deeper sense of happiness even when things around you are stressful.

How do you find serenity and balance when things get stressful?

Love, Miss B xx

* translation: a lot!

30 Things to do Before I’m 30, Part 2


Regular readers may remember the ’30 Things To Do Before I’m 30′ post I did for my 29th birthday back in February. Six months on, I’m still joyfully working my way through the list and am well on my way to checking off all thirty.

Because it remains one of my most popular posts to date and because so many of you emailed to say that it inspired you to make your own list of goals for this year, I thought I’d use the six month mark as a timely excuse to revisit the list (as much for my own motivation as yours).

Some things I’ve already checked off (visiting Japan during cherry blossom season – although we sadly missed the full blossom explosion by two days), a long weekend in the Cotswolds, exploring new parts of London each month (the image above is from my first trip to Columbia Road Flower Market), going to Wimbledon (an English must), attending the Olympics (it would have been rude not to), and spending a whole summer night at a Cambridge May Ball (unquestionably the most gloriously decadent party I’ve ever been to) and more.

I only shared ten things from my list last time, so here’s a few more that I hope might inspire you all too.

11) Do something that makes me feel like an excited small child (in my case, this was a trip to Tokyo Disneyland; I practically squealed with glee when I walked through those gates and felt all my childhood excitement from trips to Disneylad with my parents come rushing back)

12) Go to a music festival (I’m off to my very first one as I write this!)

13) Aim to end the year the healthiest I’ve ever been

14) Send thoughtful and sweet parcels and hand-written letters to my friends around the world often (because getting wonderful post is a delight)

15) Book in for the most opulent afternoon tea in town (I went to the Berkeley in London with my friend Dearne for their fashion-themed Pret-a-Portea)

16) Learn a new skill (I spent a weekend learning to knit in Cornwall)

18) Make the most of the Cambridge summer with hours spent riding my bike and having lazy picnics by the river as punts float down the Cam

19) Go to at least two galleries and museums I’ve never visited

20) Go ice skating outdoors at Christmas (a childhood fantasy I’m still yet to indulge)

Have you made your own list? I’d love to hear how you’re all going!

Love, Miss B xx

 

30 Things To Do Before I’m 30

As today is my birthday (yay for cake and candles and birthday love!), this marks the first day of the last year of my twenties.

I firmly live by the motto that life is mostly what we make it. For me, a life well lived means pursuing big dreams and placing an emphasis on daily small pleasures along the way. It saddens me greatly to hear people say “I always wanted to do X but never got around to it…” or “you’re so lucky to do that! I wish I didn’t have X holding me back so I could too”. So I say, stop dreaming and start doing.

I’m not suggesting you all go out and quit your job and move to another country tomorrow with no backup plan, but if there are dreams you genuinely want to pursue, why not start finding a way to make them happen today? If you don’t know where to begin, just put pen to paper and making a list of what it is you want; maybe that simple step will give you the motivation you need to make those dreams a reality.

For me, I’ve decided to take this milestone of being a year from entering a new decade to make a list of 30 things to do before I turn 30, and attempt to tick them all over over the next 365 days (in no particular order). Some are grand lifelong dreams, others a continuation of things I’m already enjoying, others silly and frivolous but happiness-inducing all the same. I won’t bore you with the whole list of 30, but here are 10 items on my list I’m particularly looking forward to:

1. Set in motion concrete plans to live in Paris for six months (though perhaps more realistically, one month). Rent an apartment, enrol in intensive language classes during the day, and spend the afternoons exploring and experiencing the city I’ve fantasised about forever.

2. Be able to hold an adult conversation in another language (see point 1).

3. Visit Japan during cherry blossom season.

4. Learn how to make macarons (probably my favourite food group, but I’ve always been too scared to make my own).

5. Spend a summery weekend in the glorious English Cotswolds.

6. See a Shakepeare play in Straford-upon-Avon (slightly random, but oh so wonderful).

7. Have just one more all-night party at a fantastical Cambridge May Ball (the kinds of parties so elaborate, they belong in a Fitzgerald novel).

8. Visit the Mediterranean for a delicious dose of azure waters and Vitamin D.

9. Work up the courage to begin pitching stories to the serious glossy magazines.

10. Spend at least one weekend a month properly exploring London (can you believe I’ve never been to Columbia Road?!)

What grand plans do you dream of yourself? I hope I’ve inspired at least some of you to make a few of them happen this year!

Love, Miss B xx

Edit: Read Part 2 of this post here