Everyone has those nights where they lie awake and go back over things they did maybe last week, last year or even last decade and question what would have happened if they’d done things differently.
If maybe they’d taken a leap of faith, or had confidence in themselves or given something a chance or acted for once in their life like a god damn cool girl.
But there are also a different kind of mistake or life decision, the ones we’re glad we made. The ones that taught us more about ourselves, about the world, about our friends. The one’s that help shape us for the better.
So here are a few of my fave life mistakes…
After filling out 35375 job applications for graduate jobs in the media industry and hearing nothing back, I gave up and applied for a trainee estate agent role. And so in July 2011 I found myself moving into a flat share just outside Richmond on my own and working 8am to 7pm, six days a week. It was abysmal. I was cripplingly lonely, exhausted and spent my days cold-calling people and trying to avoid parking tickets.
After six weeks I jacked it in and moved home, and got in *quite* a lot of trouble for wasting money and acting recklessly and impulsively. But I knew my heart was in writing. I knew I was destined for bigger things, and the determination to prove to everyone around me that I could do it meant that I worked my butt off to make my dreams happen. Just eight short months later I was trotting into the LOOK office with a takeout coffee as an Online Assistant, and I never looked back.
Not long after my first big break-up I decided to go all Carrie Bradshaw in the Sex And The City movie and dyed my blonde hair brown.
Might have been kinda cute had I not decided to enlist the help of a few gal pals and use a packet dye. It was so patchy and grim that we had to do an emergency run to Sainsbury’s for a second box and they v kindly decided to refer to me as ‘rat dog’ for at least a year after. Sweet, eh?
I finished uni with all the usual tuition fee debts, but I also managed to rack up a casual £5k in overdraft debts across a couple of bank accounts. Turns out Primark shopping sprees and swanning off to Magaluf twice wasn’t so kind on the ol’ bank balance.
Anyway, it has taken me years to finally pay it all off. That’s years and years of lying awake at night worrying about it and years and years of feeling like a failure at being a grown-up. It’s taught me a heck of a lot about budgeting but also enforced the idea that nothing is worth spontaneously sticking on a credit card because lol money stress is the devil.
After two years at LOOK and lots of changes within the digital team, I realised I was no longer enjoying it the way I had when I’d first started. I was living on my own in a studio flat with Rudey and had no savings to fall back on, but one day, whilst sat in a training session, I thought about handing in my notice and as soon as it entered my head, I just knew. I knew I had to do it as soon as I got back to my desk. I needed out and I needed out right now.
Whilst everyone else seemed to worry about how I’d survive, I felt free and empowered and excited. I knew I’d be OK. That I’d make it work however I needed to. And a few weeks later my blog took off and I was offered a job at Metro.co.uk off the back of it.
It taught me that sometimes your gut instinct is your most powerful route to happiness.
At a sixth form parents evening my form tutor basically told me that if I carried on living the way I was (seeing my friends and my then-boyfriend every evening and working Saturday and Sunday at JJB Sports – do not laugh ok, gurl gotta make a living), then I wouldn’t get into university.
I walked out of the room crying and moved out that night. I’m stubborn and independent and hate admitting I’m wrong. I like taking chances. But mostly I like proving to people that I don’t have to do things their way.
I went to live with my (now ex) boyfriend’s family and it was hard, but it was brilliant too, because I felt so in control of myself.
And yes, I made it to university. Even if it was by the skin of my teeth.
At the start of year nine we were put into sets for science and I ended up in a top set class without a single friend. I hated it so much that I cried to my tutor (yes there was a lot of crying in front of teachers as a teenagers…) and he said he’d put in a special application to have me moved.
Fast forward a week and we were in groups for some sort of experiment (probs involving melting my pen in a Bunsen Burner) and I started chatting to two girls. We then made plans to get the train to Worthing after school together and hang out in McDonald’s and eat Chicken Premiers. Those two girls are Tilly and Tyler, who are my very best friends.
I didn’t realise I was unhappy with my old school friends until I made new school friends and they completely transformed my school experience. I’m so glad I met them.
Despite the fact my ideal Saturday night now involves a blanket, tea and board games, I haven’t always been quite so, ahem, reserved. I partied and I drank, a lot. I put myself in some awful situations. I’d drink to the point of being paralytic way more often than I’d care to admit, and I look back at that girl now and just want to give her a hug.
I was desperate to feel confident, to be the ‘fun one’, to be cool, to be loved, to be more than I thought I was, when actually, I was already enough. I drank and I partied to fill a void I didn’t know existed.
But, there is a flip side. Firstly, this girl is a queen at knowing her limits and her hangover cures, but secondly, I feel like I’ve really, really got that part of life out of my system. Oh and thirdly, I now know all the words to all of Pitbull’s songs, so there’s that.
Photos by Chloe Plumstead.