A letter to my 21 year old self

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With every passing year, my dear Mum is extremely prone to beautiful, profound and heartfelt messages about how extraordinary life is while also gently reminding me that it moves incredibly fast… blink, and you might just miss it.

I have to admit, I didn’t always believe her  when I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old, I always assumed she was being sentimental. In fact, I was almost hoping she was right. I couldn’t wait to get a full-time job to support my endless supply of cosmos and wardrobe second to none (Carrie Bradshaw may or may not have influenced this particular vision)

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I wanted out of university, studying was a chore and I wasn’t sure who I wanted to be just yet. I wanted to live alone, in a city flat filled with music, somewhere I could write and pour myself a drink at 9am just because I could. I wanted to go travelling on my own and be fully independent. I wanted to feel the warm sand wedged between my toes and fresh sea salt in my hair. I wanted everything yesterday and tomorrow couldn’t come quick enough, especially when it was a Thursday night and a Bacardi breezer was cheaper than a pack of chewing gum at the local night club ‘Nightspot’ 

*Blink*

One decade later, lying in my lap in the form of a red velvet cupcake jammed with glitter candles, is the concrete, unfathomable truth. Thirty one. How did I even get here?

As I blow my glistening birthday candles out in one, swift breath, I try to recall my last decade of memories, wishing I could rewind, press play and pause at the moments I wish I could live in forever. Some years a bundle of blur, yet some moments completely vivid.

The nights out, the nights in, the hysterical highs and the rock bottom lows. The moments you are so happy you think your heart might burst then the days you think your heart might break. Moments that seemed insignificant at the time, but even now, you can still feel the hot sun beating against your face, smell the sweet coconut oil dancing through the air and taste the watermelon Daquiri on your super sunburnt lips.


All those small moments that bring you to exactly where you are right this second. Where you were always meant to be.

Just to clarify, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my 20’s.

Partying till dawn, awful matching bowl hair cuts with my best friend, fancy dress theme for any occasion, rocking an over plucked brow while also sporting a boob tube and flat pumps to go to the local gym (Yes, this is fact – what was I THINKING?) 

Life was easy, old enough to know better but young enough to not care. Life was contemplating new shoes for the next gig line up or working out how I managed to come home from that night out with more money than I went out. 

I recently read an interesting article by super model Lily Cole who wrote her younger self a letter before she was scouted. The letter was filled with pointers, words of wisdom, tough love and self-love.

After discussing this subject at great length with my friends over a bottle of gin at 3am, we laughed and nodded approvingly at the answers provided. All completley different and unsuspecting. What advice or words would you give your 21-year-old self? The answers were deep, dignified and down right hilarious. The answers we didn’t have at the time and maybe didn’t need to know.

So, I thought I would share mine with you.

This is a letter to my 21-year-old self from my 31-year-old self.

I’m watching festival crowds scramble from the rain over a pipping hot Starbucks (yes, some things NEVER change) but I do come bearing some mind-blowing news for you.

You ready?

You’re not married. You’re not a millionaire. You don’t have kids or a puppy and you don’t own a car or a Vespa for that matter. You don’t have a job in publishing, photography or at a travel magazine.

You do have the best family and friends, you do have incredible, unconditional love, you do have a cosy flat to call home and you have a job you really like for the first time, um, ever.

Now, you won’t want to change a single thing. Every choice, every path, every turn, every bump along the way has made you, well, you.

But, I want to give you this letter. Little things I want you to know, little reassurances that everything works itself out in the end. I know right now, you might not believe me and you can be incredibly self-righteous but try to listen, ok?

Ahemmmm…

1. Right now, you’re out celebrating your 21st worrying about how patchy the tan on your legs look, how many freckles you have and how you’re having a bad fringe day. STOP. You are beautiful and looks are only skin deep. Get out the bog and go dance to your favourite Arctic Monkeys song, now!

2. Learn to love YOU… know your worth, treat yourself with the respect and love you deserve. #selflove

3. It’s totally OK to put yourself first. You have to learn to say no. It sounds tough, right? You will never please everyone, it will take you years to learn this but it’s a fact.

4. Enjoy your own company, you’ll grow to love it and need it. 

5. Please, do NOT use that home hair die… that golden brown WILL, I repeat will, turn your hair full on black. Ekkkkkk. 

6. You’ll get to see the world and travel… it’s everything you imagined and more. You will learn so much about you. Write down every memory – you’ll want to remember everything!

7. Mum is (usually) always right! Try to listen – she knows what she’s talking about and has your best interests at heart.

8. As each birthday passes, you’ll realise how small you are in this huge, incredible and magically mysterious world. Make it count.

9. It’s never too early to start investing in some good skincare or actually washing your face properly after a night out! Look after your skin and your skin will look after you.

10. Live in the present. Stop worrying about yesterday, you can’t change it. Stop worrying about tomorrow, it’s not happened yet.

11. Soooooo… don’t put that veet for legs on your face, ok? OK? #burnmarks #redmoustache #notpretty #whytho

12. Be kind to everyone, you never know what kind of battles they are fighting.

13. Wear your brace retainer… for the love of god!

14. Don’t be afraid to speak out when you have too, even if your voice is trembling.

15. You’re sometimes a little weird. You’re sometimes a little different. Don’t ever change YOU or try to be someone else.

16. It’s totally ok to make mistakes.

17. You’ll learn so much about the world, people, cultures, politics… always stay interested and help those you can. 

18. Work hard. Keep your head down.

19. Breathe when it all gets too much. It’s OK to not be OK sometimes.

20. Keep hugging, loving and smiling.

21. Boys can be assholes, stay strong and stubborn. Enjoy being single and one day, someone will sweep you off your feet (or get you really drunk, salsa dance you into a frenzy and look at you like no-one else ever has)

Oh, and please lay off that tequila – you may or may not have alcohol poisoning for the next two days.

To the next ten….

Love always,

Ash ❤️ 

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Turning 30

30. Big 3-0. THIRTY. 3 decades.

If someone was to ask me then, what 30 year old me would be doing now, I would have said that I’d probably be married with kids, possibly a small dog or three, living in the city… or maybe I’ll move to New York or Paris! I’ll have enough money to work for only 6 months a year and travel the rest! That, was my understanding of where I would be at 30. To be honest, I thought of it as a bracket I didn’t want to be ticking my age group off as. I clearly hadn’t heard of inflation and thought money grew on trees.

My 20’s.

Circa 2006, I vividly remember having a haircut to rival Rod Stewart and a polka dot neck scarf I would wear so tight, who needed bourjois blusher? Blazers and boob tubes were all the rage and I had one in every colour. My early 20’s, I can honestly say are some of my favourite memories. I spent most of my time with friends, habitually frolicking around local clubs and frequenting bars for the cheapest deal on a long vodka, not thinking twice about walking a mile further to get the best deals on a pitcher of cheeky vimto.

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The girls and I thought we knew it all… and some more. Lip gloss, check. Orange palm from OTT tanning, check. Side fringe, check. £10 for the night out and coming home with some change for a chippy, check.

Parading around town dressed up for any occasion was a frequent occurrence. And when I say any, I mean ANY. Sailor for your birthday you say? Greek goddess for a house warming? Why not! Holiday to Portugal – let’s wear matching florescent tutu skirts! (I mean, we did get quite a lot of attention from the locals, for all the wrong reasons!)

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My worst faux pas, had to be the time the girls and I casually hired a limo take us to Glasgow and my Moulin Rouge theme was verging nudity, thank god our hi tech cameras then consisted of a £3 job throwaway from Semi-chem!

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Tennis player… if you hadn’t guessed already.

I was earning money and BOY was I spending it. Topshop was my weakness. Every weekend, I would run to my best friend’s house and we would raid each other’s wardrobe before we went out on the Saturday night to the local ‘nightclub’ (when I say nightclub, I mean a small sticky floor with mirrored walls – but wow, did we LOVE that place!) We sometimes, on the odd occasion, raided my mums – I still to this day have pictures of us hanging off each other sporting dresses from ‘Wallis’ or ‘M & S’ god forbid anyone was to know (excluding my mum – who often found items of clothing mysteriously reappeared in her room sporting new cigarette burns and red cola cube stains.) I wished away a majority of my earlier birthdays in our old haunt, secretly wishing there was more to life than swaying to Journey while washing it down with tequila rose.

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And so on the early 20’s progressed, moving in with one of my best friends. Two, single, independent women, moving to the bright lights of Armadale, a cosy 2 bed house… the world was our oyster! We thought we were adults. We lived off our emergency heating most days and ate cous cous or cereal for dinner. I think I laughed like a mad woman most days while I watched our lives pan out in front of us, the mishaps, the silliness, the hangovers, the uncooked chicken. We once managed to lock ourselves out after a night out in Glasgow. Cue us running through our neighbour’s garden (with CCTV that we were blissfully unaware of!) Me, trying to jump over the 6ft fence and getting stuck while said neighbour runs out with a hammer and a baseball bat to ‘do us in’ with Julie hiding in the bushes somewhere. We bonded with the neighbour after that incident. We laughed we would always live together and that really does feel like yesterday.

From flat adventures to travelling. My mid-twenties were my prime travelling years. I turned 26 as I was heading home from my time away and remember my mum saying it was time for me to get back to reality. So, I moved to rent a flat in Edinburgh and booked a flight with the girls to Ibiza. Ibiza is reality, right?

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While we were there, I remember feeling out the loop. Not down with the cool kids. We clearly missed the memo on the bumbags – but for the first time, I really didn’t care. I also remember, myself and the girls talking about how we felt ‘old’. And THAT, my friends, was the first time I genuinely worried about turning 30! Someone did mention we looked too old to be in Amnesia… cue defense mode and writing him off as clearly being on hallucinogenics.

My 29th birthday.

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What? Wait a minute… but, I was only 21 like 2 seconds ago? On my birthday last year, I had a shiver when my Dad brought it to my attention… that it was my LAST year in my twenties (like I didn’t know that, thanks!)

From then, it lurked in the back of my mind, just like when Donald Trump was running for President, it was there, but you don’t think it’ll ever really HAPPEN, or anytime soon for that matter. It wasn’t clear just what was round the corner but that number put the fear of death inside me. Saggy skin? Sunken eyes? No bladder control and puffy ankles? Verbal diarrhoea, cat lady and wrinkles?

OH GOD.

And before I actually had a clue what was going on, 2 jobs, a flat, a full year later and BAM. I was 30.

I woke up to a FaceTime with my family while in Dubrovnik. Before answering, I caught a glimpse of my slightly pink, 30 year old self staring back at me. But, wait a minute. I looked the same. Infact, some might say my hair looks better now than when I was in my early 20’s. Also, my makeup skills have flourished, the ‘clown’ look is so 2007. My skin has small lines but they are laughter I’ve had over the last 10 years that I would never change. I’m a lot more confident now than I was when I was 20. I have a home, it might not be a house in the city but it’s a flat filled with love. I have a dog… he may only be a door stopper but he’s a dog. Felicity the fern may not be a baby, but she’s a responsibility. Don’t water her for 2 weeks and she may start to cry!

I still feel 20 at heart. The lines on my face may run deeper, but that’s because they have a better story to tell. 30 feels no different to any other birthday (well, I did get treated to a weekend in Croatia, but hey, that could happen every year right?!) I had a kick ass time at Hemma, with my kick ass friends, playing kick ass beer pong and feeling pretty lucky that over those 10 years… I’ve made some pretty amazing friends in the process.

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All in all. For any of my friends or bloggers or anyone that are currently worrying about age, how you look, who you’ll become and if you’ll have it all sussed out by 30? Don’t. The best is yet to come and a number does not define us. It’s all relative. It’s knowing yourself and not worrying what the world will think of you. It’s learning that it happens to us all, embrace every second and LIVE it.