Life & Reflections

Me at 27 – tackling comparison and our view of success

happy birthday wrapping paper

Today is my birthday. And so the time has come to write up my summary of yet another rotation around the sun. Like the last one, it’s been a funny old year, hasn’t it? On reflection, there’s been more thinking less doing in the past 12 months. Here’s me at 27 with all my thoughts on how it went.

I started

In my last birthday summary, I shared that I had recently been offered a new job. Not long after my birthday I started that job and will soon be celebrating my first year.

Having recently moved back to London, and with Kaz just arriving too, it felt time for a new chapter. And it is strangely refreshing to have so much change in one go. Although I wouldn’t say I recommend doing it often, it’s a bit overwhelming!

Of course, a new job wasn’t without its oddities as my post on starting a new job remotely will confirm. This leads me nicely onto my next reflection…

I doubted

With a new job of course comes a certain amount of doubt. What if they don’t like me and think they made a mistake? What if I have no idea what I’m doing and make a fool of myself?

Nearly a year into this role, I can definitely say it’s going well. My colleagues are lovely and I think I’m doing a good job.

Despite that, such a big change after years in the same role had me wondering if I was making the right career choices, whether my abilities were what I thought they were.

My time with coach Alicia Kaye last year is ringing in my ears during bouts of self-doubt. It takes a lot of effort to give myself a pep talk and say “No, Suzy. Stop thinking this way!”. Doubting your whole self is a scary place to be. Moving on from that mindset is a long and arduous process of unlearning and relearning. There are still waves of doubt, everyone has bad days. But what do we have if we don’t have faith in ourselves?

Red tulip close up with tulip leaves behind

I tried

We all love a trier, don’t we?

In the past year, I tried a few different hobbies to get myself away from excessive screentime. Alongside reading more which I’ve continued to enjoy since my Me at 25 post, I’ve tried film camera photography, air dry pottery, knitting, and experimenting with cooking. OK, admittedly I’ve only just bought the knitting kit and haven’t yet dived into actually making anything, but still. I’m trying…

As for cooking, I’ve been trying new dishes, experimenting, and finding small ways to make tastier meals. It’s amazing what some exciting seasoning can do to spice up a simple veggie dish. This move has been a big part of being a vegetarian. Not content with the same meals on repeat, we’re seeing what does or doesn’t work while still making sure we have a fun time and a yummy meal at the end.

At this point in life, I feel I need to have a couple of solid dishes that I can rely on to be delicious and straightforward to make when in a pinch. And I think I’m getting there! If you’ve got any healthy, delicious meal ideas please do let me know.

large wooden knitting needles stuck into a ball of mustard yellow tarn

I persevered

In the last year, exercise and moving my body has felt like a chore. Working from home, nervous to rejoin the gym, a lack of social activities has left many of us feeling more sedentary. However, Kaz and I began doing a daily yoga session before work. And you know what? We stuck to it. To date, we’ve achieved over 170 sessions and 41 hours of yoga in the last year. Waaaay more than either of us anticipated, given our mutual track record for giving up.

Again, this is a small win from this year but one that neither of us thought would be possible given our track record for giving up easily. Through the Down Dog app we’ve moved from beginner 1 up to intermediate 1, and we’ve both felt a difference in what we can do through a session. I still can’t touch my toes on demand, but we’re getting closer. Plus, the feeling of stretching and focussed breathing is a great way to start the day.

fitness mats on floor

I celebrated

Just 13 days after my 27th birthday, Kaz turned 30. It wasn’t the birthday we’d hoped for. Big C cases in the UK were rapidly on the rise and we anxiously awaited the start dates of our new jobs. I had so hoped we could be in New Zealand for Kaz’s big day, but alas, the Kent coastline sufficed as we took ourselves for our first and hard-earned break in 10 months.

I also celebrated love. My brilliant big brother married the most wonderful person this summer. It was a truly special occasion that was so filled with joy. A postponed wedding after the year we’ve all had was just the reminder many of us needed that there is still so much to look forward to, that this pause in our lives won’t last forever. Even if it does feel like that from time to time.

Sunset over a grassy hill with trees on top as clouds part to reveal golden light

I compared

Not everything on this list is a positive one. Heck, we all know this year and a half has been less than perfect.

I compare myself to everyone, all the time.

I’m reaching a point where a lot of people my age are starting to move on to the next big life events. And that’s just not happening for me yet.

I know the lecture of “everyone goes at their own pace” is on the tip of your tongue, but it’s confusing to feel adrift in the sea of life. My adult life hasn’t really stayed still. Travelling, long distance relationships, and circumstances have left no real chance to settle down. I’ve always been on the go and feel that I’m far behind my peers as a result.

I’ve always felt the jolt of comparison with travel. Seeing people’s trips to new and exciting places that I would like to go. But that’s no big deal – I’ll get there eventually. Then came the occasional Big News announcements but nothing to be anything but happy about and still largely a minority of people in those positions.

And then, during lockdown, the world and his wife were getting pets. It sounds very specific but it’s something I really want from my future. So the pangs of jealousy twinged harder. And they started to buy properties. And move up in their careers. The comparison voice got louder.

Now, you’re thinking “but Suzy, you literally just talked about your new job – what is wrong with you?” – you’re right. But that’s the problem with comparison, it doesn’t matter how you’re doing. Your brain tells you that someone is always doing it better.

Throughout the last year, I compared my situation to everyone else’s. It felt amplified as life stood still and paradoxically continued at the same time. Now, I see people return to travel and I’ve come full circle. Dealing with travel envy again is one thing, but I’m trying to unlearn the habit of comparison in all areas of life and focus on me instead.

I waned

Breaks and time off from work have been few and far between in the last couple of years (don’t we all know it!). As such, I’ve felt increasingly worn out, and noticing signs of perhaps a time to pause and reflect on what really matters (read: not working ourselves silly).

To even have the chance to think this way is a huge privilege. And I am so lucky to be 1) employed and 2) cared for by my organisation. However, I can’t deny the sluggishness of my brain, the exhaustion from excessive screentime at the end of the week, and the instinctive urge to be literally anywhere else besides my desk/living room/dining room/1 bed flat.

Weekends are never enough to catch up on my already bad quality of sleep. Evenings are spent vegetating, struggling to muster the motivation and wash the dishes. These are not uncommon traits of someone working full time, I know. But the underlying drowsiness I feel is becoming more prevalent. It’s really impacted my hobbies and the pleasure I used to get from blog writing and photography. Those once joyful activities just feel like yet more screentime and I really lost my mojo.

A holiday won’t fix that. But boy, does a break away from it all sound like just the ticket to try! Luckily, as I publish this post we have taken ourselves off for a UK trip. I hope this short break will offer some R&R that is so desperately needed.

The moon at dusk with wisps of dark blue cloud

I stayed

For the first time in nearly 10 years, I didn’t move house or live out of a suitcase for an extended period.

Since moving from my childhood home, I’ve lived in 9 rented properties for varying durations which is about one new home a year. A lack of stability in living arrangements can be quite disruptive, but more than anything I just find the packing up and actual moving parts really tiring. The novelty quickly wears off after the first couple of times!

It’s quite nice to have “settled” despite having a whole drawer’s worth of belongings far away in New Zealand and the knowledge that this home isn’t permanent either… But that’s ok, we’re happy in our London nest for now.

I also stayed firmly put because this year I didn’t travel farther than the south of England. That’s ok too! I miss exploring overseas but they will be ready for me one day. In the meantime, it’s been eye-opening to try and visit more places in the UK. Navigating the high costs in some places (Cornwall, looking at you) but also the variety on offer. We enjoyed a break in Dorset, a weekend in the New Forest, and a few days in Canterbury. All offered such different scenes and experiences. We are lucky with what we have on our doorstep, even if we don’t always see it.

Dorset coastline from a hilltop on a summers day with a sandy beach and bright blue oceans

I braved

Something I have been considering for several years is a minor cosmetic treatment to remove a mole on my face.

For years I hated it. I hated the way it caught the light in photos. I hate the feeling of it when I touched my cheek. It had always been there but had become more of a nuisance as I got older. After much deliberation, research, and psyching myself up – I booked an appointment at a skin clinic to get it sliced off. It seemed like the perfect time to do it, when I was working from home and rarely going out. And I’m  SO glad I did it.

Although my relationship with my body and attitude towards my appearance did not magically resolve overnight, this small change has made such a difference already. I no longer worry about the angles I pose in a photo to make sure you can’t see it. Or think that everyone is staring at it when I speak.

Having a doctor with an exceptionally sharp tool come at your face is a scary thing to do, which is why it took me so long to brave it. I feared if something went wrong I’d be left horribly deformed and full of regret. But I needn’t have worried, all went smoothly.

The other thing about moles is their association with skin cancer. After living in Perth for a year and seeing plenty of sunshine, it gave me peace of mind to get the mole checked for any abnormalities. Thankfully, all came back clear.

A woman grimaces as she walked ankle-deep in the ocean on a cloudy day

I reevaluated

The internet and social media

My relationship with social media isn’t great. It’s probably my most toxic and yet in many ways my most important part of the digital world.

See, it’s what I do for a living. And yet, I would love to delete all the apps, deactivate all the accounts, and run away off-grid for as long as possible.

I realised this year that my attitude to social media has always caused a lot of stress over the years. It started with worrying over how many Facebook friends I had as a teenager, did I have enough to make me look interesting and likeable (please tell me that wasn’t just me)?

Then, of course, worrying over Instagram followers in the blogging world. Am I doing enough to be seen and get my blog out there?

Now, I care far, far less but occasionally (ok probably more often than I’d admit) I think to myself “but what does my account say about me? I work hard on my photos, do people like them? Why does that account do so much better than mine?!” It’s tiresome, especially when it’s something you also have to think about for work, albeit in a very different way.

See, that’s part of the problem. Working in social and enjoying social on a personal level just don’t match. At all. Sure there are some overlapping principles and ideas, but the biggest pet peeve I have is people thinking they could work in social just because they run their own personal (or worse, their pet’s) Instagram page. I look at social media as work now. It’s something that’s become quite difficult to enjoy for the sake of sharing photos and stories. It’s become more about numbers and insights and analytics and branding.

So yes, I’m rethinking how I look at my personal use of social media, trying to take off the work lens, the blogging lens, and the big fat ultra telescopic comparison lens. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.

glasses and orange flower on open laptop

Society’s views of success

This has been at the front of my mind for much of this year. As I creep towards 30, engagements, house-buying, and pregnancies are closing in for many friends, colleagues, and peers. As I mentioned, this causes all sorts of comparisons as you see how your own life stacks up.

While buying a house is absolutely on the agenda for my life I cannot guarantee when that will be and especially cannot tell you where. I’m in no rush, despite the pressures I feel to keep up with peers and meet society’s expectations. Most importantly, I absolutely believe it is something I should be doing because I WANT TO. Not because it is deemed necessary, ‘correct’, ‘sensible’, or otherwise.

It is disheartening and overwhelming to see property prices next to average salaries. The Instagram account Millenial Money is a great resource to learn about the struggles facing my generation and the next. It seems near impossible to afford a home in some locations, and so given society’s expectations that being a homeowner is a significant signal for success, am I a failure for not meeting that standard?

I hope people will start to see success in a much more open-minded way. We should place emphasis on happiness and wellbeing. Congratulate less traditional achievements. I truly deem closing the gap with Kaz to be a huge step forward in my life, yet because we’re not getting engaged or married it’s quickly passed over compared to those more recognised life events.

People are more than the things they own and the status they hold. Lifestyle changes, working on our mental health, and self-improvement are some of the greatest things we can do for ourselves.

I realise there are fewer cheerful sections in this round up than in previous years, but I think that is more a reflection on the state of the world than myself. Honestly, I am doing ok. I am healthy and although not without worries, overall in a good place.

So happy birthday to me at 27, I hope 28 brings more positive memories and experiences.

A woman with long hair and a grey jacket smiles while seated

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