23 Things I’ve Learnt in 23 Years

23 Things I've Learnt in 23 Years | LIFE | Justine Spencer

Hello twenty-three! Didn’t think I’d see you so soon!

While I’ve learnt WAY more than 23 lessons, I want to share my top 23 on my special day. These lessons have been an absolute life line this past year or so. And I can’t wait to see what lessons are learnt by the time the big two-four rolls around next year.

  1. Be gentle on yourself

    I’m the first to admit that I’m my harshest critic. Why haven’t you gone to the gym? Why weren’t you more productive over the weekend? Why did you let him walk all over you and for so goddamn long!? Over the course of time my close friends and family have reminded me to be gentle on myself, and it’s a reminder I often need.

    As an extremely determined and motivated person, I expect a hell of a lot from myself. It’s easy for that motivation to turn into stress and pressure. As a result I forget to appreciate just how far I’ve come. By being gentle on yourself, it reminds you that you’re doing the best you can under your current circumstances and you’re doing a damn good job.

  2. The sun will go up and the sun will go down

    My Mum would often pull out this quote when I was having a bad day: the sun will go up and the sun will go down and the world will keep on going. I hated this quote growing up. I wanted support! Sympathy! Someone to wallow in my misery with me! Instead Mum gave me one of the most realistic quotes I’ve come across.

    I’ve had a lot of shit go down over the last few years. But the sun kept rising and it kept setting. The world continued to spin and I had to move with it. I can’t stop living and be in a constant state of feeling sorry for myself. I have to show up every day and this quote reminds me to do that even on my worst days.

  3. Write everything down

    I have an exceptional memory, which is both a blessing and a curse. As a result I’ve unfortunately fallen into the trap of “Don’t worry about writing it down, I’ll remember it later.” Shopping lists, witty snippets of dialogue, small epiphanies, quirky character names. So if something worthwhile pops into your head, just write it down. Even if it means writing on your arm! Your future-self will appreciate it.

  4. The scariest decisions often lead to the right decisions

    I’ve had to make some tough decisions in recent years and I’ll make many more in the years to come. While these decisions were shrouded in fear, uncertainty and confusion, the adrenalin these emotions created heightened my self-awareness. I knew where I was in life, what I wanted from live and what I needed to get to where I wanted to be. And while it was scary to actually make the decision, that fear led me to make the right ones.

  5. Pineapple on pizza is phenomenal

    I’ve probably opened up a can of worms with this one but it’s true. Pineapple on pizza is amazing and nothing’s going to change my mind! In fact, most cooked pineapple is delicious. Grilled pineapple with cinnamon, pineapple and ham turnovers… I could go on and on!

  6. Learn to budget

    I discovered the importance of budgeting in 2015 when I took a solo trip to Europe. I learnt the hard way when I didn’t have a budget in place to begin with! After a big night out in Croatia, I realised I needed to get my shit together. Lucky I did because I just managed to buy a slice of lasagna at the Fiumicino International Airport in Italy. It was a tough lesson, but it’s one I won’t forget.

  7. Change is inevitable

    I used to be scared of change, because I knew it meant leaving my comfort zone. But rather than being afraid of it, I’ve welcomed change with open arms more recently. I’ve been travelling through the highs and lows of life, and when I’ve hit the bottom it helps to remember that change is around the corner. A bad days doesn’t automatically lock in a bad year or a bad life. Change is on its way, you just have to be patient.

  8. However, you can’t change people

    While life will change, people are less likely to. People grow up, but changing them is entirely different. You can’t be the driving force behind change. They have to be. And if they’re not going to change, you have to. Change how you respond to them, change how you engage with them. But whatever you do, don’t waste your time and energy trying to change them.

  9. Don’t sweat the small stuff

    While this is a lesson began a while ago, it’s one I’m still trying to perfect. I’ve been able to grasp it a bit better since starting my career in advertising a year ago. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve stressed over something minuscule at work, only for it to all work out! Because that’s the thing, IT ALL WORKS OUT.  It might not work out how you expected, and it may not be the outcome you wanted. But it works out, so don’t sweat about it.

  10. Turns out I don’t need coffee to survive

    I know – groundbreaking! Turns out I don’t need a grande skinny cappuccino every morning to get through the daily grind.

  11. You can overcome your limits

    Earlier this year something phenomenal happened. I went on a treadmill. And I didn’t just simple walk (although there’s nothing wrong with that). I ran. I ran for five minutes straight. Then I pushed myself to ten minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever loved myself more after completing those runs. I was so damn proud of myself because running on a treadmill was something “I could never do”. It was a limit — the biggest limit — I’ve ever placed on myself. And while it was me who imposed the limit, it was also me who could break it.

  12. Find a balance between planning and improvising

    Anyone who knows me know’s I’m an avid planner. Hell, I have a whole section on this blog dedicated to planning. But there was a big lesson I learnt during my planning-ism of 2016/17: you can over plan!

    I was planning my days by the hour and got really shitty with myself when I didn’t do everything I’d planned (refer to lesson #1). It didn’t matter if I’d smashed out a gym sesh, 3 blog posts and caught up with friends. If I didn’t take 20 photos like I’d planned to I was BEYOND frustrated with myself. It took a while, but I realised it was important for my mental health to find a balance between planning and improvising.

  13. Celebrate the small things

    As you get older and achievements and milestones are less frequent, it’s important to celebrate the small things. Literally minutes before I wrote this post, an old university acquaintance was celebrating her 50th community run. To some people, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal. To some people, my 10 minute treadmill runs probably don’t sound like a big deal. But it is for my acquaintance and I. And if something is big for you, CELEBRATE IT!

    Heck, I am celebrating the fact that I’m choosing to spend my Saturday night in my track pants with a bottle of pinot, rather than wasting my time and effort on a guy who doesn’t give a shit. Why? Because I’m taking control of my life and that’s something worth celebrating. And you should celebrate these small little things too, even if it’s just showing up every day!

  14. Don’t trade your authenticity for approval

    Without a doubt I am a people pleaser. I’ve always sought someone else’s approval, when really the most important approval I should seek is my own.

    When you’re seeking someone’s approval, it’s easy to fall into the trap of changing who you are and what you love to please them. I’ve been shamed by people who apparently “loved” me because I loved to write, read and binge on The Sims. As a result, I altered my behaviour and my passions, to get their tick of approval. I then lost my authenticity and lost what made me, me. So if you ever find yourself in a similar position, chose yourself and your authenticity. Because someone else’s approval is NEVER worth it.

  15. Friends and family are EVERYTHING

    I know this sounds so obvious. I KNOW. But when I moved to Melbourne and left my friends and family back in Perth, it really hit me how important they are. They are the fundamental weaves in my life’s tapestry. It’s impossible to think how life will function when they are 3,500km away.

    While it gets easier, I still have moments when all I want to do is teleport back to them in an instance. That will never change. And while it’s sad I can’t be with them, I remember how lucky I am to have them in the first place.

  16. Comparison is soul destroying

    I’m a tragic at comparing myself to others. I’m not witty enough. I’m not stylish enough. I’m not determined enough. It’s a bad habit that began in my early childhood and it’s been a difficult habit to break. When you compare, it’s hard to celebrate your small achievements. And it’s hard to be gentle on yourself.  But over time I’ve learnt: I am witty. I am stylish. I am determined. But I’m all of this in my own, fucked up, authentic way. And I’m more than happy with that.

  17. Don’t just be good to others. Be good to yourself too

    Back to people pleasing, it’s easy to be good to others but not necessarily good to yourself. I’m baffled that I’ve had moments where I’ve put in so much effort with other people — dates, friends, colleagues — but I don’t put in that amount of effort with myself.

    The most important thing in life is to be best friends with you. So make sure your work on a relationship with yourself as well as with others.

  18. Perth really was a wonderful place to grow up

    Perth and I used to have a love/hate relationship. But more recently it’s entirely filled with pure love. I didn’t realise, let alone acknowledge, Perth’s perks until I left and had another city to compare it to. Don’t get me wrong, I love Melbourne as well. But I don’t think there’s anywhere as chilled and settling as Perth. We may be considered a city, but we function as a small, close-knit country town. Everyone knows everyone, and it’s hard to feel entirely home anywhere else.

    WA is big, vast and very isolated. But we’ve got a lot of beauty, a lot to see (if you know where to go) and a lot of wonderful people to meet. I wouldn’t want to have grown up anywhere else.

  19. The most important (and hardest) step is starting

    As an inconsistent gym-goer and writer (I use that term loosely), I know how hard it can be to take the first step and get going. Especially after a hiatus. But the first step is the most important one you’ll take. It’s also the hardest, but once you get going it’s almost impossible to stop.

    When you find yourself on the verge of the first step, don’t over think it. In fact, don’t think about it at all. Just do it and relish in your progress once you’ve started.

  20. A single failure isn’t a final defeat

    You’d think as someone who spent most of her childhood losing netball games and footy matches, I’d have strong perseverance. Wrong. I still get caught wanting to throw in the towel after a single failure. Touching on #7, a bad day doesn’t mean a bad day. Similarly, a single failure doesn’t mean a final defeat. It’s not a prediction of the final outcome. So when you experience that failure, reflect on where you went wrong and try again. And again. And again.

  21. You are a work in progress

    No matter whether you are 3, 13 or 23 – we are always a work in progress. We are constantly living and constantly learning. Just enjoy the journey and trust you’re on the right track. We might not know why, but the world is unfolding as it should.

  22. Chilled nights with Netflix are underrated

    I’ve always been an introverted homebody. And while I’ve had many Melbourne “nights” finish at 4am, sometimes you can’t look past a chilled night in with Netflix, Uber Eats and a bottle of wine.

  23. My parents were right, about everything

    Honestly a good portion of these lessons I learnt from them. And I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said, “Shit, my parents were right” in the last year. I guess it’s a sign they taught me well, or at least warned me for what’s on the horizon!


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