10 things I have learned in my 26 years

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This weekend, I turn the ripe age of 26. This year I have not only gained a few more wrinkles and grey hairs, but I have also learned a few things. As I approach the celebration of another year on this planet, I can’t shake feelings of sentimentality, and I am reflecting back on what I have learnt this year as well as the ones prior.

  1. I am powerful. That may be a big way of starting this list, and it may seem to lack humility, but we might as well kick this list off with something substantial.Throughout school, I was teased and made to feel inadequate, and I have to admit that several of my romantic relationships left me feeling the same. My confidence has been trampled on over the course of 2.5 decades, and this led me to doubt my ability to achieve things. But looking back on the last four years it has taught me that I am responsible for my own aspirations.I refuse to let others affect my trajectory and remain committed to achieving my goals. For that, I am powerful.
  2. Female friendships are incredibly important to me. I adore strong women, I want to surround myself with them and gain their strength via osmosis. Each of my friends teach me something different, about myself and about life.Society teaches us that women are bitchy competitors, jostling for male attention, poised to tear each other down wherever possible. My 26 years have taught me that this isn’t true. My female friends have been my shoulder to cry on, they have given me a slap around the face when I needed it and they have done nothing but celebrate in my achievements.
  3. Life is short. Real short. Don’t waste it and don’t hesitate in doing the things you aspire to, because you will only wonder why you didn’t do them sooner.
  4. Don’t waste time on people who don’t deserve it. Despite my 25th year of existence teaching me that life is very very short (please see thing 3), I spent a significant amount of my 26th year on this year giving time to those who aren’t worthy.This year has taught me to stop be amenable and accommodating towards people who don’t deserve it. Your time is precious, even if you wish to spent that time lying on the sofa. Please don’t spend it on people who wouldn’t give you a second thought.
  5. Wear SPF every day (I would like all of the points on this list to be poignant, but they wont be).
  6. Your beginnings do not define your endings. I was never really aware of my class growing up. I grew up in the middle of a rural farming community in west Wales, where everyone around me was the same. My school was adequate. From my knowledge it was a good school, but only in comparison to the other school within a 30 mile radius.When I got to university, I realised that I’m working class. I met people who had gone to private school and their school had a surplus of materials that they could offer them to enrich their learning. It was an alien world to me.It made me hyper-aware of my background and how people who went to my school were unlikely to go much further than that. Where I come from, moving to Cardiff is considered ‘moving to the big city’.

    However, this hasn’t defined me. Much like point one – I will try my hardest to prevent outsider influences from affecting my trajectory.

  7. Followers don’t equal success. It’s easy in this blogging business to get wrapped up in follower numbers. And although I have never been driven by the number of people in my followers list, I am not devoid from feeling the pressure.I never set up this blog to gain followers. I set up my blog to make a difference, even if that difference was to get people talking about the issues facing women in STEM. The growth of my followers didn’t matter to me, and it never has, but I do feel under pressure to build this audience.But after a lot of talking to myself, I have concluded that this doesn’t matter and ultimately the number of followers never matters. If you grow an audiences slowly, the chances are that that audience is loyal and is genuinely interested in your content. Whereas if you set yourself goals around followers and aim to get followers as quickly as possible, those people are going to be flippant and aren’t genuine.

    I have run my blog for four years and have a fraction of the followers some others have, but I have to revel in my success. I have achieved a lot through this wee platform, and I need to celebrate that my success hasn’t been for me. By working to make the landscape better for women in science, helping to shape policies that surround this industry and influencing legislation around science education for girls – my aims aren’t self serving, and this means I can forget about getting more followers for myself.

  8. I couldn’t care less about what other people think of my body anymore. I have been different shapes and at different levels of fitness and regardless of what I looked like, someone always had something nasty to say. So why worry about it? I have liberated myself of being conscious about my body because I’m safe in the knowledge that you can’t please everyone and it isn’t my job to.
  9. Work life balance is very important. At the end of last year, I wrote a blogpost called ‘Burned out’. I had worked myself to the bone and not taken a break in over a year. Each day I was either working on my blog, editing podcasts, editing YouTube videos or working my 9-5 job (or a combination of all four). This is not sustainable.Take time for you, because you ain’t getting that time back.
  10. 26 is not old. I am a planner. I like to know where I am heading and set aims. From a young age, I had this idea that I was going to get engaged at 25, married at 27, have my first child before I was 30. As I find myself hurtling towards 30 years old, without a partner but a promising career in hand, the thought of settling down and jeopardising that is terrifying.I thought 26 was old, and that I would feel my eggs dying like I was a slowly emptying vessel. Turns out, I have a few more wrinkles and a few grey hairs, but I still have acne and will still laugh at almost any fart joke. So I am saying farewell to the milestone aims and am saying hello to embracing what the next decade has to offer.I’m in my prime, and there isn’t any slowing down.

Author: Alice Gray

STEM-inist blogger hoping to raise awareness for the issues facing women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

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