My name’s Rebecca and I’m a self-help addict.
I have shelves stacked with tomes dedicated to my betterment. Email newsletters give me the hottest hacks to squeeze aaalll the juice from every second of my day. Fridge magnets remind me that I’m doing great! and that everything is progress. Hundreds – nay, thousands (no lie) – have been spent on courses and programmes that promise to make me a better writer/entrepreneur/human being.
And now I’m two days shy of 30, with no life plan, and wondering what the point of it all is.
Because I’ve been reading/learning/buying this stuff for a long time now, but I still feel the same. And beneath all those promises of self-improvement, there’s the implicit message that what my existing self is and the mundane moments my self lives out? They ain’t good enough.
“Dream big!” they say. “Hustle hard!” “You’re just this very simple step away from being your best self!”
What they don’t tell you is what happens when you work like a mofo and your life still looks, well, distinctly average at the end of it all. When you up sticks and move cities and make new friends, all without fireworks and fanfare. Or when you clock one too many Insta quotes telling you to KEEP GOING and that LIFE’S SHORT and then you burn out, knackered from the non-stop pressure to hustle and convinced that you’ll never be up to scratch.
The closer I inch towards 30, the more inclined I am to call BUUULLLLLSHIT. Only thing is, this stuff started early. It started when I got praised for my grades in school, when I got taught to compare my marks to my mates’, when I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, with the unspoken expectation that it’d better be something special or what was the point?
It’s not easy to undo all that conditioning. But now I’m hitting 30 and finding that my life, while gorgeous for the most part and one I’m largely OK with, feels pretty regular. I don’t have a sell-out business bringing in six figures a year. I haven’t been model-scouted in Primark. I’m no Instagram influencer and I haven’t published a bestselling memoir on the strength of my personal blog.
I’ll never be a supermodel or a leading lady. I don’t know how to contour my face. And when I talk on Twitter, pretty much no one replies.
I figured that life is nothing without the boldest and biggest adventures, that being the brightest and the best is all that counts, all the while forgetting that the most epic times can come disguised as the most everyday.
I’ve travelled solo to the States and moved cross-country, barely knowing anyone, but my favourite thing is still just going for a coffee down the road from my flat. Taking a home-cooked dish (OK, a shop-bought dessert) to my neighbours’. Getting a voice message from my best mate. Watching Saturday-night telly with my dad. Walking my mum’s dogs on the same riverbank I took my dog as a kid. Spending the night on a nondescript dancefloor crammed with a hundred faceless strangers. Underlining the bits that grab me in a good book. Going to bed before 10pm. Getting a ’99 with strawberry juice from the best ice-cream van back home.
None of that garners a round of applause. No one shares in the satisfaction I get from a precisely made bed or the shiny draining board I’ve just cleared of clean dishes. But those things make me happy (I’m sad, I know). And they’re the moments that make up my life. It’s a life that might not rank with those of the blogger who’s getting press attention or the business-owner who’s working poolside today. But it’s the life of a woman who’s learning (slowly) that what looks good to her, not to Instagram, is the life that’s really worth living.