I’m getting on a bit now. Come September, I’ll be 29.
I’m pretty much fossilised.
I belong in a museum – in a tomb, alongside Tutankhamun.
To ease the blow of the event when it eventually does occur, I have been telling people for the last three years that I'm already 30.
Truth be told, I thought I’d hate creeping closer to the dreaded 3-0, but actually, I’m not as freaked out as I thought I would be, and that’s because right now, I am the happiest that I have ever been.
Over the past year or so, life has just blissfully clicked into place in ways that I could never have imagined.
I’m not saying my life is perfect. Christ, far from it!
God, I’ve been waiting FIVE bastard months for the tiling to be finished in my kitchen.
I generally have to rely on Northern Rail to get to work, so basically, I very rarely make it to work on time, if at all.
I split up with my husband eight months after marrying him.
I still LIVE with my ex-husband – two years after we broke up!
Oh, and I have an eating disorder. Yay!
But despite all of this, I am so happy.
I live in my dream house (okay so it’s deffo not everyone’s idea of perfection - a little terraced cottage splattered with unruly ivy - but I think it’s just beautiful).
My ex is my best mate and I wouldn’t change our friendship for the world.
Now that I’m flying solo again, I’m back to exploring the world on my own, and it is DIVINE.
I love my job.
My fifth book has just been published.
Ja Rule is allowed back into the UK next year after the whole Fyre-gate saga...
I have recently discovered that Asda stock Bugles 3D crisps (I thought they were cruelly refined to the darkest corners of Europe).
And above all, I have plentiful access to the three loves of my life: writing, running and solo travel.
What else could I ask for?
My early 20’s were full of adventure – I travelled solo around Europe, and lived and worked abroad. But I always felt almost guilty, like I was misplaced. All of my friends were in settled relationships and were getting engaged, buying houses and having babies.
Should I have been doing all of that too? I didn’t want to, but maybe it was time for me to grow up and get in the ‘real world?’ I confused what I really wanted with the pressure of living the ‘idealistic’ life set by society.
I remember meeting up with one of the girls between my solo stints overseas. We were 21, and she’d just graduated, bought her first house and was trying for a baby.
“... I ate the best churros of my life in Malaga last week,” I said feebly, shortly before the conversation fizzled out into awkward nothingness.
The very last thing I wanted was a boyfriend, or any commitments, for that matter. Despite the fear that I was living all wrong in compassion to my peers, I was having the time of my life. I roamed Europe with a sense of fulfilment and inner-familiarity that I hadn’t experienced before. This was absolutely integral during my first year with anorexia.
Those years spent travelling, pushing myself to new limits working overseas and navigating my way through an anorexia diagnosis were life lessons in the making, although I didn’t know it at the time.
And then I did meet someone, and I got married, and bought a house, and it didn’t work out. Deep down, I always kind of knew that it wouldn’t. I loved him, but I didn’t want it in the same way that I wanted other things.
I still wanted to travel – alone. There were still parts of me that I wanted to get to know, without the distraction of a significant other. I wanted to create, but my yearnings for creating centred around writing and books, and not a life with someone else.
When I got married, people would hit me with the inevitable, “So, children next?!”
I’d panic, knowing it was very last thing on earth that I would ever want.
I have always valued my own company above anybody else’s. Of course, I liked spending time with Josh (I still do!), but the time that I was spending with myself was becoming less and less, and I found that hard to deal with.
So we broke up (for a number of reasons), and here we are: happiness, again.
I have re-joined the path that I was walking all those years ago in my early 20’s – the path that I was never supposed to stray from in the first place.
Last week, someone raised their eyebrows at me in disbelief and said, “So that’s it now? You’re just going to be single forever?”
“I hope so,” I replied.
In contrast, somebody else told me that I look really ‘free,’ and that was the biggest compliment.
I do feel free. I’m getting to know myself again, and it’s bloody wonderful.
I’m glad I experienced a relationship, because it confirmed what I already knew, deep down: that it’s just not for me.
I feel like I am finally in a place where I can reap the benefits of the lessons learned during my adventures and indeed misadventures.
It really does take losing everything to find your true freedom, and your true self.
I have never felt surer of what I want than I do right now, and that feeling is heavenly.
Oooh, I feel like a wise old owl!!! 🦉
So, as I cruise on towards my 30’s, I have compiled a list of my favourite lessons that life has taught me over the past three decades...
1.Warburtons white bread, toasted with butter, is the remedy for 99% of life’s problems. 🍞
2. If the devil does exist, he almost certainly knocks about behind the disguise of cystitis. I’m not even going to spell out what needs to be done in order to prevent this nuclear disaster from within. Girls, you know what to do. 👿
3. If in doubt about anything, watch The Holiday 🏡
4. Don’t agree to marry someone while you’re still in the ‘honeymoon period.’ Also, don’t agree to marry someone because you think you have to get married. You don’t have to get married. 💍
5. Before you upload a picture to Facebook, make sure your nipple hasn’t slipped out of your dress 🤦🏻♀️
6. When it comes to houseplants, stick to Cacti, and never trust a Boston Fern – mine have resurrected themselves more times than Jesus Christ himself. I don’t know whether I’m coming or going with those plants half the time. 🌵
7. Wash your hair in olive oil and egg yolk. No, really; the shine is INSANE! 🍳
8. … But don’t break an awkward silence on a Tinder date by telling the guy that ‘just two hours ago, my scalp was covered in yolk!’ 😳
9. Be selective about who you allow to share your body. Your body is your oldest and most loyal friend. It’s bailed you out more times than you’ll ever know. You’re going to be in it for the longest time. Treat it with love and respect, and ensure that others do, too. ❤️🩹
10. Loving yourself, liking the way you look, and being happy in your own skin does NOT make you conceited.
Like, why is this even still a thing?
*Girl posts three selfies over three consecutive days*
Social media audiences: Ew OMG, she totally loves herself. She’s so full of herself. So up her own arse!
So what if she does love herself? If she reckons she looks cute AF in her three selfies, then let her goddam post them WITHOUT JUDGMENT!
Is it harming anybody else in any way? No. No it isn’t.
We should celebrate women feeling empowered, not tear them down.
F**k anyone who tries to snatch away your confidence just because they’re too afraid to embrace their own. 💁🏻♀️
11. As a woman, you absolutely do NOT need a relationship to validate your existence!! I’d love to see the stigma of women CHOOSING to be single eradicated sometime this century, pls! 💃🏻
12. Put your phone away. Absolutely nothing good can come of it being glued to your hand 24/7. 📵
13. You’re never too old for a pick & mix 🍬
14. Fashion is dictated by YOU.
Not Love Island.
Not Zara’s latest #autumnwinter ad campaign.
Not PLT’s annual 30% off EVERYTHING bonanza.
Dress how the hell you want to dress. Dress in a way that reflects your individuality and personality. But above all, dress in a way that makes you feel sexy and confident. And by sexy, I don’t mean that you should feel as though you need to don a tiny skirt and thigh high boots every day - sexy is whatever empowers you. It could literally be a tracksuit, or it could be a full leather jumpsuit. If it makes you feel fierce, shrug it on and shrug off the fear of other people’s opinions.
I personally dress like a combination of a hooker and Sporty Spice.
Last Tuesday, I wore Adidas joggers with heels and a leather jacket to work. The day after, I wore a red and white polka-dot blouse with paper bag leather pants. I looked like the lovechild of Nicole Scherzinger and Minnie Mouse.
And you know what? I felt FAB.
If I’ve learned ONE thing through my teens and my 20s, it’s that… ⬇️
15. People are always going to judge you, no matter what. Sometimes, people invest so much energy into your life that they become smugly confident that their starved assumptions are a accurate representation of your circumstances.
Basically, you can’t win either way, so just do you and f**k what other people think. 💅🏻
16. TRAVEL SOLO. Oh my God, it will change your life in ways you never ever imagined possible. 🌍
17. A lot of people, sadly, come with an agenda. But a lot of people don’t. Chose your tribe wisely and don’t be afraid to cut ties with those who bring negativity, no matter how obligated you feel to stick around. You are not obligated to waste your time on anyone, and that goes for family as well as friends. 👯♀️
18. If you fantasise about running away, go to the library. Books provide a thousand different escape routes and a valuable distraction while you work out the real-life shit. 📚
19. We don’t deserve animals. Every animal, insect and creature we are blessed enough to share this planet with is beautiful and unique and should be treated with dignity, because who made us God??
I’m veggie, but I won’t preach, other than to ask this: what actually gives us the right to take an animal’s life for our own selfish consumption? Who put their lives in our hands, and why do we think we are entitled to that power? Who decided that we are the master of their fate? 🐓🐟
20. If ever you feel down, think about David Walliams. That man is legit sunshine in a suit. ☀️
21. Never change, or conceal parts of you. Those who are worthy of being in your life will love you – all of you - no matter what. And those who don’t? Well, that’s their loss. Not everyone is gonna’ like you, just as you’re not gonna’ like everyone you meet. And that’s totally fine. 💆🏻♀️
22. Wearing white jeans as a woman is a risk, no matter where you think you are in your cycle. Always carry a spare pair of black jeans around in your bag ‘just in case.’ (Same goes for leather pants – these cannot be trusted. I have lived in fear of my leathers bursting open on my commute to work, White-Chicks-changing-room-scene-stye, for the past two years. You never know when leather is going to suddenly choose its moment to rip. Be prepared) 👖
23. Ask your Grandparents EVERYTHING. Ask them how they met, what their favourite music was when they were teens, what makes them happy. Seriously. Ask them anything and everything. My biggest regret is that I didn’t do this, and now their story has been erased forever. 👵🏻
24. Spend time with your parents (if you have that kind of relationship with them). My Mum is everything to me, and I never, ever want to waste a second of the precious time we spend together, especially now that I have moved out. 👨👩👧
25. Jump in puddles. Make wishes with dandelions. Eat rain-splattered blackberries, raw, from bushes. Smell flowers. Marvel at weaving butterflies. Embrace the feeling of rain against your bare skin. Allow the sun to rock you to sleep. Kick autumn leaves. Watch the snow pirouette. Remember what your senses felt like before we started viewing them superficially, through the lens of somebody else’s filtered images? ⛈
26. Use your legs while you’re able to. Walk, run, dance, whatever. We often fail to realise what a downright privilege it is to be able-bodied. 🏃🏻♀️
27. If you have a passion, fill your world with it. Even if it never leaves the wonderful realms of your mind, your passion should be your drug. Never lose sight of it, no matter how disheartened you may feel sometimes. 🌈
28. Occasionally, you will not be in the mood to peel a Cheese String, and will instead just ravenously and feverishly bite great chunks out of it. Some people may brand you a psychopath, but I’m not judging you x 🧀
29. If you want to get smart, ask people to share their stories. Be inquisitive about what makes them proud, happy, sad, angry. You might find that people surprise you. There is no intelligence more powerful than compassion. 💌
30. You don’t know you’re looking for love until you try M&S mac & cheese balls. 😍
5 Life Lessons For The Cara I Was At Primary School:
1.I’m sorry Cara, but it IS fair that your Dad was forced to violently remove the batteries from the family Furby at 1 o’clock in the morning following a manufacturing issue that led to it repeatedly flapping its little plastic lips and robotically yelling ‘OOOOOOHHHHHH!!!!’ without mercy for eight hours solid.
2. Finding seven mini Jaffa Cakes in a packet that’s supposed to contain six will make you a temporary celebrity in the canteen. Own it. Wear shades to school for the rest of the week to heighten the excitement.
3. Don’t listen when people tell you to ‘grow up.’ Enjoy being blissfully young for as long as you can. Please don’t be in any rush to ‘grow up.’ Growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
4. Always remember to 141 your number when prank calling the dentist pretending to be a toothless crocodile called Colin.
5. Hold on to that childlike, carefree confidence that you are currently blessed with. You’re beautiful as you are.
5 Life Lessons For The Cara I Was At High School:
1.Tell your Grandma and Grandad how much you love them
2. In this instance, divorce is a good thing. Your house has been toxic for years. You can breathe again.
3. DON’T get the Playboy Bunny logo tattooed on your shoulder. I know it might seem like a wonderful thing to aspire to at the age of 14, but nothing good will ever come of this. Ever. (FYI, I do not have the Playboy Bunny tattooed on my shoulder. Thankfully, I was talked out of this fad by my Dad. Likewise the boob job, and the life ambition of marrying Jesse Metcalfe circa Desperate Housewives)
4. The whole of the 192 does not want to hear Heartbroken by T2 being played on repeat out of your Motorola Rzr for the entire duration of the ‘Stocky to Torky Park’ bus journey.
5. Wearing two bras - two Betty Boop AA cupped bras - on top of one another does not enhance your ‘boobs.’ The unnecessary amount of straps just looks a bit odd, tbh.
5 Life Lessons For The Cara I Was At College:
1.When your Dad gets a new girlfriend and you meet her posh family for the first time, don’t sit in the middle of The Botanist and proudly announce that you’re not going to uni, because you’re going to ‘become a WAG instead.’ The most horrendous thing is, you weren’t actually joking.
2. Wearing head-to-toe Hollister and carting your lunch around in a Hollister carrier bag emblazoned by a random naked man’s torso does not mean you’ve made it in life. (Although, in 2011, it was the next best thing.)
3. When your sociology teacher asks the class to list influential people, don’t follow up the calls of ‘Nelson Mandela’ and ‘Albert Einstein’ by shouting ‘Pitbull!!!!’
Yes, Callo Ocho is a tune, but when it comes to those who have shaped our world, does Pitbull really deserve to stand nobly alongside Mother Theresa and Bill Gates?
4. You can’t get pregnant just by kissing someone. Really, you should kinda’ know this at the age of 18…. What a mortifying night that was: the Fruit Shoot infused nervous breakdown in the middle of Jack’s ‘parteh,’ weeping manically to Like a G6 while repeatedly telling the girls that you couldn’t have a baby now because you’ve just bought a ‘sexii’ new pair of size four Hollister hot pants…
5. Sometimes, your parents are right.
5 Life Lessons for The Cara I Was In My Early 20’s -
1.Quit that job you hate! You’re 20 years old - this isn’t your life, set in stone. YOU have to make that change. Take back your life.
2. Hello, anorexia. Now, this thing is going to be a part of your life for a long-ass time, but be strong, and be brave; I promise it won’t always hurt this much.
3. Stop worrying that you haven’t had a boyfriend yet! Oh my God, if I could go back in time and shake you, I would!! Stick to solo travel, continue working abroad, and put boyfriends on the back burner for another decade. Please!
4. Leave your footprints in as many places as you can. You have been given the most incredible opportunity to travel. There will never be a better time. So go for it. It will change you, it will save you, and it will make you. Don’t be afraid.
5. Alex Turner is not going to leave his LA model girlfriend for you, even if you do start wearing a fake nose ring and shovelling your fringe up into a rather questionable ‘top knot.’
5 Life Lessons That I Feel Current Cara Probably Needs To Hear Right Now:
1.Stop feeling as though you have to convince everyone that you’re happy. If people don’t believe you or understand how you could possibly be happy as a single gal rocketing towards 30, then that says more about them. Choose your own happy and be bold in it.
2. It’s time to let go of that control once and for all. You have running now – you don’t need to appease the voice of anorexia with white-knuckled sacrifice any more.
3. Be mindful that the bathroom window – overlooking the whole, quiet road - is more often than not wide open when you’re loudly rapping to WAP in the shower. A little decorum wouldn’t go amiss every now and again.
4. Learn to open yourself up to people again. Letting others in doesn’t make you vulnerable. Yeah, I know that you got this, but sometimes it’s nice to have an army behind you, too.
5. You’ve done the hard bit now; you’ve crawled through your teens and your 20’s and overcome many hurdles along the way. You’re finally where you want to be. You’ve earned this contentment – milk the hell out of it.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©