As friend of About Time and author of one of our favourite newsletters, To Reality With Love, Nora Popova, turns 25 this month under lockdown, she shares 25 of the biggest lessons she’s learned so far.

As a teenager, what often made the long distance between the place I currently inhabited and the place I was so impatient to get to bearable were the dreams I collected. I imagined everything that would become available to me once I reached my destination: the cracking of autumnal New York leaves under my Carrie Bradshaw high heels, long queues of handsome strangers outside a brownstone, weekends of stargazing barefoot at music festivals, a life structure built on loyal friendships, skinny dipping in the moonlight, hundreds of shades of lipstick, and casual but perfect hair buns.

Little did I know that the reality of adulthood was more like getting excited about a discount on your council tax, saying goodbye to your pairs of matching socks, and food poisoning twice a week until you learned that raw onions need to be cooked until lightly brown.

Regardless, the years between thirteen and twenty-one were like batons in a relay race that I was simply trying to collect as fast as I could. Now, I am about to turn twenty-five. I wish I could turn around, give back the batons, and walk as slowly as I can instead of running.

When I think about how old twenty-five would have sounded to my thirteen-year-old self, I get a little anxious. I worry that I have not achieved everything I thought I would have. But then I remember that life is a sequence of choices made each and every day; the best we can do is ensure the decision we make at this moment is aligned with the beats of our hearts. And then I know that I’ve done all that I’ve had to.

Here on the eve of my birthday, I want to present to you twenty-five things I have learned about life by age twenty-five:

1. The relationship you have with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. All of your other ones simply reflect it.

2. In a world where you can be anything, be the person you needed as a child. Only then can you be the person other people need.

3. Some people in your life will leave. They will hurt you. Despite this, you will still miss them. You will still want them to come back. You will still fantasise about parties that they attend, replay events, and take liberties in your imagination, which is unconfined by what can no longer be. Don’t pity yourself. Be proud of the size, generosity, and spontaneity of your heart. It is your superpower.

4. Ambition that is fuelled by neuroticism, insecurities, and a hustle for self-worth is exhausting. It can lead to success, but it won’t lead to lasting happiness.

5. Self-sabotage is the friend you trust who ends up betraying you. They are probably jealous. They don’t believe you deserve what you have. Oh, but you do. You deserve all the goodness in the world. Once you show them that you believe in your own worth, they will pack their bags and leave.

6. You can never have too many pairs of hoop earrings. Or black leather jackets.

7. Heartache doesn’t always go away. People say time heals, it does, but there will be people whose presence will always make your heart thump and your palms go sweaty. No matter how hard you try to “act normal,” you will leave the conversation at the mercy of the inner critic, reciting all the smart answers you could have given, but didn’t. That’s ok.

8. If I had to define growth it would be: the willingness to sit with uncomfortable feelings. The more we are willing to confront our anger, guilt, fear, and pain the more we transform from the person we are to the person we dream to be.

9.The fear of the fear is always bigger than the thing you are actually frightened of. When you feel afraid, deprive fear the luxury and power of abstraction. Invite it to tea instead.

10. Social media is a trap. Avoid.

11. Some of the most inspiring, remarkable, and attractive women I admire have cellulite.

12. If you want to have frizz-free natural curls, dry your hair with a T-shirt instead of a towel.

13. Learn to give yourself permission. Unconditionally. Save your relationships by not expecting to get it from others

14. Everyone you meet is fighting their own battle. Don’t say lightly “it isn’t fair.” The depth and width of pain is not comparable.

15. When you get irrationally angry at other people, it is probably because you are terribly scared of something.

16. Books will save your life; they will frighten you, challenge you, grow you, inspire you, soften you. Read, read, read as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

17. Time is precious. It really is. But living neurotically, fearing that it is slipping away, is a form of wasting it. You need to learn both how to utilise it and how to watch it go.

18. When you can’t decide what to have for dinner, go with the option that you would if it were to be the last meal you ever had. Or just have dessert instead.

19. Vulnerability might make you feel like tectonic plates are moving inside you. Regardless, you owe it to yourself to be honest about how you feel. Always.

20. When you are having fun, your creativity is charging its batteries.

21.  Love:

a)     does not come when you least expect it, nor does it hit you like a ton of bricks.
b)    is not effortless. It requires commitment and investment.
c)     can grow. Like a flower, it can beam and blossom, emanating its scent selflessly, infinitely, furiously.
d)    is formed in those precious moments when boundaries are down and raw parts of self exchanged.
e)     is often not love at all but a creation of a brain at the mercy of your imagination, drunk on romanticism, hope and desire.
f)     all of the above. *

22.  Don’t hate taking the bins out or doing the laundry. These ordinary, mundane tasks offer a refuge when your heart is aching or when you are craving closeness. There is nothing that stalemates a fight with a loved one so much as asking the casual question: “Can I turn the heating on?”

23.  Always check the fridge before you go out for groceries. Otherwise you will forget to buy the thing you are *actually* out of.

24. Envy is your friend. Your inner roadmap. Watch closely who you feel envious of. Whose work do you look at and wish you had done it? Then roll your sleeves and do.

25. Every moment is a fresh beginning. Remember these words. Sometimes, they will feel like the most liberating syllables ever put together.

You can subscribe to Nora’s newsletter, To Reality With Love, here.