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Vegan eating and things to do in Fort William and Lochaber

Vegan eating and things to do in Fort William and Lochaber


If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (or even TikTok since I did recently make my debut) you'll know that me and my parents took a wee trip to the West Highlands in September. We decided to stay in Inchree, which is about 10 minutes south of Fort William (via car) and used that as a base to explore the wider Lochaber area. 

If you've never explored this area of Scotland then let me post a spoiler and say that it is absolutely stunning, even after summer has passed. There's also a lot to do and the three days we spent there still weren't enough to cover everything. It's also very touristy, with Fort William known as The Outdoor Capital of the UK, so you'll be spoiled for choice when it comes to attractions, accommodation and dining options. My dad has been to Fort William many times in his life and even he was finding new spots to visit. 

Eating vegan food in Fort William

Whenever I come back from holiday the first question I get asked is: how was it for vegans?! Fort William was amazing and while the wider Lochabar area isn't great it's not undoable. We had a cool box with us so we packed sandwiches and snacks for road trips and I'd recommend you do the same. However, I did manage to find a few gems. 

The Wildcat

Fort William's dedicated vegan café was just as good as I had heard it was. It's very popular though and even though me and my mum arrived only an hour after opening we were told to leave our numbers and we'd be called when a table became available. Thankfully we got a call ten minutes later and hadn't went too far.

I had the avocano which is fake avocado made from (if I remember correctly) mashed up edamame beans, peas and seasoning. It was very believable and a lot more sustainable. I also had a beetroot latte and a handful of raw cakes. Their Facebook page however makes it look like they switch up their menu regularly so check before you visit as what I had might not be available. 

Ben Nevis Inn

If you had told me a month ago that I'd eat one of my best vegan meals at a small inn on a rainy day at the base of Ben Nevis I wouldn't have believed you. This cozy cottage has a separate vegan menu (remember to ask for it) and I opted for the wild mushroom and asparagus gnocchi which was glorious. My mum, who is not vegan, opted for the veggie burger and thoroughly enjoyed her meal too. My dad had the regular beef burger and was also pleased with his choice. This place isn't the cheapest but was well worth the extra pennies. They also have a generous selection of local alcoholic beverages on tap. 

Ben Nevis Bar

The Ben Nevis Bar in Fort William, according to my dad, is one of those quintessential Highland pubs that has been there for decades. Apparently he's had many drams and pints there over the years. They also have a vegan option in the form of a curry (they were only offering their reduced menu that day but on the website there's also a veggie chili bean burger). It was marked as vegetarian on the menu but I was assured it was vegan and when eating it I couldn't taste and dairy. 

On the whole, the Ben Nevis Bar is lovely and I can understand why my dad has popped in numerous times over the years. Even if you're not hungry, it's still well worth stopping by for a look at the whisky bar. 

Aroma

Sorry but it's time for a bit of a meh review. Aroma is a Chinese takeaway in Fort William which we popped by one night to grab something to take back to our chalet. It wasn't horrible and was definitely edible and did the job for a takeaway but I have had a lot better. Sorry. 

Sound Bites

Okay, so a bit of an honorary mention here. I didn't actually stop in by Sound Bites while in Arisiag since we had food in our car and our priority was getting out to Mallaig - but the menu looked lovely and I kind of wish I had delayed Mallaig for it! If I'm ever in that area again I'll make it a priority to stop by for some vegan haggis bon bons. 

Things to do

Fort William and Lochaber have no shortage of things to do, even if you're not particularly outdoorsy. Believe me, I had no intention of walking up Ben Nevis (my parents have both attempted it in the past but had to turn back due to bad weather and safety concerns). Here's what you can do on a slightly more chilled holiday in the West Highlands. 

Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan is a lovely hamlet a few miles west of Fort William and is home to the Glenfinnan Monument, the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the Glenfinnan Museum and some lovely walking trails with beautiful views. Yes, this is also the location that is used for the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films but the viaduct and Jacobite Train have a much longer and very important history in Scotland. 

Remember to look up the time of the Jacobite Train so you can watch it glide across the viaduct (and you can even book a seat on it to boot!).  As for the walks, I was wearing gym leggings on this day, but still had on my Converse and my handbag and got on okay along the Viaduct Walk. And remember to stop by the Glenfinnan Museum at the operating Glenfinnan Railway Station. It's small but talks you through the history of the viaduct and railways in general. The entry fee is a donation of your choice. 

Loch Morar

The whole reason we were in the west Highlands to begin with was so I could visited Loch Morar, aka the home of Nessie's lesser-known cousin Morag! Loch Morar is a much calmer spot that Loch Ness and in fact, the road doesn't go very far round it; if you want to see it all you'll have to get your walking boots on or bring a canoe! I also popped on my swimming costume on for a bit of wild swimming! 

Silver Sands of Morar

More wild swimming! The Silver Sands of Morar were much chillier than Loch Morar (though lacking its own monster!) but the incredibly soft sand made up for it. Like Loch Morar just a few minutes away, I consider the Silver Sands to be a must visit. And similarly to Loch Morar, wasn't overrun with people. 

Glen Nevis

There was no way I was climbing Ben Nevis having only ever completed one other Munro back when I was sixteen (it was Lochnagar). But I'm glad my mum mentioned Glen Nevis to me which is an easier walk (a mix between uphill and downhill) into a beautiful glen that isn't reachable any other way. I was wearing my gym trainers, gym leggings, waterproof jacket and a small rucksack with water and snacks. It isn't the hardest of walks but you definitely need a reasonable level of fitness and weather-appropriate clothing that you can move in. I also wouldn't recommended if you have young children. 

Nevis Range Gondola

So, uh, we made the decision to go up the cable car on a cloudy day praying that the clouds would split before the top. They didn't so my review is lacking. Though there were vegan options in the mountain top restaurant.

West Highlands Museum

I adored this pint-sized museum in the middle of Fort William. It focuses primarily on the Jacobites but it also hosts a few extra pieces of local history. I loved the fashion room where I learned more about tartan and the various outfits of Queen Victoria. Entry is donation only and I picked up two new books in the gift shop.

Where we stayed


Whenever I go on holiday I avoid staying in accommodation that should be someone's house, especially when I'm visiting somewhere where there is a housing shortage. The West Highlands has suffered because people are buying holiday homes and AirBnBs making it harder for locals to stay in the area, and I point blanked told my parents I wouldn't come if they booked a holiday home. 

We settled on the Inchree Chalets, which were just lovely. They are self-catering and the kitchen came with everything we needed to create simple meals (okay, my dad moaned that there were no whisky glasses). The chalet we stayed in (Glen Crenan) was home to three bedrooms: a master double downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs with two single beds each. The living room was also home to a couch, tv and dining table. There's also a separate building with laundry facilities if you're staying longer. I was with my mum and dad, but this would have also been a lovely chalet for a group of friends, especially if there was a couple who could take the downstairs bedroom. Me and parents all agreed we would consider staying here again. 

What to pack

The West Highlands is one of the wettest areas of Scotland, so take waterproofs and sensible shoes even if you're travelling in summer. As for evening outfits, no one was particularly dressed up while dining in Fort William and a lot of people were still wearing their walking gear at the pub. If you really want to look more put together for dinner, jeans and a nice top is probably your best bet (anything more than that and you'll be overdressed). 

Etc. 

Fort William is very popular and can get extremely busy in the high season. We visited just outside of high season on purpose so we could avoid the crowds. It was still busy and we got stuck in a few traffic jams. We also managed to book our accommodation with only two months notice but my parents know, from personal experience, that you sometimes have to book summer accommodation a year in advance. I wouldn't recommend just turning up and hoping to find something.

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Growing up on the aromantic spectrum but not yet having the language to understand it

Growing up on the aromantic spectrum but not yet having the language to understand it


15-year-old emo me. 

One of the most common queerphobic traits you come across is people moaning about how many words there are for people to explain their sexual orientation, romantic orientation and gender identity. You're making stuff up they cry! In my day you were only straight or gay, what is this nonsense. Pansexuals are just bisexuals who need attention. Asexuals just haven't met the right person! 

Etc etc. 

The thing is language matters. Language helps people express how they feel. Having one word to wrap up you're entire experience is handy. As a person who identifies as both bisexual and grey-romantic, two separate queer labels, I know first hand how meaningful it is to have words that help me express myself succinctly. 

(for the unaware, grey-romantic is a label on the aromantic spectrum when someone can experience romantic attraction but not very frequently). 

These words are important to me on a personal level because having these words helped me figure out who I was. I was lucky enough to discover the word bisexual before I actively began to experience sexual (and limited romantic) attraction, but I didn't know there was an aromantic spectrum until I was 28. This has made my two coming out journeys rather different. 

I was closeted bisexual until I was 27 and I have made no secret that I struggled with my sexuality. But I knew what I was from a young age, which did alleviate some of the negative internal feelings. That thank you goes to teenage magazines which, despite their flaws, were one of the few resources I had in the 00s to understand that not everyone was straight and that was okay. 

I however went through my teenage years and most of my twenties not having a fucking scooby why people thought the way I dated was weird. Even I didn't understand that I didn't date that way I was meant to and was constantly perplexed by the invasive questions. For years I thought people who had romantic crushes on a regular basis were massive fakers and were just desperate! (Obviously, I know now that's not true). 

Towards the end of primary school, classmates began having crushes and the girls I was friends with began chatting about the boys they fancied. The way they fancied people was different from my experience. I was beginning to experience sexual attraction and could tell when I thought someone was so cute I might want to kiss them. But swooning? Wasn't something I could relate to. 

High school was a little different. I did go on to have a romantic crush on someone in high school...and that person was my only crush throughout all of high school. Not because they were amazing and everyone else was shit (it was quite the opposite in hindsight) but because it was just the way I was built. Even at the time, I remember getting frustrated at my inability to find anyone else attractive. In the later years of high school, people were falling in love and I was just some kind of brick wall. 

It didn't go unnoticed by other people. I was regularly pressurised into telling people who I fancied (or even my Top 5 hahahaha) and was regularly not believed when I told them no one. I even told a few lies to shut people up and then the news would get out and everyone thought I fancied someone that I didn't. 

My family were roughly the same. It's not unusual for family members to tease teenage children as they enter their teenage years about who they fancy. But for queer kids, it can be frustrating at best and traumatic at worst. For myself, I was simultaneously dealing with that fact that my sexual attraction didn't exclusively gear towards boys along with not actually having much interest in dating at all. I once had a big fight with my mum because she asked who I was trying to look cute for in my new jumper. Obviously, a shouting match over that question is an over the top reaction, but combined with the newly found teenage hormones I was also just...confused....and tired...and not really understanding why I needed to have a crush. 

Nothing I've described so far is something you wouldn't get over. But fast forward to university and something did happen that is not uncommon amongst queer people of all identities: to get people off my back I faked a romantic relationship. I had the misfortune of sharing a flat with a genuinely not nice girl who was horrible to me about not having had a boyfriend by the age of 18. This really didn't help (remember I was still closeted bisexual and she was edging a wee bit too close to that information) so I got a boyfriend to shut her up (and everyone else who made comments along the way). 

But surprise surprise: when you get into a relationship for the wrong reasons that relationship has little chance of being healthy. He didn't care that much about me and I had little autonomy within the relationship, but I tolerated it because I thought a relationship was what I was meant to do. I've not spoken to him in over a decade and I've never asked him why he was with me, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he didn't enter our relationship for the correct reasons either. I would end up leaving this relationship because I developed an actual romantic crush on someone else (who at this point was still only my second romantic rush to date). 

My second relationship, despite having romantic feelings for that person, was also not that great. After both relationships ended, I made the promise that I would never enter a relationship again just to be in a relationship. I would be on the receiving end of more pressure during my twenties but I was a lot better at brushing away that pressure (aside from some weird situationship when I was 23). 

Queer people regularly confirm to keep people off our backs. Compulsory heterosexuality is a thing that is being spoken about a lot more. In my case it wasn't specifically heterosexuality I was confirming to but instead pretending to be alloromantic. It's not an uncommon experience for aromantic and asexual people to enter relationships that they don't really want to be in. Sometimes I wonder that if the aromantic spectrum was something I (and wider society) had heard about as a teenager would I maybe have turned down my first boyfriend and saved myself a lot of grief.  

I would discover the aromantic spectrum at 28. Here's a link to the blog post where I first discovered the word grey-romantic. By this point, I had realised that I experienced romantic attraction less frequently than most and had made my peace with it. It was still nice to discover the word and a whole online community who shared my feelings. Saying that there was no coming out. When I came out as a bisexual there was a practical element to coming out (I want cute people of all genders to know they can graft me) but with grey-romantic no one really needs to know about it. It's not that relevant or important. When I talk about being grey-romantic publicly it's more about raising awareness so that baby aromantics understand their feelings quicker than I did (and hopefully dodge a horrible relationship along the way). 

It's common for aphobes to claim that aromantics don't suffer in the same way that gay or bisexual people do. Of course we don't: it's an entirely different identity so the oppression doesn't show up the same way. Same as why bisexuals and gay people don't suffer exactly the same way, so we have the word biphobia that sits separately from homophobia. I've been on the receiving end of both biphobia and aphobia and they both fucking suck but in different ways. It was scarier to come out as bisexual but realising that I was grey-romantic was a longer and more confusing journey. No one in my own age group has ever tried to claim that my bisexuality is caused by an underlying mental health problem, but people have tried to convince me that my grey-romanticism can be fixed. Both had a negative effect on my mental health as a teenager.  It's not the oppression Olympics and I don't enjoy people trying to play my identities off against each other. 

So, aye, language matters and giving kids access to that language is important if you want them to discover who they are as young and swiftly as possible. I could have definitely benefited from it when I was younger, and so could many others. 

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2020 was a shit year but a good 10 year anniversary

2020 was a shit year but a good 10 year anniversary



2020 was the year that really wasn't...wasn't it?

To try and bring some personal positivity to my end of year post here are some good things that did happen to me. I started learning Scottish Gaelic and can now say basic phrases. I enrolled on to a diploma for free through the organisation's furlough fund and received good grades for both my assignments (the exam takes place in February). I started a podcast which hasn't been a runaway success but it hasn't crashed and burned either. I also watched a lot of Netflix and listened to three long-running podcasts in their entirety. I also fell into an Irish politics rabbit hole and now I'm weirdly knowledgable on the topic. My nicest news, however, is that two people from my past reached out to me and we cleared the air and they are now both back in my life. I guess 2020 made you realise that life is too short to stay ex-friends when nothing particularly bad happened and we were just in a younger and different place. 

2020 was also the year I turned 30 (I'm still getting used to saying I'm a 30-something). Turning 30 wasn't a particularly big deal in itself. I didn't feel anything change in me when I woke up that morning. Though I did cry at the stroke of midnight because the small 20-year-old in me who was having a shit time in 2010 realised just how happy she managed to become and all that money spent on self-help books was worth it. Even though I turned 30 in the midst of a global pandemic and it did spoil my birthday plans somewhat, I still had a lovely long weekend full of love. For as shit as 2020 was, I'd still take it over 2010 and 2020 ended up being a massive year of reflection (aided by being on furlough...lots of time to think). 

I published two blog posts back in the autumn that were very personal. One was marking the ten year anniversary since my last official relationship ended and the other was an ode to my twenties, where I talked in a bit more detail about the changes that took place during that decade of my life. 

If you thought I was done talking about that period of my life 10 years ago, you were wrong. #sorrynotsorry. 

When I returned home for Christmas in 2010 I was emotionally exhausted and a bit of a state to be honest. With my recent university term ended I now couldn't busy myself with activities to distract me from home unhappy I was. So I decided to make some New Year Resolutions, something I had only half-heartedly done in the past but this time I felt an urge to really think about my future. 

One of them was...start this blog!

That's right: me and my blog are just about to hit the double figures. You can read my very first post here, which is very unexciting (it doesn't include an image and is, uh, quite passive-aggressive). While my blog has changed direction a few times and I now have no desire to build a "Gala Darling empire" (oh god) me and my space on the internet have had shared some good times. We've been on weekend breaks for free, attended multiple events, reviewed hundreds of products, used it as a talking point in interviews, and met some incredible people who wouldn't have been on my radar otherwise, including people who would go on to become some of my closest friends. My blog's direction and purpose may have changed over the past decade but my love and thankfulness for it haven't.   

Also...I gave up eating meat! Happy 10-year veggie anniversary to me! 

Being vegetarian (and later vegan) was something I had considered since my teenage years but at the start of 2011 I finally followed through with the decision. This would then lead me to make further decisions about my consumption and carbon footprint - including cruelty-free make-up, reusable sanitary products, switching to a green energy supplier, and vegan household cleaning products. 

I know from the outside that deciding not to eat meat anymore and starting a blog hardly sounds transformative. For me, however, it was. These two decisions were me getting in touch with myself for the first time, thinking about what I really wanted, and ignoring other people' opinions (and I did get a lot of push back when I decided to go veggie). I'm a former people pleaser and stepping outside of my comfort zone in these two tiny little ways was the start of a much bigger journey. A journey that would see my life really change over the next decade.  

Sitting here now on the eve of 2021 and being able to really visualise how far I've come has been a moment, much like it was when I turned 30. I knew I had grown a lot since I was 20 in an extremely intentional way, but to have a full decade creep by has allowed me to visualise start and end markers. Plus, having had too much time to think over 2020 allowed forgotten memories to resurface and it made me realise, truly, just how far I had come. 

And that, in turn, made me realise what my main intention (the word I now use instead of resolutions) should be for 2021 and the first full year of my thirties. 

Which is, go easier on myself.

Once upon a time I really did need to work on growth and I'm really proud of my younger self for recognising that. But what wasn't so good is that some of it came from self-loathing which, hey, we all need motivation don't we? Even now I still work on developing my self in a way that is rooted in believing I'm not nice enough, or productive enough, or ethical enough. That I'm never good enough and need to be constantly improving. And maybe it's just time I lean into the idea that I'm not perfect, I will make mistakes, I won't be everyone's cup of tea, and there are people who love me regardless. I'm not a difficult or awful human being, and I know me at my worst is still a lot better than some people's best. I should give myself more credit. 

That night when I turned 30 emotion came over me as I realised, for the first time, how worthwhile working on myself for the bulk of my twenties had been. How stupidly happy I am now compared to my twentieth birthday and how I'm surrounded by excellent people who absolutely adore me, even if I'm not the perfect person I keep telling myself I need to be. These absolutely adorable people wouldn't love me if I still was the girl I was when I twenty. 

Self-development is now something that I will dip into now and then but it's no longer the necessity that it was in my early twenties and I want to re-direct my energy. I can chill now and the night I turned thirty helped me realise that. I don't anticipate any major changes in the next twelve months and I suppose that is a sign that I'm finally letting myself breath after a decade of Doing The Work. It's now time to enjoy the fruits of my labour. 

Like almost everyone else, 2020 knocked me. I'm not really sure what intentions I need to make when I've been stuck inside since March and I've not been living my normal life. I did however learn what I didn't miss about the outside world and what I really did. So there will be some shifting around once this vaccine makes its way around the world. 

To 2020, you won't be missed and to 2021 the year I can hopefully hug my pals again.

And I promise to never talk about 2010 again, maybe. x

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Esty Wishlist: Gàidhlig Goodies

Esty Wishlist: Gàidhlig Goodies


If you follow me on Twitter then you'll have noticed that my, uh, brand has changed slightly this year. Apparently, the ups and downs of learning Gàidhlig are now the delightful mini-thoughts I treat my followers to. 

It was only in March, after witnessing a few people I follow using Gàidhlig as their default language, that I began to realise how silly it was that I couldn't speak the other official language of the country I live in (especially a language that hovers close to extinction). I was only ever planning to teach myself tourist-centric phrases, but eight months on I'm full steam ahead and aiming to become fluent. Anyone who says learning Gàidhlig is pointless will love the day when I start refusing to speak English (I've also been brushing up on my Doric, just to really piss off the Beurla speakers). 

Naturally, I've found myself searching Etsy for cute Gàidhlig trinkets to bring the language into my home. Here's just a small selection of my favourites!

Colzie Mug


Cute mugs are a must-have for winter in my opinion and this colzie mug looks would be a great addition to any mug collection. I might personally skip it because it makes direct reference to highland life and I'm, uh, not from the Highlands (or should I say Gàidhealtachd?) but it's a cute gift for your Highland friend! 


Pure Dead Brilliant Badges


The lovely Càra is a friend of mine and was also a recent guest on my podcast, The B Agenda. Like me, Càra is learning Gàidhlig and, unlike me, she has been turning some of Duolingo's best phrases into cute badges! Tha Niseag ag òl uisge-beatha is my favourite.


Mamaidh Tree Decoration


This is a super cute decoration to buy for the family tree but it's also subtle enough to have up in the house all year round. Bookmark it for Mother's Day. 


Christmas Tree Decorations


On the theme of tree decorations, here is a set of five white and gold tree decorations with Gàidhlig words on them. Definitely very Christmassy. 


Taigh ùr card




Moving away from the Christmas theme here's a cute card for someone who is moving into a new home. 


Gaol Card



Another cute card, but this time one that is perfect for a new arrival! 

Alba mo ghràidh sticker


Finally, I have the Gàidhlig stickers from KenspeckleArt. There are several to choose from (and they are all fabulous!) but this Alba mo ghràidh stick is my favourite. 


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30 Things I've Learned in 30 Years

30 Things I've Learned in 30 Years




Today, I’m saying hello to my thirties. 

I can’t say I feel particularly different today or woke up with a new mature outlook on life, but I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t spend yesterday sitting wide-eyed and muttering “holy fuck I’m 30 tomorrow”.

Turning 30 never scared me, or, more accurately, it hasn’t scared me in recent years. My 20-year-old self was certainly aghast at the idea that I’d ever turn 30. I remember having a conversation with someone when I was 19 where I said: “I can’t imagine my life beyond 30, what do you do with your life when you know you don’t want children?”.

I don’t know exactly what I’m planning to do with the next decade of my life, but I’m no longer looking towards my 30s as if it’s a big black hole. I still feel relatively young in the grand scheme of things, even if I still don’t really understand TikTok.

Back when I was 21, I wrote a blog post called 21 Things I’ve Learned in 21 Years and then another similar one when I was 25. I stand by most of the advice in both of these posts (even if my writing skills have improved since then). Both of these posts were inspired by the ever-incredible Sarah Von Bargen, who penned her own 31 Things I’ve Learned in 31 Years post over a decade ago. She’s one of my favourite bloggers of all time and I’m now almost the same age as she was when I started reading her blog (seriously, read her blog, it’s life-changing stuff and a lot of her advice-column style posts have helped shape the person I am today).

So, naturally, I’m writing another one to mark my 30th birthday because that’s how I roll.

1. Sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be.

That person wasn’t right for you. Friends grow in different and incompatible directions. You failed that course because your brain isn’t naturally inclined towards that topic. You didn’t get the job because they felt someone else just had the right (not more!) experience. You fell madly in love and then three years later discover that it wasn’t forever.

Maybe you did do everything you could: completed all the recommended reading, carried out your fair share of the cleaning, wore the perfect interview outfit and it still didn’t work out. This happens and it’s not a reflection of your own talents, personality, merit, or qualifications.

2. But always give things your best shot

While it’s true that some things are just not meant to be, it’s also true that sometimes you didn’t give things your best shot. Always work hard enough that you can walk away knowing that it just wasn’t meant to be.

Most of the regrets that follow me around to this day are situations where I know I could have tried harder, but didn’t. In contrast, I have always made my peace with failed projects, bad grades, and break-ups where I knew there was nothing else I could have done.

3. Skinny isn’t always healthy

At 20-years-old I was the skinniest I’ve ever been and was approached romantically and sexually on the regular. At 20-years-old I was also very stressed, in a bad place, and didn’t eat very much. I also fell ill with a big case of tonsillitis which left me bed-bound for two weeks. Healthwise, I was actually at my lowest.

Fast forward to today, and I’m probably the biggest I’ve ever been (even though I’m still relatively skinny in the grand scheme of things) but I’m also at my healthiest. I eat when I’m hungry and swim regularly - and haven’t had tonsillitis in years.

4. My longest-running friendships were the ones I never saw coming

Have you ever met someone and immediately thought “I want to be this person’s friend!?”. I have! Alas, these friendships very rarely worked out long term. All my closest friendships are with people who were pretty unassuming at first glance and the connection deepened naturally and gradually over time.

5. There’s a difference between giving up and walking away from something you’ve outgrown

“Finish what you started” is actually pretty shit advice. Yes, you should always work hard and keep going even through the tough bits if it will help you reach a larger goal. But don’t confuse this with staying in a relationship/finishing a degree/maintaining a blog that is weighing you down and doesn’t contribute to a longer-term dream.

6. A degree is a lot of time and money if you don’t need it

Since graduating from university over 8 years ago, about 10% of my degree has been useful. I work in a field where rising to the top without a degree is not unheard of. I could still be in the same place today without my degree (and minus the debt). So much of what I know about marketing and communications has been learned from on-the-job training, mentorship, online courses, books, and industry magazines.

The government will pay your tuition fees in Scotland (we still have loans for living costs, which is where my debt lies) but the universities are still private institutions that exist to make money. Therefore they’ll run courses that they know fine well won’t make someone more employable in the real world.

If you need a degree to pursue your chosen career path then I wish you all the luck in the world. I’d however advise any school leavers who don’t know what they want to do long term to stay away from further education and only return if you require a specific qualification. You also never know: you might end up finding something vocational that you love and never have to pay back a single penny of student debt.

(For any wannabe marketers: the most straightforward route to a job is a marketing degree from a respected university but it’s not the only way).

7. If you’re at university, do more than just get your degree

While I might not use my degree all that much, the extracurriculars I took part in while at university have contributed towards my success in the real world. When I started attending graduate interviews for marketing roles with an International Management degree, they didn’t ask much about my degree because, well, it wasn’t very relevant. But they did always want to know more about the Cupcake & Baking Society, which I founded. I also blagged myself a fairly professional part-time job in my university’s Careers Centre, which was also relevant and a great talking point in interviews.

Everyone I went to university with who became successful in the real world did a lot more at university than just getting stuck into academia. If you are going to university I would 100% recommend getting involved in some way: whether it’s a sports team, class representative, working part-time in the university, or running for the Student Executive.

8. Treat yourself the way you would if you were dating someone

I first came across the concept of dating yourself in my early 20s and it’s one of the best self-care principles I’ve ever engaged in. I keep my room tidy even if no one else will be inside my bedroom. I shave my body often and always wear nice underwear (except when on my period). I also have one tattoo that no one is ever going to see unless they see me near naked. And I make myself beautiful dinners that are usually associated with entertaining. I deserve to feel good, even when I’m by myself.

9. Opportunities to have sex while single can be, uh, rather spontaneous

I’ve heard people mutter that when you’re single you don’t need to shave your legs or keep your bedroom tidy. In my experience this is bullshit. When you’re in a monogamous relationship you sort of know when you might be getting laid (partner away on a work trip? No sex for you! Partner ill? Probably not.).

When you’re single (and open to casual sex), however, you don’t always know when the next opportunity for sex will occur. I’ve certainly woken up not expecting to get laid that day but somehow did (sometimes without much effort on my part).

If you’re single, open to casual sex and that sex will likely involve penetration, keep a condom on you at all times.

10. Stay on good terms, unless they were an asshole

When I was young and petty, I would fully remove people from my life just because we hadn’t spoken in a while. This led to some regret and awkward moments when I visited my hometown. I then sheepishly re-added some people on Facebook. These days, I only go no-contact with people who have caused harm to myself or others.

My childhood best friend has taken a very different life path from myself, but we still tag each other in fun 90s memes. Someone who I had a fling with at uni is still my friend to this day, even if we didn’t speak for a few years while we let the dust settle. It’s lovely to still have these connections years into the future even if the relationship itself had to shift a little bit to allow it. I’m grateful I never ended things with these two people.

11. The scariest self-development is the most worthwhile

Decorating your room, drinking enough water, engaging in meaningful movement, developing your personal style, signing up for a night class, and going or a walk in the morning are all great things to do in pursuit of mental, physical and emotional health.

However, I owe most of my modern-day happiness to the scary self-care: confronting myself about times where I’d been the screw-up, coming out as bisexual, and telling some people to get the fuck out of my life. The little things helped me get closer to the day where I’d have the courage to tackle the big stuff, for sure, but for me to really feel myself shift into place I’d have to take a deep breath and do the shit that was scaring me. That’s where happiness was waiting for me.

12. Platonic relationships can be just as fulfilling as romantic and familial relationships

As someone who lives far away from their birth family and hasn’t been in an official romantic relationship for a decade, my friends have become my main source of social and emotional support. And they’ve done a bloody good job of it.

When you really think about it, a lot of the roles we assign to family members or romantic partners can be fulfilled by platonic friendships: living together, financial support, a plus one to a wedding, baring your soul, daily communication, an emergency contact, visiting you in hospital, and a travel buddy. None of these roles inherently require the relationship to be romantic, but we are socialised to think that they should be.

13. People aren’t mindreaders

Is your partner not quite hitting the spot in bed? Is your bestie overstepping your boundaries? Is your flatmate’s music a bit too loud? Was your interns work not quite up to scratch? You can frown about these things and bitch to your friends, but if you want to solve the problem you need to speak to the person.

If you speak to them and they still don’t sexually satisfy you/respect your boundaries/turn the music down then you are free to begin questioning whether this person is right for you (or your business).

14. There is an art to giving constructive criticism

Giving feedback (especially negative) is fucking hard and I wouldn’t claim to be great at it. However, I have improved over the years and have a few tips:
  • feedback should be given with the aim of improving the situation
  • use a friendly (potentially firm) tone
  • give specifics
  • do it to their face
  • if it’s feedback on a professional piece of work, back in up with experience, data, and previous campaigns (“I don’t like it” is not feedback)
15. Don’t ever beg for the bare minimum

You may occasionally need to have difficult conversations with people in your life about their behaviour. This is normal, don’t panic about it. But if you have to ask somebody for something extremely bare minimum, you might need to think whether you want this person in your life. If they can’t get the bare minimum right sweetie then they aren’t going to get the big stuff right.

Bare minimum behaviour includes basic kindness and respect, not invading your privacy, not cheating on your spouse, not lying outside of white lies, letting you know where you stand, not gossiping, respecting your time, saying please and thank you, not mocking your hobbies, allowing you to be your honest self, not controlling you, respecting personal boundaries, and physical safety. You should never have to ask for these things.

I used to think I was being unreasonable when I would get angry at people for small things. Now I realise that if someone can’t reach a bar that’s lying on the floor I have even more of a right to be annoyed. If you’re not asking for a lot then it’s even more of a joke.

16. You can’t be an expert on everything

No fully grown adult has enough hours in the week to become an expert on 10 different topics (even on furlough I didn’t have that kind of time). At most, there will be three topics you can become proficient in, one of them being your profession.

From a career standpoint, I’ve learnt that it’s best to have a specialism within your field, but have two other areas that you can fall back on. My specialism is copywriting and website maintenance, but I’m also skilled enough in social media and SEO that I can bring the skills to the table if need be. I have little Google Ads, graphic design and PR experience - and I don’t apologise for it.

17. Know when it’s better to ask for help or pay someone else to do something

I used to be stubbornly independent and would attempt to do everything myself. I was an independent and capable woman who didn’t need no help! As a result, I ended up with some disjointed blog layouts, dodgy haircuts, and once mildly electrocuted myself!

This is also applicable to your professional life. If you’re a freelancer, know when to outsource different tasks and don’t attempt to be a Jack of All Trades. If you work in an office, know the different strengths and weaknesses in your team and recognise when someone else should take on a particular project.

18. Know your weaknesses

Everyone has weaknesses and there’s no shame in admitting them. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that people will respect you more if you just say that you’re not that good at driving/cooking/talking to strangers/maths rather than faking it.

In my professional life, I have sat in on interviews where the candidate’s response to “what are your weaknesses?” is “I just work a bit too hard, you know?”. Just be honest that you’re not good at presentations or excel calculations. You’re actually more likely to get the job because maybe your weaknesses aren’t that big a deal to them or something they can put you on a training programme for.

19. Older men who date much younger women are usually immature af (or really shallow)

When I was in my mid-twenties I dated two guys who were older than me by a decade. Obviously, at the time I thought it was because I was super mature and a boy my own age couldn’t offer me what I needed.

Lol.

Now that I’ve just turned the same age that one of them was when he met me, I can confidently say that both of them were emotionally immature. Neither would get anywhere near me now and I now understand why they were hanging about with people who were much younger (older people wouldn't tolerate them).  

20. Embrace the boring

I’ve always been an introvert, but for years I tried to convince myself and people around me that I was a fun and outgoing person. I’m not, and I’m now okay with that. I like to spend my days reading non-fiction books, fucking about online, and baking - and nobody can stop me!

I’ve learned over the years that healthy relationships should be calm, and sometimes a little boring. It’s not normal to have drama every second day. I had some pretty dramatic platonic and romantic relationships in my late teens and early 20s, which feel nauseating in hindsight.

21. The secret to finding real friends is being yourself

I have a relatively high number of ex-friends. Some of that has been caused by moving to a new city (twice!) and biphobia/queerphobia - but a lot of it was caused by my very weak self-identity and hiding who I really was.

When I began to really embrace the real me, for the first time in my life I felt popular and loved. The wrong people dropped off my radar pretty easily, but the right people began flocking to me in a way that they hadn’t before.

Turns out, some really great people love the real me.

22. Finding yourself can take a long time

I spent years trying to discover who I really was and learning who you are is not that simple. Cultural conditioning, expectations from your parents, oppression, and toxic friendships/relationships can really hamper with your ability to know exactly who you are and what you want.

I was 20 when I first really realised that I didn’t have a clue who I really was or what I wanted. Then I went on a massive journey of self-discovery. There was no strategy really: I began reading self-development blogs, experimented with hobbies, switched up the way I looked, and put myself out there socially. Then piece by piece things began to fall into place. In hindsight, the process might have been quicker if I had paid a therapist or life coach for guidance - either way though, I got there.

23. There’s nothing wrong with not coming out

I might be an out and proud bisexual now, but I only came out three years ago (despite having known when I was 13). Coming out is my proudest achievement and massively improved my mental health.

It would have been great if I could have come out sooner, but I don’t regret waiting until I did. It wasn’t entirely safe for me to come out until I was almost 27. Just before I came out I ended some friendships. Within those friendships were people who had negative opinions of bisexuals and/or fetishised us. The friendships in question ended for other reasons but the night I refused to go to a birthday party was the same night I changed my dating apps to reflect who I was really interested in.

24. Don’t make excuses for creepy men

[content warning for sexual assault]

If you’ve read a lot of what I’ve published in the last few years, you might have gathered that three years ago I ended a longterm friendship because that person was convicted of sexual assault (and still denied it). I also had to end friendships with people who stood by that person.

When people ask if this news was shocking, the answer is logically no. Yes, it took me a few days to pull myself together after finding out (I hadn’t even known there was a court case), but the red flags had been there all along. The person in question had crossed the lines of personal boundaries many times before, one of his friends had personally harassed me, and just weeks before the conviction I witnessed them grab someone’s face and force a kiss on them.

It’s weird to write this on the internet as a proud feminist: but I let small creepy behaviours slide over the years. Then it turned out a lot worse was going on behind closed doors. These days I give very little chance to people who engage in creepy behaviours, regardless of how big and small they are.

25. Start saving money


I hate that we live within a capitalist system where not everyone earns enough to even create savings (sound on Universal Basic Income!). But if you’re capable of creating savings, then do so. It’s an amazing comfort to know that you can handle periods of unemployment, a flatmate moving out or even own a house one day.

26. It’s more important how your life is IRL than how it looks on social media

I love to share my life on social media, but I like to think that I share a mix of the good and bad, and I definitely don’t portray my life as more amazing than it actually is.

I used to though. The root cause of doing this was, uh, wishing my life was better than it was. Instead of dealing with the parts of my life that I was unhappy with I’d just make it look like I was happy on social media. As I became genuinely more content with life my social media began to present a realistic snapshot of my life.

My younger self isn’t alone in this. I’ve seen couples splitting up when they were gushing about each other two days earlier on Instagram and I’ve weirdly had people digitally present themselves as a good friend but when cameras were turned off they very rarely showed up in a meaningful way. In contrast, I have friends who rarely talk about me on their social media, but behind the scenes they are pulling their weight in ways that are just spectacular.

27. If you can’t adapt and grow then you’re going to get left behind

I’m someone who has been committed to growing since I was 20, and I vow to never stop growing. I’ve proven myself to not be a static person. Some people never change and in my experience, people who are resistant to change get left behind. Whether that’s in friendships, academia, the workplace, or in romantic relationships.

All my longest-running friendships are with people who know how to adapt and grow in ways that we maybe weren’t expecting when we first met. This is a crucial part of why these friendships worked out while others didn’t.

28. The best revenge is genuinely moving on

Your ex-partner can tell if you’re throwing yourself over a new person to make them jealous. That ex-boss has probably forgotten that you exist. The teacher who was mean to you in primary school might not even be alive by now.

People can be horrible. We’ve all been hurt by callous people. But whenever you do something in life to “show them” or post something petty on social media in hopes that they’ll see it, you’re only admitting that you’ve not really moved on (and that might please the person who hurt you). Just focus on your own healing and journey.

29. Life doesn’t end at 25

I remember having a conversation at uni where me and my then friends were thinking about going to a festival because apparently if we didn’t do it while we were at university then we would be too old.

Now that I’m 30 this just seems laughable. While I still haven’t been to a festival ever it’s because of ticket prices and the fact that I don’t like camping, rather than feeling too old.

You have plenty of time to tick everything off of your list. Turns out that my major achievements in my 20s would be figuring out a lot of emotional shit and building myself a solid foundation to jump from. Hopefully, my 30s will be the decade where I start ticking boxes and moving up in the world - and I’m not embarrassed that I’m running behind society’s schedule.

30. It can* get better, but only when you choose it

I spent most of my teenage years unhappy with a side helping of low self-esteem. Just before I turned 20 I would have both a romantic relationship and friendship break down on very bad terms, with two people who came with a bunch of red flags that I should have seen. This was my wake-up call, and I made a conscious decision to improve my life.

My motivation was the belief that things could get better. And they did get better, in a big way. For three years now I’ve been happy in a way that I would never have predicted. Things aren’t perfect, but I feel a calmness in me that I never felt when I was younger. This didn’t magically happen and no white knight came along to save me. It was my own doing and I’m really proud of myself.

For any young babes who are struggling to find their feet in this world, stick in there. You got this.

Love to everyone, whether you've passed the 30 mark or not x 

*I want to acknowledge that things don’t always get better, as there are people facing tougher circumstances than I was.
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