Oh my God, I’m 24! My birthday was just a couple of days ago, so I felt a more personal blog post would be apt. Now for most people, 24 really isn’t a big deal. It’s just another year gone by and it doesn’t even stand out like an 18th, 21st or 25th birthday. I didn’t want to bother with a celebration as such either, but then I remembered, these 24 years haven’t exactly been the easiest for me.

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Those who are close to me know how I’ve struggled through a childhood health condition – something I hardly ever talk about. I’ve lived a somewhat “double life,” because I always wanted people to know me for me, rather than feel sympathetic or define me by my problems. Thankfully, I have also been lucky enough to have the most supportive family and friends, who have only motivated me at every step.

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So for me, each birthday has been a positive reminder that I made it so far despite everything life threw my way! I don’t want to get into the details of this right now – you have no idea how hard it is for me to even type this out here – but I do hope to write a book someday and share my journey with everyone. My mum has always told me you never know how your personal experience can touch another person’s life, which is why that book is definitely on my agenda!

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For now, I thought I’ll just share a list of things I’ve learned in these 24 years. It’s not a lot, but it does make me reflect on how much there is to be grateful for!

  • Your true friends will look past your weight, height and looks. Someone who calls you his/her friend, but keeps reminding you of what’s wrong with your appearance, is just a shallow prick pretending to care. Also, this just reveals their hidden insecurities.
  • Your parents are the only ones who will love you unconditionally, no matter what your flaws or shortcomings. Don’t ever ignore them, especially when they need you most.
  • You can dream and go after your goals if you have enough determination and drive. When it really comes down to it, the obstacles won’t matter.
  • As hackneyed as this sounds, your biggest competition is yourself. Stop comparing your life to others’; you’re a separate individual with an exciting story. Imitating others might rob you off your chance to find your true purpose.
  • There may be days when you hate your sibling/s, but there’s no denying they’ve got your back whenever you need them. Plus, it’s a bonus to have someone whom you can have inside jokes about the family with. It’s amazing watching my baby brother grow up and being able to talk about almost everything with him!
  • Your dog will show you what true love is. You’ll learn to love unconditionally the minute that tiny furry body enters your house. He/she is the only one who will celebrate each time you come back home, even if it’s only after 5 minutes. I promise you no one will ever be this happy about your existence!
  • Do NOT judge a book by its cover, ever – and I mean this both literally and metaphorically. I have to admit that I’ve made the mistake of judging some people without getting to know them, but soon realized how amazing they are and went on to become the best of friends with them. I know there are loads of people out there who have judged me too; many who have jumped to the conclusion that I’m probably anorexic (without even knowing the definition of the word, by the way. Also, I’m not; my skinny frame is all thanks to a fast metabolism). All I’m saying is give people a chance, you have no idea what they’re going through. And who knows? They might even surprise you!
  • Make sure you do something, anything, for your body; whether it’s yoga, going to the gym, playing a sport, or simply taking an evening stroll. Ignore the people who say stupid things like, “You’re too thin/young, you don’t need to work out,” – EVERYONE needs to do something to stay fit, especially since most of us are stuck staring at our laptops for the greater part of the day. It goes without saying eating well is extremely important too!
  • Positivity is the key to life. I’m forever thankful to my mum who instilled this attitude in me at a very young age and believed I could achieve anything I put my heart to. All the encouragement and motivation that comes from both my parents is what has, and still does, keep me going.
  • I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage self not to stress too much about what people think of me. Eventually, it all works out, you become more confident and stop caring, and everyone who treated you like you didn’t exist in high school suddenly start behaving like your BFFs. Sorry, but it’s true, them tables do turn! Just believe in yourself!
  • At the end of the day, you’ll be able to count the number of people you can trust with your life on one hand. They’re the ones who have seen you through all the good, bad and ugly, and still stuck by. Keep them close and always be grateful for them. Quality over quantity!