1) Tried and tested food combination: Take your Tequila with a slice of orange, your bacon with maple syrup, your watermelon with cubes of feta and your toast with avocado. Put mustard in your toasted cheddar sandwich, balsamic vinegar on your strawberries, and Worcestershire sauce on just about everything. Abandon your preconceptions, give it a whirl and thank me later.
2) Love isn’t just about making each other happy, it’s about helping each other to be good people: Which is why Kim and Kanye should split up before they release any more music videos together.
3) Moments to leave a relationship:
- ‘I’m actually really sympathetic to wife-beaters’
- ‘I’m a vegetarian’
- ‘You know what I really love about you? The dimples on your lower back’
- ‘Izzie thinks I’m too good for you’
- ‘This here, in my wallet, is the receipt from my first date with my ex-girlfriend’
- ‘The day I left university, I made a life-changing decision. I decided never to read a book ever again.’
4) Exercise really %&£$ing hurts: Unless you’re one of those ‘one in a million’ Aryan superhumans, there’s more or less a basic requirement for you to be red-faced, nauseous, and experiencing total despair before you’re doing anything effective towards changing your body.
5) Photograph your breakfast: 2013 was the year of food pornography. Whether it’s to drool over an Australian’s fruit platter, or to worship the deity of bacon pancakes with maple syrup, #foodporn is a surefire route to unadulterated bliss.
6) Be careful crossing the road: Baz Lurhmann said that most life lessons are recycled for more than they are worth.
But this one I can’t fault.
It is, of course, rather close to my heart because it is the advice that my father gives me every time I enter a new scenario. Holidays in Vietnam, trips to the cinema, buying bagels; the man doesn’t discriminate. And, as anyone with any experience of Asian traffic systems might agree, this particular piece of advice really is always relevant.
If you think about it, human beings tend to foster a lot of unnecessary phobias: to name a few of mine, clowns, heights, and Will.I.Am. Inevitably, the vast majority of advice you give or receive will be based on these personal scruples,instead of proven statistics.
In light of this, it makes a lot more sense to listen to Ken, and concentrate on crossing the road safely.
7) Define how you want to be treated: Let me qualify this one. Sometimes, people will act like a douche towards you, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. But, in most circumstances, it is a case of redefining their notion of how you should be treated, and this only works if you give yourself the respect you deserve.
This applies to everything: friendships, relationships, work scenarios, late night burger queues at McDonalds. Don’t be afraid to assert your needs.
*On second thoughts, don’t be too belligerent in the latter circumstance. I learnt that the hard way.
8) Banish the awkward smile: Admittedly, I’m still working on this. The academic tutor, that first year fling, that sort-of acquaintance whom you suddenly declared your ‘best friend’ when drunk. It might be tempting to treat all these encounters with a shifty nod and the most peculiar of half-smiles, but this only perpetuates a sense that there should be a social barrier there- and let’s be honest, everyone looks like a douche when they can’t fully commit to a greeting. We need to all stop being so British. A confident smile and a willingness to properly acknowledge someone shows maturity and assuages a would-be ‘awkward’ scenario.
9) Express yourself: It is easy—particularly in large, fast-paced cities— to become anonymous within a drab crowd of people. L.S. Lowry’s uniform ‘matchstick men’ illustrate particularly well how you might become ‘lost in the crowd’.
In a world of identical CVs, lazy stereotypes and Oyster cards, having your own sense of style-whether this be pink hair, or just a particularly groovy tie pin- is crucial to remembering that you are an individual.
10) The worst thing you can do is to tell yourself ‘you can’t’: I used to say that phrase a lot. I can’t sing, I can’t cook, I can’t run. Why? I’m not quite sure. A part of me thought that it was endearing; a likeable concession to being one of the underdogs. In consequence, I spent years ruling out things that, now, I wish I’d pursued. And the worst part? In some cases, being 22 makes me too old to start.
11) Cut negative people out of your life: Everyone knows that person: the relentless cynic, or the ‘drain’ who always seem intent on always bringing you down.
Life is too short.
I read somewhere that your personality is the sum of the five people that you are closest to. Having thought about this, I’m not sure I agree. But I wouldn’t mind if it was the case. My point is that, though they might not define you, the people you see day to day will have a profound influence on you. So surround yourself with people that you admire and respect; people that uplift you; people that you can be yourself around.
12) Turning off your iPhone increases productivity by about 100%: I have been known to hide my phone from myself, ask various people to confiscate it, throw it against the wall, and actively take the thing apart to stop me using it. Whatever it takes to get you away from that magnetising little piece of technology, it’s worth it.
13) Be old, while it’s still ironic: Electric blankets, cable knit cardigans, reading glasses and innumerable cups of tea. Essential to a happy student lifestyle, as well as for the OAP demographic.
14) Manage your jealousy: I’m certainly not above jealousy. I could probably reel off around two dozen people that I’m jealous of (and no doubt, so could Beyonce). Nor do I think that jealousy is immoral; it’s natural.
However, it is also the refuge of the weak. The more time you spend on someone’s Facebook profile, the more inadequate it will make you feel. So, if you envy someone, for whatever reason (their academic success, their career, their cracking beach bod) then let them inspire you. Ask their advice, if you can. It’s likely that you share a passion. If you regard the world as so competitive that everyone who had any degree of prosperity is a threat, then you deprive yourself of the chance to improve, and you create a lot of unnecessary enemies. Be happy for other people’s successes. Then focus on your own.
15) Keep busy: It’s very tempting to refuse to get involved in recreational activities- committees, societies, sports, whatever- because you think they will detract from your degree, or your job. However, unless you work at Merill Lynch or have a wailing child at home, this much needed time will most probably translate into hours spent in front of Netflix, Facebook, or your mirror whilst you work out if you are more photogenic from the right or from the less. Most often, balancing different responsibilities will actually make you more efficient (and give your life some much-needed variety beyond starting at Walter White’s face).
16) Walk barefoot: On dew-covered grass, pebbly beaches…anywhere with a low risk of encountering a hypodermic needle. It is incredibly liberating.
17) Beauty is relative: On my gap yah (bear with me), I did a History of Art course, during which time I experienced slideshow after slideshow of alabaster-pale, curvaceous Venus. This is one way of describing her: nowadays, if a celebrity looked like that, the tabloids would describe the Venus as ‘pasty’, ‘bloated’, and probably accuse them of being pregnant. Weightwatchers would probably feature her as a ‘Before’ photo. But back then, she was every man’s fantasy.
Every century has had its broad guidelines as to ‘ideal beauty’, our current standard in the West being upheld by gazelle-like supermodels. But it is essential not to get trapped in the dogma, and remember that this ‘standard’ is merely an arbitrary trend, not the definitive way to look good.
The image below, which shows the face of the ‘average woman’ from around the world, demonstrates just how diverse and ubiquitous a concept beauty really is.
18) Don’t dream it, just do it: Think of movies. Whenever the main character decides to do something, the film convention is to create a 1-2 minute montage of them ‘changing their life’. Examples include Bridget Jones’ New Year regime. Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Tai’s makeover in Clueless. Sylvester Stalone running through the streets in Rocky. It looks simple, right? It’s not. No one, off-screen at least, can turn their life around in the time it takes to play ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and flex. Making a big life change isn’t the result of some momentous energy that comes from nowhere. It’s a result of believing in something and being able to maintain your belief, even if you fail occasionally. It takes endurance, but each day you get stronger and more inclined to follow your path.
19) Go natural: If the pharmaceutical industry could trademark oxygen, I have no doubt that they would bottle it all up and sell it to us for £2 a pop. Fortunately, Johnson&Johnson have no imminent plans to do this. However, I do think that our obsession with Western medicine makes us forget how effective natural remedies can be. This is the kind of philosophy that makes you reach for an aspirin to cure a headache, when you haven’t drunk any water all day.
20) Dubstep is just a blip in music history: Once everyone realises this, we can erase all records of it and just move on.
21) Ditto the following colloquialisms: ‘Jelly’, ‘skeen’, ‘peng’, ‘obv’, ‘gash’.
22) Give something up: I used to drink around 3-4 cans of Diet Coke a day. Anyone who knew me well would have been used to the sound of a ring pull punctuating our conversations. The pyramid of cans piling up on my desk during exam season. My moans of rapture as I took that first effervescing sip…
I gave it up. At the time, it was- I admit it- just to shut my mother up, coupled with my vague, unsettling notion that the Coca Cola company singlehandedly embodies every evil of consumerism.
However, regardless of what you are actually giving up, it’s an easy way of maintaining some self-discipline, and remembering that it is you, not the multi-billion dollar corporation, that is in control.
Follow me @ChezSpecter