After turning 30 at the end of last month, and moving into a new decade – both in a wider sense and of my own life – it’s not surprising that I’d been feeling a bit reflective. And so on last week’s episode of Cocktails and Confessions, myself and Darren discussed the things we wished we’d known when we were younger; not to rehash any regrets, but rather to pass on any wisdom or lessons that may help those younger than us.

  1. Be yourself 

This is perhaps one of the biggest clichés when it comes to ‘lessons learned’, but it’s a cliche for a reason. As I stated on the podcast, “when you’re yourself, things begin to fall into place”. Giving off any other vibe than that which is authentic will only attract things which aren’t right for you. It also keeps you trapped in a cycle of unhappiness; permanently acting as someone other than ourselves, (spoiler: you’re not getting paid and won’t win an Oscar).

2. Self-worth

Knowing your self-worth is one of the most beneficial and powerful things you can know; it will prevent you from years of hurt, time-wasted (not to mention all the time it takes to rebuild it) and all the other things that come with having low self-esteem. It can be especially hard for us, as members of the LGBTQ community to value ourselves because we’re conditioned to believe that we’re lesser than the heterosexual world; believe that anybody who makes you feel bad about yourself is only showing you who they really are – not who you are.

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3. Healthy Coping Mechanisms 

Like, self-worth, healthy coping mechanisms are an extremely valuable tool to know – especially since none of us are taught them at school. Personally, I used a number of destructive devices to cope with uncomfortable emotions, whether that was disordered eating or taking drugs and when reflecting on the number of years I spent doing that, it becomes apparent that the time could’ve been so much better utilised; not to mention that these things only ever complicate pre-existing issues.

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4. Do less drugs

On that note, one of the big things both myself and Darren realised was that we wish we’d done less drugs; that’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy ourselves at the time – and life in your teens and 20s is definitely the time to get fucked up if you’re going to do it – but we’d likely be in better positions both financially and physically (not to mention have better social skills and probably boyfriends) if we’d have cut our partying era or amount of baggies purchased in half.

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5. Identifying toxic people

One thing Darren said he wish he’d known was that he’d encounter so many fucked up people, although we can extend this to general toxicity which is perhaps not as bad on a surface level, but can be extremely detrimental in the long-term. Sure, those older guys plying younger lads with drugs and using their twisted mindsets to manipulate others for their own distorted pleasure, are one we wish we’d never have to encounter; but what about those we believe to be friends, or don’t realise are cunning at first and allow them to drain our light?

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6. Take School and The Scene less seriously

When we’re at school that was our world. We long to be popular, liked and let the bullies walk all over us. We take horrible words to heart and quiver at the thought of anybody knowing our true selves, but as Darren outlines, life would’ve been a lot easier if we realised that in the big scheme of things, school doesn’t mean anything, and the bullies mean even less.

The straight lads looking to experiment sexually, however, that was something we wish we had invested more time in.

Similarly, it’s very easy for us to feel wrapped up in the gay scene, but where does that get us? “You’re more like to get an STI and drug addiction than a boyfriend and a mortgage”, quips Swan.

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7. Choosing happiness

This was something I’d forgot to mention while chatting on the episode, but I wish I could’ve chosen happiness earlier. It can be potentially controversial to thing that happiness is a choice, after all, if we can just “choose” it, then why doesn’t everybody? Well, that’s because it’s not an easy choice to make. Choosing to be happy means turning your back on negativity which comes naturally to most of us; especially those with damaged childhoods. It takes a conscious effort, often years of practice and frequently therapy to achieve. But the sooner we recognise that it’s a choice and begin to incorporate progressive practices like gratitude into our life, the sooner we can achieve it.

To listen to the rest of the things we’d known, and the ratchet tales that accompany them (there are public park hook-ups, druggies going loopy at after-parties and threesomes gone wrong) check out the episode below or head to Apple (podcast app on iPhone) or Spotify to stream.