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As Valentine’s Day approaches, I can’t help but remember just two years ago when I was crazy in love and whisked off my feet with all the hearts and roses that come with the holiday. A romantic dinner for two and a year later, who knew that I would spend my next Valentine’s Day at a Half Moon Party in Thailand more single than I had been in a decade, that two years on I would be preparing to spend the day at a festival with good friends. It’s amazing how much your life can change with your relationship status and it’s only been since I left my nine year relationship to come traveling that I have really noticed how much others really let their relationships rule their lives and their decisions. Even now, when I tell people I left behind such a long-term relationship to travel the world solo, they look at me incredulously and think I’m slightly crazy – but then I ask, wouldn’t it be crazier to put your dreams on hold and end up resenting the person you love the most? Begrudgingly they nod in agreement, but then you seem them do it again, and again, and again. Sacrificing their studies, their hobbies, their families and homes, all for a love that changes their world but not always for the better.

Two years ago, for Valentine’s, I wrote a blog post entitled “Relationships | What’s it really like to have a boyfriend at university?” which has still remained one of my most popular posts. It seems that the title of this post was something that several young women found themselves typing into Google as they tried to plan a future with their loves, tried to make a decision about their own education and future, and tried to keep the balance between what their head and heart were screaming. Over the last two years, this post has probably received the most comments and messages above all of my others, and it seems to be a bit of a hot topic for young ladies who are about to advance to this stage of their lives. Sixth Form and College is around the time when many young couples start pairing off and often you’ll find your first love, I certainly did. It’s a great time, when you’re learning what it’s like to first love another person, to be part of a real adult relationship and to be regarded as a “real” couple instead of foolish young teenagers. It’s easy for this love to take over your life a bit and we all went through that phase where we didn’t want to leave each others’ side, but then comes the pressures of university – whether you decide to go or not, often this can be the decider for whether many couples will survive. Often one half of the couple will have a longing to continue their studies as I did, while the other half will have a plan to either study elsewhere, or not at all. So what do you do when this happens?

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So many girls have written to me explaining how worried they are that their relationship will not withstand the pressures of university and separation. I’ve had some asking whether I think they will make it when their other half already spends his time eying up other girls or flirting, I’ve had others ask whether the distance will be a problem, and I’ve had far too many asking whether I think they should change their lifelong university preference to attend the same school as their boyfriend. Something I want to make clear is that I have always been a very independent person, so has my ex-boyfriend and thats part of the reason we loved each other so much – we both trusted each other to give as much space as needed throughout the nine years and I think that’s why we were so happy throughout. When it came to me choosing my university and course, he had no input into my choice. I told him all about the universities I visited and about what my options were, but that was the extent of his influence. I made my choice of university based wholly on the course content, the campus, the people and the feeling of the place – from the moment I stepped on to the campus at University of Hertfordshire, I knew this was the place I had to spend the next three years of my life. Because that’s what it was – my life. Not his, although he was a huge part of my life after three years. But I knew that regardless of where I was, what I studied or how far apart we were, if we truly loved each other we would make it work. And if it didn’t work, I certainly didn’t want to be anywhere but my first choice of university.

The same happened when I came traveling – I made the decision separately that this was what I wanted to do, just like my other half decided he wanted to go to university to study. Independently we knew what was right for each of us, and mutually when we discussed it, we came to a decision that we both had to go our separate ways in order to be happy. Whether it was a permanent or temporary decision is another matter, but we both knew we had to do this otherwise we would end up resenting each other. It was easily the hardest decision of my life, but now, over a year after I left, I can tell you it was the best decision I ever made. Much like my choice of university, it has led me to one of the happiest times of my life, and yes, it does mean I’ve had to say goodbye to an incredible relationship but it also means I’ve chosen to invest in myself. Because being single doesn’t mean being lonely – if anything, since being single I’ve never been surrounded by such love, light and laughter, I’ve actually made some of the best friends and family of my life. So many seem to stay in a relationship because they are scared of the alternative, but what are you really afraid of – not having anyone’s shadow to stand in? I look around and see so many young women in relationships that make them feel insecure, afraid or unhappy, and I wonder why they stay. I’m entirely independent and alone at this point in my life and I’ve never felt stronger, braver or happier. Being single has made me fearless, given me incredible confidence and made me really value myself as an individual.

I’m not saying that every woman out there should go dump her boyfriend this Valentine’s Day (that would be a bit mean wouldn’t it?!), I’m just saying that it is important to celebrate being independent and single as well as celebrating retaining your individual identity when you’re in a relationship. Don’t be afraid to make independent decisions within a relationship, especially when it will have a huge impact on your own life. It’s easy to get swept up in coupledom, to let your loins take over your thought processes but don’t forget that when it comes to things like education and travel – these are things that change the way you view the life you live. If you already fear that the change will challenge your relationship beyond repair, then perhaps that relationship was not as strong as you first thought. But that’s okay, some people are destined to dip in and out of our lives gently influencing us along the way, while others exist to shake our worlds to the very core, changing and rebuilding them in ways we never expected. It’s easy to get them mixed up and sometimes a big change like university or travel is needed to show one from the other. But whichever type of relationship you have, it’s not as important as the one you have with yourself – that is the one you should be investing the real time, effort and love into, because its the only one you can guarantee will last for life.

How do you remain independent within your relationship? Can you think of a time when you have put yourself above the relationship? What have you sacrificed for love – and was it worth it?

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I like to live my life with no regrets, and I’m happy to say that up to this point in my life, I genuinely don’t regret a single thing. Everything that has happened up to now had led me to this point, and I’m pretty happy with my lot in life. I’ve got a great job, amazing friends and family, a pretty special boyfriend and big plans for the future. I may have struggled along the way to getting to this point, and I may have had some tough times – but that makes me value what I have more than ever and I can’t help but be grateful for that. Throughout my life I have always strived to be the best version of myself as much as possible, whether that means going out of my way to help people or working hard for my degree or job. I have to admit, putting my all into everything does mean I’ve turned into a bit of a perfectionist and my high standards have meant that I’ve been left disappointed by others over the years. But I’ve learnt to accept that I have no control over the actions of others, that I can only focus on my own actions because they are the only thing that is within my control. Trust me, that’s not an easy thing for any perfectionist to deal with – I’m sure there are those who know and are nodding at the screen right now.

Regret is a funny word. It can be meaningless to a person, or it can be everything. With phrases like “carpe diem” and “live for the moment” tattooed on peoples’ extremities, plastered across inspirational images posted on Instagram and engrained on our brains – it’s no surprise that everyone says they live a life of no regrets. A conversation with a friend really got me thinking about this, whether I would do anything differently or whether I am actually really happy with the way things have turned out. I’ve always been very much of the viewpoint that things, to a extent, happen for a reason. I think if we don’t feel a certain drive to act in a certain way, we can’t really regret it, we can only learn from it. We can always wonder if things would have turned out differently, even though we know we can’t change things. I guess my regrets come more in the form of things I would love to tell my younger self, glimpses into the future I would have liked to have shared and to have known at the time. You’ve got to admit if you could go back in time and warn about a nasty boyfriend or a bad haircut, you would definitely do it…

So what would I say to my younger self?


Advice to Lucy, age 5-10

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My favourite spotty dress

  1. Really revel in staying up past bedtime reading books under your covers, and building whole cities for your Barbies. Soon will come a time when you don’t get to do either any more.
  2. Persevere in maths – it’s hard and it’s horrible, but it’s better to learn it all now than having to catch up and I promise your hard work will pay off before high school.
  3. It’s not nice to fight with your sister, but soon a time will come when it’s considered GBH and she won’t find it quite as funny. Make the most of it while you can.
  4. Don’t breathe in when that teacher comes over to read your work over your shoulder. Chugging instant coffee and chewing gum is a combination that will make you gag.

 

 

 


 Advice to Lucy, age 10-16

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At a film premiere in my acting days

  1. Friendship groups change more often than your socks, but identify the keepers and hold them close. Stick to the ones who have been there through think and thin, you’ll be fine.
  2. Don’t be afraid to work hard, what’s not “cool” is living off benefits for the rest of your life and not getting to go to university because you didn’t pass your exams.
  3. Boys are great as friends, unreliable as boyfriends at this age. Flirting is fun, but don’t waste your time – you’ll have more fun with your girls and someone very special is on the way.
  4. GCSE’s don’t actually matter!! All that work and they don’t actually amount to anything past a pass in English, maths and science to get into Sixth Form – still make sure you do well but don’t stress yourself out.

 

 

 

 


 

 Advice to Lucy, age 16 to 18

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Before the Sixth Form leavers do

  1. Don’t be afraid to speak up sooner. Those friends who have let you down repeatedly, been nasty and contribute nothing – they don’t deserve to be in your life.
  2. Don’t listen to the haters and the worriers – they know nothing about your relationship and you’re still going strong over seven years later! Dive in heart first and enjoy it.
  3. Don’t be pressured by your parents and others into choosing a university you know isn’t right for you – you’re making the right decision and you’re going to have the time of your life!
  4. Think about other options for careers and do some more research – think about journalism and media as an option instead of just teaching.

 

 

 

 


 Advice to Lucy, aged 18-21

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On my 21st birthday

  1. Partying hard will never stop you achieving your goals – enjoy, you deserve it after working so hard and no-one should stop you.
  2. Stop wasting time and accept that no matter how much you want to save friends, you can’t. They have to save themselves and all you can do is be there to pick up the pieces.
  3. Not taking a dissertation module will not affect you, but getting more journalism experience will only benefit you. Get involved with the student newspaper.
  4. Start a blog. You’re going to do really well in a few years, but that will only make you regret not starting earlier when you had more time on your hands.

 

 

 


Advice to Lucy, aged 22-present

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Before a night out aged 22

  1. You’re making the right decision to come home and take the job at the paper, but don’t expect to finish that journalism qualification – some big changes are coming.
  2. Save, save, save, save. No matter what you think you’re saving for, understand that at some point you will want to escape and you need a fund behind you. No matter how little you earn, you can always save.
  3. Don’t be afraid of a big change – you can live in denial for a year or you can make a snap decision and face up to what you have known all along – travel is the way out.
  4. Becoming editor of This Festival Feeling is one of the best things you will have done up to this point – enjoy it and really squeeze everything you can out of it.

After a request from a fellow blogger, I’m turning this post into a blogging tag! My first one, and I’m hoping you’ll all enjoy writing this post as much as I have. I want to all to share the advice and things you would say to your former self – then nominate five bloggers to do the same. My nominations are:

     Charlie          Holly          Jasmine          Aftab          Antoinette

Enjoy ladies!

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Ab Lucy sign off

PS. Don’t forget to vote for me in the UK Blog Awards travel and lifestyle categories!! Click here and here to cast your votes xx

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