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43 THINGS I'VE LEARNT IN MY 43 YEARS: KARINA JAYA-RATNAM

Samantha Wills

 43 years young, Karina Jaya-Ratnma shares a life lesson for every year she's been learning them.

43 years young, Karina Jaya-Ratnma shares a life lesson for every year she's been learning them.

1. Most importantly, learn to love yourself, flaws and all. This is the only way to truly accept yourself. Acknowledge your good and bad points. Try to enhance the good, while keeping control of the bad.


2. Surround yourself with true friends - choose people who can be honest without being cruel. Who will tell you when you’re being amazing, but at the same time, call you out when you’re letting yourself down by being bitchy/critical/not your best self. 


3. Big up your sisters. Women have a tendency to put each other down - to sneer when a woman is wearing something that maybe doesn’t suit her (maybe she feels good in it though!), wearing too much/too little make up or having a bad hair day. I think that women are inherently in competition with each other: to find the best man; to be offered the job; to be prettiest; to have the best life. Something I call the fairytale effect - look at Cinderella’s sisters, willing to cut off their toes to snag the prize, or the queen in Snow White, who tries to kill Snow, just because she is deemed prettier. It’s petty. Stop.


4. Our worth isn’t in how we look, it’s in how we act and what we offer people. Saying that, if it makes you feel better about yourself, then wear that make up (or not). Go to the hairdressers (or not). Wear the latest trends (you’ve guessed it... Or not!)

5. You are your harshest critic. No-one else really cares what you look like. They are more interested in themselves. They do care, however, about how you treat them and others. Give yourself a break once in a while.


6. Try to see your good bits in the mirror, not just the bad. Look at how shiny and bright your eyes are, rather than only seeing the bags under them.

7. Treat people well. From the lowliest to the highest, people deserve to be treated with respect, until they lose that right. I used to work in bars and restaurants. Even though I am serving you, I am still a person, working this job for a reason. I am able to hold a conversation, I may even be entertaining. Those who treat people in service jobs with disdain, may not be the best people. (I will never go on a 2nd date with a man who has been rude to a server).


8. Don’t make snap judgements. Although the above may sound judgemental, cut people some slack. If someone is rude or discourteous, they may just be having a bad day. If the behaviour is consistent over a period of time, then it may be that is their default setting. 


9. Manners cost nothing, but reap a world of benefits. You can never say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ enough. It costs you nothing but a split second, but it makes whoever you’re saying it to feel appreciated and worthwhile. Hold the door for the person behind you. Say thank you when someone holds a door for you. Appreciate the small kindnesses that we show each other. 


10. Smile. That old saying, ‘Smile and the world smiles with you’ is true. It’s difficult not to respond to a smile. It makes you feel warm; it makes you feel kindly disposed to the next person you see. A laugh is even better…


11. Laugh as much as you can. It’s contagious, releases hormones that make you feel great and is fantastic as a bonding ‘exercise’. Those who laugh together, stay together. 

12. Deal with stress in a positive way. I’ve worked in advertising for many years. It’s a stressful business and sometimes clients seem to want to stymie your every move. There are two ways to handle stressful situations. 1. Wallow in it and allow it to take over. 2. Vocalise it. Get your stress out there and share it. I always found that having a communal moan with my team helped everyone and made us closer. It stopped burn-out and made everyone happier knowing that there was a forum to vent their frustrations. This works in all aspects of life, not just work. (Make sure you’re not moaning all the time though, this can make you unappealing to be around)


13. Look for the good in all situations. Not every situation has a silver lining, but there maybe something you can learn from a shitty event. You may learn that you are more resilient than you thought. You may learn that more people love you and care about you than you realised. Good things can come from really bad.


14. Have a positive outlook. I don’t think I’m an optimist. I have a habit of preparing for the worst outcome so that I am prepared to deal with it. I may still be disappointed or feel down, but at least it didn’t come from out of the blue. But that doesn’t stop me from hoping for the best. If the outcome is positive, I’m prepared as well. 


15. Chivalry isn’t dead. There is no rule about letting someone go first, or holding a door open for them. And it’s not only the preserve of men. Women can, and should, be chivalrous as well. 


16. Be kind. To yourself, to your loved ones, and to strangers. If you can, drop a coin into a homeless person’s cup, or buy them a coffee. 

17. Pay a compliment to someone. It can be about anything - their look, their work, their personality. It doesn’t matter. Just make someone feel good and bring a smile to their day. (And don’t do it expecting one in return).


18. If you see someone wearing something you love, tell them. It may lead to a really interesting conversation.


19. Talk to strangers. This follows on from smiling and points 16 and 17. A simple action can make a huge positive impact on others. I once told a woman I’d never seen before that I loved her dress. That simple comment turned into a 30 minute conversation where we found we had a huge amount in common. She is now one of my best friends. 


20. Don’t be afraid to love. Heartbreak is horrible and I hope you don’t have to go through it too many times, but that feeling of loving someone, whether romantic, familial or platonic is wonderful. 


21. Hug people. Physical contact has amazing healing powers. Babies can be helped to overcome illness by being held skin-to-skin. But hugging is also hugely beneficial for adults. A 2 second hug can make you feel valued and cared for. 


22. Snuggle. Sex is great, but snuggling with your lover/partner has a feel-good factor that sex can’t even come close to. See above



23. Put yourself first once in a while. I like to use the airline safety procedure as an example of this. ‘Put your own oxygen mask on before putting them on dependents’. If you’re not taking care of yourself properly, you can’t take care of everyone else in your life. When you can, make time for yourself. To enjoy a cup of coffee in silence. To go to the gym. To meet up with friends. To go on holiday on your own. Whatever, whenever, try. 

24. Enjoy the quiet. While it’s tempting to be ‘always on’, quiet time is great for just letting the brain wind down. Turn the TV off. Put down that phone/tablet and just be. Or read a book. Or listen to the ambient sounds around you. It doesn’t have to be complete silence, but being without electronic chatter is good for the soul. 


25. Embrace ageing. It’s something we all have to go through. Wrinkles are a sign of character and a life lived. Smile and laugh lines around your eyes and mouth are there for a reason - you have smiled and laughed so much in your life, that they have left their mark. It makes your face friendly and appealing. Grey hair, while potentially difficult to come to terms with, is beautiful. Look at Helen Mirren! And women, like fine wines, only get better with age! 


26. Accept your life for what it is. If you’re always looking back, or regretting decisions, you’re not fully living your life. If there are things you want to change, whether that’s getting out of a bad relationship, or getting into a relationship, then do your best to make it happen. Don’t sit around whining about it. 


27. Keep on learning. Whether it’s learning to dance, to knit or a new language, learning helps to keep your brain active and it gives you something interesting to talk about

 

28. Appreciate the small stuff. Take time to notice when something good happens. It might be as small as every traffic light being green on your journey. But it’s still nice…


29. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Burning the toast isn’t the end of the world. Burning down the house is much more impactful! 


30. Cook for yourself. Take the time to shop for ingredients and cook from scratch. It’s much healthier for you than pre-prepared meals and you know exactly what’s in it. 


31. Give the gift of your time. Face to face where possible. We are inherently better at communicating face to face then via technology. We get most of our conversational cues from body language, not what comes out of our mouths, so face to face is much more rewarding for all concerned.


32. Embrace technology. The word is becoming ever-more connected. Take up the things that will be useful to you and use them to their full potential. After all, you don’t want your 2 year old niece/nephew/grandchild/friend’s child being more able to use tech than you! 


33. Open your mind. The world is becoming smaller, due to tech advances and easier access to far-flung places. If you meet someone from another country, culture religion or background, take the opportunity to talk to them. Don’t just dismiss them as ‘different’. 

34. Use your imagination. The most popular toy in the world, ever, is LEGO. They are so successful because out of simple plastic bricks, you are able to create anything your mind can devise. Just because you’re now grown, doesn’t mean you can’t still let your imagination run wild on occasion.


35. Use your creativity. You may not work in a creative industry, or have a natural aptitude for art, but we all have some kind of creativity within us. Find it, tap into it, and you may find a new passion.


36. Be open to new experiences. Whether that be looking for love, a job or something to do in your free time, don’t automatically say no. You never know, you may enjoy it. 


37. Be considerate to others. Whatever mood you’re in, being sensitive to those around you will help to make your environment more enjoyable for everyone. 


38. Embrace ‘hygge’. This is a difficult word to translate into English. It is a feeling more than anything, of being comfortable with your surroundings and those you share it with. That can be an evening at home, on your own with the company of the TV, or it can be a raucous night out. Or a dinner party with close friends. Or chatting with a stranger on a flight. It isn’t about home furnishings or candles (although candles can help to encourage hygge by creating an atmosphere of warmth and very forgiving lighting). 


39. Fight for what you believe in. If you believe strongly that something needs to change, make your voice heard. Go on marches. Organise or sign petitions. Call out companies on social media. You may not think your voice will have much of an impact, but it does. And the more we fight for what we believe in, the more will change (hopefully for the better)

40. Be an ‘Equalitist’. Feminism is great, don’t get me wrong. I am a feminist, but only in as much that I want equal rights for all, not just for women. What about the people of colour who are discriminated against. Or those with disabilities? Or those from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds? We all deserve an equal chance in life. What we do with that chance, is up to us. 


41. Don’t moan about paying your taxes. Without people paying their taxes, we wouldn’t have all of the great things that we take for granted. But we must also urge big multi-nationals to pay their fair share… After all, where would we be without free education; without the NHS (here in the UK); without the roads being looked after. 



42. Look after your money. This is a boring, but important one. Try to make sure you have a bit of a cushion. In these uncertain economic times, having a buffer if you suddenly lose your job, is a lifesaver. 

43. Be political. I don’t mean that you have to pledge allegiance to one political party or another. What I do mean, is that you should be aware of what is going on in your world, and the larger world. Why is your local council closing the food bank? What are the implications of the US pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord? And vote. People have fought wars and been killed for the right to vote. It is 100 years since women won the vote in the UK, after Emily Davison threw herself under the King’s horse. I don’t care if you spoil your ballot. I don’t care if you vote for a political party I disagree with. I just want everyone who is eligible to vote, to get themselves to the polling booth and vote! If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the outcome of an election/referendum. There have been important referendums in the UK and Australia recently. Many young people on the UK didn’t know enough about the impact of leaving the EU, or the advantages of staying, to make a decision to stay or go. So they abstained. Now, they are having to live with the consequences of a decision made by their grandparents’ generation. 
 

Bonus: 
Read. For enjoyment, for learning, for keeping up with current affairs. It’s good for the brain and the soul!

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