How to have a fabulous life: Ignore trends, listen to your inner voice
With your mother’s brains, you’ll be able to read this by the time you’re two. Still, I ask my inspirational niece—an aficionado of words and opinions—to tuck it away until you’re 18 and ready to smash it in the world.
Kate Halfpenny with her great niece, Adeline.
You, little corker of a girl, were born in Queensland in 2020 during lockdown so we’ve met only once. I didn’t get to whisk you off and share my great aunt secrets to having a fabulous life, so I’m doing it now. It’s not my job to help shape your moral or fiscal codes so these are fun, mostly shallow and guaranteed to work. Right, let’s go. Ignore fashion and homewares trends. Your taste is all that counts. Buy secondhand clothes and expensive shoes. You’ll be memorable and save heaps of money. I’m writing this in a 1970s leopard print knit, black jeans from the Salvos ($12) and royal blue Isabel Marant boots.
Be yourself. Not everyone will like you. Fine—you won’t like everybody. Let go of the past or it will become a narrative that shapes the future. Understand there’s no such thing as decisions. You’ll always know what you need to do if you honour your inner voice, not anyone else’s. Your body is a perfect self-diagnosing, self-healing computer that needs to house you for eight or so decades. Listen to it carefully, your life depends on it. Respect red flags. Give it what it wants: a cheeseburger, a nap, vodka, 5km run. Don’t link guilt or shame to any of it.
Don’t expect to always be happy. With life comes some sadness.
Love at first sight absolutely exists. When it happens—people, food, a place—grab and cherish it. If you have to convince yourself you’re a match, the thing or person is not for you. Move onto your heart’s desire. Pledging to be with one person forever in marriage is the most daring risk you can take. If you do, protect it by knowing intimate conversations with someone else are more dangerous than anything else.
Keep secrets. If you tell one person anything, they’ll tell someone and soon 300 people are in on your private stuff. As an adult, the burden of the secret is better than the anxiety about who knows.
Read, read, read as if your life depends on it. Good manners are mandatory. By accepting an invitation, you’re accepting a deal to be entertaining and interested. Dazzle people with kindness and a huge smile—best accessories ever. Learn to play tennis and make two signature recipes really well. Ironing is never necessary. Spend no more than an hour a week on cleaning.
Your career will choose you. Hint: it will be based on whatever made total sense to you at age seven. Much of your life will be spent at work so it has to give satisfaction rather than social standing or money. Do not become a journalist.
Books and travel are investments. Fake tans, mani-pedis and fast fashion are not. Try everything once. Know that alcohol seems unreal but brings more unhappy than happy hours. Don’t bother with caffeine. If you need energy, run around the block or do star jumps. If you want kids, have them early—the most surreal adventure ever.
Don’t expect to always be happy. Normal mental health involves being sad. A broken heart is desperately hard to recover from but you will, because the only constant in life is change. Say sorry if you are, ask for help when you need it. Forgive yourself, always.
Adeline, rare pearls are formed under the sea when tiny bits of grit and coating mash together over years. Same with you. It’s not the shiny, happy days that shape character and make a life unique and valuable, but the ugly or seemingly mundane bits.
So do what you love, love who you want, want for nothing by knowing everything that counts is already inside you. Kate Halfpenny is a regular columnist at The Age