Gwennan Rees

Blogger and Illustrator

Twenty-two Things I Learnt When I Was Twenty-two.

Twenty-two Things I Learnt When I Was Twenty-two.



In case you didn’t notice I turned twenty three last weekend (you can read about that here, here and here). Now that I am a year older and a year wiser, here is a list of twenty-two things I learnt when I was twenty-two. 

1. Something needs to change. 

I don't feel politically educated enough to comment on the bigger issues of the world but I know it is important to cast your vote, it is vital to get younger people engaged with the world and I am certain something needs to be done about the wars still raging around the globe, the continued fight against terrorism, the refugee crisis and the gun culture in America. I don't know what the answers are, I don't envy the people who have to make those calls but I know something has to be done to make the world a less scary place to be.

2. I don’t know how to dress in the summer.

This might be a bit of a niche one but my fashion sense dips off the face of the earth when the weather gets above about 20 degrees. I don’t do dresses, I don’t do skirts, I don’t do vest tops or crop tops or shorts. I basically don’t know how to live if it isn’t in jeans and a jumper. 

3. I am seriously good at organising.

I have always known this, this isn’t too much of a revelation to me. I was always the one in my group of friends at school that planned our weekly excursions to the beach for OMGWTFBBQ and I was always the designated ‘ticket buyer’ who would purchase the whole groups tickets to the cinema/to gigs/to theme parks and then take everyone’s petty cash on the day. Since finishing uni and having to organise my own time and my own business I have come to realise my organisational skills have no limits, no task is too much and my stationary collection is growing week by week. 

4. I can deal with rejection a lot better than I thought.

Everyone warned us that when we left uni we’d have to deal with a lot of rejection being design students and I didn’t think I’d be very good at it (I deal with praise VERY well) but I’ve done a lot better than I thought I would. I don’t let it get to me, I don’t take it personally and I think not getting the grade I wanted for my degree played a massive part in that. 

5. I am a lot more resilient than I thought.

Along the same vein as point 4, I have never thought of myself as a particularly mentally strong person but after the most difficult year of my life I definitely give myself a bit more credit as a twenty three year old than I did turning twenty two. 

6. I spend 60% of the year thinking about Christmas.

I love christmas, this is no secret but this year I have realised just how much time I spend thinking about it, planning it, getting excited about it, buying for it and then celebrating it. And this is not limited to the festive period. Oh no. I can be thinking in depth about christmas in the height of summer in July or August. Between September and December I think about what I’m going to do for it, what I’m going to buy people, how I will design christmas cards, and what I might want myself. Between January and March I spend all my time thinking about how good christmas was, how I wish it was christmas again and wondering what next year will be like. Between April and September I will be stopping myself buying gifts for people for christmas because I think it is too early in the year and then for the actual event itself me and my family make it last about a fortnight. And this year has only intensified my festive addiction as I’ve been designing products to sell since August. 

7. I am reasonably good at writing. I started my blog as a means to promoting my work and my business but the more and more I got into it, the more I enjoyed writing and the more my blog expanded into lifestyle, lists, business and loads of help and advice. I think my A level in History and all that essay writing definitely helped way back when but I can coherently put together a sentence, sometimes I’m relatively funny and all you lovely people seem to enjoy reading it. 

8. Make the most of university.

This might be a generic statement and I imagine all new Freshers think three years minimum at university is basically a lifetime and of course you'll make the most of it. I know I thought that and I know I didn't make the most of it. I became cripplingly aware when I went into my third year, just days before my twenty second birthday that my student life was running out and tried to cram everything I wanted to do up North into the final few months. I managed a lot, I went on a weeks holiday where I stayed in my own home in Wrexham but went out every day doing something touristy, I explored my local surroundings, I had a lot of fun with my friends but it was so good I wish I'd done it sooner.

9. Saving money is vital but spending it is important too.

Everyone knows saving for a rainy day or saving for something you specifically want and having a bit put away should 'something' happen is important and crucial to grown up living. However, the last year more than ever when I managed to save a bunch of student loan back from finishing uni, I realised the vitality in splashing a bit of cash too. I am not a big spender, I joke state fact, that at any given moment I am wearing 90% Primark and I generally love a bargain. I'm not talking a handbag down to £300 from £400, I'm talking a pair of jeans for a tenner type bargain. And whilst I was saving hard I realised that giving myself just twenty quid to go and spend on whatever I wanted every now and then was good for my soul, it stopped me going on a massive 'STUFF IT I'M GOING ON A SPLURGE' type spree when I was feeling bad and anyway, everybody knows buying some cheap, cheerful, copper homeware cures all ills.

10. Social media is becoming increasingly important.

And you can't really hope to start up a business without it. This is nothing new and I blog about social media a lot like this piece on Instagram and this one on Twitter.

11. Some friendships require no effort at at all and some require a bit and that's ok.

Everyone says if a friendship requires work it's not worth it and it's those pals that you don't see for a year but nothing changes (hey guys, I'm looking at you) that are your true friends. But since leaving university and moving 3849284932 miles away from the people I saw every day for three years, some of which I lived with, has made me realise that you can't always expect to stay bff's with people if you don't bother to talk to them for five months. Just text them and say hey now.

12. Moving back home or back in with your parents is difficult for all parties.

There are an increasing number of twenty somethings moving back to their childhood homes when they graduate and it's a trend I don't see changing any time soon with the rise in rent/house prices, the increased cost in living and the massive leap in student debt. Realistically, what 21 year old can come out of 3 years of further education, £25,000 in debt and afford to get a flat of their own when they haven't even secured a job yet. We all know the struggles of moving back in with the folks, we all know what it feels like to be told off cooking wrong (how did you survive cooking on your own for 3 years??), we all feel stifled and we all feel like we've given up our independence. But, spare a thought for the poor mums and dads whose lives and homes have just been taken over by disillusioned, poor twenty somethings who now want lifts everywhere, need to borrow a tenner, demand their tea made and have brought 9282984023 bags of luggage back.

13. Nobody's homes are actually that Pinterest worthy.

It's all filters, prints from Etsy, well placed homeware and moving all your junk behind the camera.

14. I make a top notch cup of tea.

This may be personal to me, my tea may be undrinkable to others, but to me, every cuppa I make is one of them life saving mugs.

15. Life as a designer/artist/illustrator/maker is unfair.

It's difficult, you get a lot of knock downs and the industry is notoriously hard to get into. Nobody understands what you do, nobody understands why you do it, nobody understands how you are going to make money from it and nobody thinks it's a 'real' subject to study. Reading an academic subject at undergrad is a relatively 'simple' marking system. I am in no way diminishing the difficulty, I couldn't do it and it requires a heck of a brain but, if you write a good essay, if you put your point across well and back it up, if you know the facts, if you answer all the exam questions right, you will get a first class degree. In a creative subject, it is all subjective, it's all down to personal opinion and the marking system is sketchy at best. I was told in no uncertain terms a first class degree was out of the question for art and design students, nobody in my art school got a first, yet when I went to New Designers (find out what that is here), everybody, and I mean everybody, I asked had a degree with a first. That is in no way because of a lack of talent at my art school. Make of that what you will.

16. A British holiday can be just as relaxing and beautiful as one abroad (especially if the weather is right).

I have always been on British summer holidays. I am a well seasoned traveller of Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Norfolk, Hampshire and the likes and I have never pooh poohed the idea of holidaying in this country. I even went on holiday to North Wales before I moved there. This summer more than ever, when I spent a week in London in a heatwave, and when I went to Sussex and Kent (read about that here) in August, a British holiday proved to be just as wonderful as those I've spent abroad. Obviously the weather makes a difference but I think just being away from home, exploring somewhere new, taking some time out of your life and knowing you can at least speak the language and eat the food, makes a British holiday as good as any other.

17. I have a solution for all. 

A warm shower, make up on point, pjs, fresh linen, tea and something sweet to eat will cure anything. 

18. I can hold an entire conversation made up of Emojis.

This is something I specifically share with Stacey Jacqueline and is a talent I think I have honed this year. I remember buying my first iPhone in the first month of freshers (thanks student loan) and you had to download an app to get any kind of emoji. Oh how technology has moved on.

19. Netflix and chill should be avoided.

Always. Even the phrase makes me want to do a little sick.

20. The National Trust and English Heritage are there for a reason; visit all of them.

This is such a middle aged statement, clearly I've skipped my quarter life crisis and hopped straight into my midlife one. But really, some of the places I've visited this year have been incredible and so beautiful, Instagram filters won't even add anything.

21. I am getting better and better in my craft as time goes on.

I am learning to realise I am good at what I do, it is a 'talent' that not everybody can do and I am getting increasingly more confident in my ability to illustrate well and my ability to make a business out of it. Every time I draw something new, whether it be big piece for a commission or a five minute doodle for a hashtag on Twitter, I can see I am improving and I think working on something I want to rather than set projects at education level is a game changer.

22. Turning twenty three feels no different. 

I ALWAYS think I’ll feel different and older when I have a birthday and I never do, but when I look back at who I was when I was eighteen I feel like another human being. I’m not sure when the “I’m an actual adult with actual responsibility” feeling will kick in but if it hasn’t when I have finished 18 years of education and run my own business then I have to assume its when I’m married with a family. Who knows if I’ll ever feel it. 

Here's hoping what I learned during my twenty second year on this planet will help one of you fresh faced twenty one year olds!

Birthday Haul.

Birthday Haul.

Happy Birthday Me!

Happy Birthday Me!