Alzheimer's / Creativity / Lifestyle / Making Lemonade / Travel / Writing

Making Lemonade #20: Takeaway Lemonade

15 lessons from 15 years of lemons

Cross-posted from SubstackView original post

Hey friends,

I enjoyed writing this creative-block-busting round-up last week, and thought this week I’d do a 15 lessons following on from the 15 years of lemons I posted before (part I and part II).

Of course, not all those years were lemons – some of them were the best years of my life (so far) – but often we learn the most from going through the hardest things and coming out the other side. I thought it would be fun to lean into that today.

I’m also going to try to keep each point short(ish) and snappy, like takeaway lemonade. Just without any of the single-use plastic waste because we like to be environmentally responsible around here.

Everything looks different once you zoom out a bit (Perth from the Hills, January 2021)

1 – Life is short

Some days, this life might feel like it’s dragging on, but before you know it, it will be flying by. We might feel like we have all the time in the world, but when we’re born, a countdown clock is born with us, and there’s no saying when that timer’s going to run out. 

So, while it’s always worth having big, long-term dreams and goals for ourselves and our futures, it’s also worth trying to live a life you’re proud of and making choices that are aligned with where you want to be and how you want to be remembered, every single day.

2 – Try to appreciate where you’re at

While it may sometimes feel like nothing ever changes and you’re just re-living a shitty groundhog day over and over (believe me, I’ve been there), one day you’ll look back and see things very differently.

I can’t even tell you how much time I’ve spent counting down days. Now, I look back and feel a little regretful for taking all that time for granted.

Hindsight – and foresight – may be 20/20, but if we just adjust our perspective a little, we can see the beauty in where we’re at right now, too.

3 – There’s no time like the present

There’s a saying that goes: “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The next best time is now”.

When we feel like we have all the time in the world, it feels like there’s always going to be time down the line to do the things we want to do. But the sooner we start planting those seeds to grow the life we want, the sooner we’ll get there.

4 – Every journey starts with a single step

When we’re 18, we almost feel like we have to have it all figured out – like knowing what to study at university, having an idea of a job/career, and all these other big things. Truth is, though, no matter how big our dreams, all we can do is put one foot in front of the other and walk in the direction we think we should be walking in. 

So many of us spend our whole lives waiting for us to feel ready, or for the stars to align and the universe to give us a sign. But life doesn’t really work like that.

Action begets action.

And taking that first baby step towards living the life you want to live is all it takes to start getting things in motion. Start moving and then let the powers of momentum (or, y’know, the universe) propel you forward.

5 – Plans should be like a map, not a tether

Along those same lines, having and making plans is great – as long as you’re not too rigid with them. Plans can be like maps to get us from where we are to where we want to be – be it the holiday of a lifetime, a work promotion, or starting a family or a business, but we have to be flexible.

Once we start following the map, we might realise that actually we don’t want to go that way, or the map’s old and outdated. But without starting, we’d never know.

Plans get us out the door and to the starting gate. From there, bigger and better things will always unfold.

6 – We can always change our minds

One of the most beautiful things about being human is our adaptability. This means that when we’re presented with new information that paints something in a new light, we are allowed to change our plans – and our minds. 

It’s okay to admit we’re wrong. To say that we tried something and it didn’t work out, or change our minds about something after talking to someone. We don’t have to die on any hills, not if we don’t want to.

7 – We learn best by failing

It’s a fact that humans learn better by failing. It’s part of the reason humans have become the top dogs of the animal kingdom. Every time we fail, that lesson gets ingrained into our consciousness far better than if we’d tried to learn it by succeeding.

Don’t be too scared to start because you’re scared to fail. Almost all the most successful people in the world failed at something before they got their lucky break and ended up where they are today.

Failure should be seen as a crucial part of the human experience, not a step to be skipped over because it’s uncomfortable.

This was a funny yet slightly uncomfortable camping trip after we forgot our poles for our brand new swag. Fortunately, we could tie it up to some trees, but we won’t be making that mistake again (hopefully!) (Sept, 2022)

8 – The biggest growth comes outside of our comfort zone

I feel a bit like I’m rehashing some old cliches, but I guess they’re cliches for a reason. The truth is, nothing was ever really born from discomfort. I only became a travel writer – or a career writer – because I got robbed and needed a way to make money.

It took me a year to start this Substack, and in the end, it was only because I was more uncomfortable with the idea of never having started it than I was uncomfortable with the idea of starting it.

Sometimes, we just have to weigh things up and be honest about what we actually want, and then see if the discomfort of getting that is worth the comfort of staying where we are.

9 – Asking for help is a gift

I remember how terrified I used to be about asking for help. It felt like it was admitting “weakness” or failure because there were things I didn’t know. It made me really uncomfortable.

In the end, I reached breaking point and I needed help (something I’m going to talk about next week), and honestly, getting that help changed my entire life for the better.

The reality is:

  • no one could ever know everything
  • we are communal creatures and are designed to thrive within community, which meant that we’d all have individual roles and there would always be someone to ask for help with things you didn’t know. 

We weren’t designed for this hyper-individualistic life that we’ve created. To stand on the shoulders of giants, we need to ask for a leg-up. And that’s okay.

10 – Be open to the mysteries of everything

It is amazing how much we, as humans, don’t know. It’s also incredible how much we have managed to figure out over the last several hundred thousand years, but there’s still so much we don’t – and probably won’t ever – know.

It’s one of the wonderful mysteries of life. 

Trying to know everything and have it all figured out all the time is a recipe for disaster. We all know life moves in mysterious ways (even if that sounds a little woo-woo), and that as much as we think we’re the upper management of this planet, there’s a lot we have yet to learn.

It’s mind-boggling to think that there are eight billion of us here on Earth, just doing our own thing and trying to live out our own dreams (Perth, Dec 2020)

11 – Stop waiting to be chosen

Honestly, I look back on all those years that I was waiting around for someone else to choose me and I cringe. As a freelance writer, I thought I just needed to get more bylines and more articles and people would start reaching out to me. That my career would take off by itself. 

The reality couldn’t have been any more different. It was only by choosing myself and backing myself over and over and over again (rejections and ghosting and all), that I ever managed to get anywhere. 

All too often, we’re conditioned to play small. Told not to get too big for our boots. Told we’re too much and not enough. But when push comes to shove, the only person we ever really have in our corner is ourselves. So choose you. Don’t wait for someone else to. Believe me, you don’t get those years back. 

12 – The lemons will come and they will keep on coming

Sink or swim. Or drown in lemons or make lemonade. The choice is yours. The fact is, there’s no out-running fate – or lemons. Life will never be perfect. It’s never even going to be ideal. And it definitely won’t always be rainbows and butterflies. But it is what you make of it.

Sometimes, it’ll take a while to get over the lemons, or see the silver linings in a shitty situation – God knows there are very few to this young-onset Alzheimer’s journey my family and I are on at the moment.

In the end, though, it’s up to us to choose whether to let the lemons win and crush our spirits and our souls with them or to find a way to rise out of the ashes, like a lemon-tinted phoenix.

13 – You don’t know what lemons everyone else is facing

We’re all going through things, all the time. We don’t know what anyone else is going through, but even if we did, we also don’t all have the same capacities and capabilities as each other. Some of us are more resilient, some of us are softer, and some of us are feeling beaten, battered, and bruised by the world and just want a break (anyone else?!)

And so, it pays to be kind. It pays to give people the benefit of the doubt. It pays to err on the side of caution and give people a chance. When we are at our lowest it’s easy to close off and retreat inwards, but that’s also the time we need kindness most.

Be the you you want to be in the world, or some other similar cringe cliche like that.

14 – The only way through is through

Again, this might be a cliche. Apparently, I’m full of them today, but I guess they’re tried and tested for a reason. I was going to make this entire post full of travel-themed tips, but I ran out of time, so it is what it is. 

As much as I’d like to rewind, pause, and fast forward time (especially since the whole Alzheimer’s thing), sometimes we’ve just got to deal with the lemons we’ve been dealt and hope that whatever is on the other side is better. As much as I wish I could numb the feelings away, I can’t.

The only way through it is through it, emotional rollercoaster and all.

15 – Less is more

Small dreams are just as good as big dreams; as long as they’re your dreams and they’re true to you.

The truth is:

  • Having all the things in the world will not make you happy
  • Things will never fill the void in your soul
  • People will always want more, so if you can train yourself to want less, then life will be much more fulfilling than if you’re always chasing the next big thing or trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Try not to fall into the “I’ll be happy when…” trap, and instead try to find ways to be happy with what you have now.

Bonus – Always take the scenic route

As a forever adventurer, I think this one pretty much speaks for itself.

That’s it for today. It’s 45°C as I write this, and I’m late for a date to stick my head in the freezer.

I hope you enjoyed this one. Next week I was thinking I might write about how I got started in my career as a travel writer and share some behind-the-scenes stuff. People think it’s all glitz and glam, but honestly, in my case that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Please feel free to ask any questions! I’ll be sure to answer them in my next post or in the comments. 

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful week!

All my love,


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