I’m not going to finish my 30 before 30 list. Here’s why.

holly brockwell woman of the year

In July 2014, I wrote a list.

It was a list of 30 things I’d like to achieve before my 30th birthday in December this year. I had a year and 5 months – so much time.

At the time of writing the list, I was living in my hometown of Nottingham. I’d gone back there for a while, to be with my family and have some time away from the stuff that was going wrong for me in London. All my schoolfriends had moved away, so I didn’t know many people, and my evenings were pretty empty. I was working in a tiny marketing agency and no one wanted to hang out after work – they were mostly married or coupled up, most had kids. I needed something to keep me busy, and the list was it.

For the first few months, I raced through it. I devoured the first few books on the top 50 list, eagerly watched the films I was most excited about on the top 100.  I started singing lessons. I went to a beer festival. I booked a skydive. I was actively trying, and it was giving me so much satisfaction. It took over my life, really, because there was nothing else to fixate on. My career, my friends and my lovelife were sorely lacking at that point. I was lonely, and when I’m lonely I focus like hell.

And then everything changed.

In mudslips and landslides, everything about my life changed over that year and a half. I started writing phone reviews in the evenings while still working my full-time job (often filming review videos at 2am, having changed the time on the handset so you couldn’t tell), then got offered a full-time journalism job at ShinyShiny off the back of it. I moved back to London to work there full time, loved that job, lost that job (we all got laid off), started my own women’s tech site, founded my own business, and basically worked all the hours I could to get it off the ground.

It didn’t leave much time for the list.

I’ve been aware for quite a while that the list was becoming a burden. Not only that I didn’t have time to focus on it, but also that I didn’t really want to. I’ve learnt so much from it, and I’ll be writing a post about that sometime soon, but at this point I’ve either completed or will complete 25 of the 30 items, and I think that’s enough:

1. Watch every single one of IMDB’s top 100 films
2. Read every single book on Waterstones’ ‘50 books to read before you die’ list. Except the Bible
4. Go abroad on my own
5. Reach 10,000 Twitter followers
6. Donate *something*
7. Start and finish a course of dance lessons
8. Start and finish a course of singing lessons
9. Learn to sew
10. Throw a really amazing party and not cancel it
11. Visit Wales
12. Visit Scotland
13. Visit Ireland
15. Learn to cook 3 new dishes
16. Learn to make 3 new desserts
17. Raise £1000 for charity (I raised £4000!)
18. Have a column or article published in a physical newspaper or magazine, with my name on it (I now have a regular page in Woman & Home)
20. Learn to love beer, or at least cider
21. Learn to taste wine properly
22. Jump out of a plane
23. Be on TV
24. Go to a festival
25. Learn an instrument well enough to play the Game of Thrones theme song
26. Make a website
27. Perform in public
28. Take an entry-level lesson in something new

I’ve crossed off a couple of things that aren’t technically done yet (eg. I’m not going to Ireland ’til April, and my birthday party is in December) but they’re happening, so they’re essentially sorted.

25/30 is 83%, so I’ve got a First.

The 5 things remaining are ones I haven’t even attempted, and I’m fine with that:

3. Write the first chapter of a book.
14. Be an extra in something.
19. Learn to juggle
29. Learn/improve a language (although I’ve taken two trips to Barcelona, which improved my Spanish no end)
30. Write a comedy song

30 things I’ve done instead

Some absolutely incredible things have happened since I wrote the list. Things I would never have dreamed of putting on it. So I’m OK with the fact that I haven’t learnt to juggle, because I’ve done all this:

  1. Won Woman of the Year
  2. Visited 3 new countries (Spain, Germany, China)
  3. Visited a new continent (Asia)
  4. Became a director of my own business
  5. Became an aunty to the two best little girls in the entire world
  6. Judged a hackathon
  7. Appeared on the news talking about women in games
  8. Randomly got my face used in an app
  9. Climbed up the O2
  10. Turned down several kickass job offers because I’m busy doing my own thing
  11. Got the Daily Mail to write about Venn diagrams
  12. Got called a “Twitter phenom” by Fortune
  13. Got called a “titcow” by 8Chan
  14. Landed a regular feature in a big print publication
  15. Drank 21 shots on a night out and didn’t die (that Periscope has been very much deleted)
  16. Trained up as a charity volunteer
  17. Got a giant chocolate replica of my own face
  18. Got included in a list of “badass women
  19. Had no less than three Twitter parody accounts made of me, including one specifically for my teeth (they’ve been suspended)
  20. Appeared on This Morning (with pornstar hair)
  21. Got discussed on The Wright Stuff without them even bothering to tell me
  22. Got a sort-of apology from Matthew Wright
  23. Had an entire essay written about me by a men’s rights site
  24. Read a debate about the size of my vagina in the Daily Mail comments (#14)
  25. Talked about cows on the BBC (1:20)
  26. Guested on Jeremy Vine (the largest current affairs show in Europe, I’m told!) twice
  27. Talked on a panel about women in technology
  28. Spoke at a primary school about being a journalist
  29. Went on Women’s Hour
  30. Felt pretty bloody good about turning 30. Which, by the way, I’m going to be doing in China. I love my job.

If I ever feel the pressing need to do any of the other 5 things, I’ve got the rest of my life. It’s not a bucket list, after all – 30 is just the beginning.

#30before30 item 11: visit Wales

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The beach at Portmeirion. For September, we were pretty lucky with the weather!

It’s not long ’til my birthday, so I’m rattling through the list trying to get them all done! This weekend, I was at a loose end so decided to head to Wales with my good friend Paul Curry.

There’s no particular reason I hadn’t been to Wales before – I guess I just hadn’t had a reason to. The list provided me with one, and I’m so glad I did.

We drove down on Friday night and thanks to London evening traffic, it took 8 hours. EIGHT HOURS! Thankfully, Paul and I had a lot to catch up on – but we were still pretty glad to get there!

We stayed in Anglesey, and on Saturday headed to the absolutely awesome Bounce Below – trampolines in a cave! Sadly, this didn’t go quite to plan: I got my foot caught in one of the slides and ended up hanging by my ankle, four storeys up, in an underground cave. Yikes. I had a panic attack and had to be taken out – oops!

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Images: Bounce Below

After a cuppa and a sit down, we headed over to Portmeirion – which is beautiful and totally worth the £10 entry fee (yep, it’s a private village). A wedding was happening with a brass band down on the beach, and we explored the Disney-coloured courtyards in the sun.

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Damn, Wales, you beautiful. (Shots taken on a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+)

Next, we went over to Snowdon, got some lunch, then visited the place with the world’s longest hashtag:

…before driving out to beautiful Conwy. The castle looked stunning as the sun set behind it and we had an amazing fresh seafood dinner at the Castle Hotel.

Thankfully, the drive back was considerably shorter: 5 hours or so on Sunday morning, just in time for me to get to Google Campus to judge #PeacehackLdn, safe in the knowledge that I’d crossed another thing off and was one step closer to finishing the list. Onwards!

#30before30 items 17 and 22: jump out of a plane and raise £1k for charity

Number 22 was hands-down the scariest item on my list. I am terrified of heights, I hate planes and I can’t stand the feeling of falling. But the whole point of this list was to challenge myself to do something outside my comfort zone – and this was on another continent.

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I decided to skydive in memory of my baby brother Charles, who I don’t talk about much because I get really upset. He died at five months old. He was perfect in the womb – a healthy, beautiful little boy. But as he was being born, the placenta came away and he was left without oxygen for twenty minutes. By the time he came into the world, he had severe brain damage. He was blind and deaf, unable to suck or swallow – we had to put a suction tube into his throat every time he needed to cough, and he hated it. He’d jump a mile every time we touched him, because he had no way of knowing we were coming.

It wasn’t a happy five months for him. Our hearts broke knowing there was nothing we could do to help, and we found out after he died that he’d had a broken collarbone, too. No one told us, and we’d been picking him up to cuddle him. He couldn’t let us know that it hurt.

The one thing that made our five months at the hospital much more bearable was the nurses. They were absolutely brilliant. At Christmas, they gave Charles his own little stocking in his cot, even though he couldn’t see it. As it turned out, it was the only Christmas we had with him.

The donations for my skydive are going to Bliss, the charity for premature and terminally-ill babies, who help babies like Charles and families like ours.

I’m not going to post a photo of Charles because of trolls. But I’m so proud to say that I absolutely smashed my fears and jumped the hell out of that plane for my baby brother. Here’s the video:

As you can probably tell, I did not enjoy it one bit. Everyone said I’d love it, that the adrenaline would kick in and I’d have the best time and want to go straight back up.

In a word?

Nope.

This is an actual still of my face during the dive:

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Just about sums it up.

So I did it. I made it out of the plane. But did I raise the £1000?

Did. I. Ever.

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I can’t thank everyone enough for their incredibly generous donations. Extra-special thanks go to Paul C, Trevor B and Mark H. Together, we raised four times the target – and helped a lot of unwell babies like my brother.

This item on the list might be my favourite. I learnt that when I hold a loved one in my heart, I can do anything. I can face my worst fears, take a deep breath and jump out of the plane anyway.

This one was for you, Charles. Love you forever.

#30before30 item 24: go to a festival

My original plan for this one was a lot more glamorous. I booked tickets to see my favourite band, Muse at BBK Live festival in Bilbao, got plane tickets and a hotel either side so I could explore the city. This was much earlier in the year, and the festival was booked for July. I planned to go alone so I could also cross off number 4, go on holiday on my own.

Well, as often happens, life doesn’t go the way you think it’s going to, so by the time the festival rolled around I’d left my job at ShinyShiny (sadly no writers work there anymore) and – very excitingly – started my own technology and lifestyle site for women with Creative Agenda (it’s called Gadgette, you should read it).

Taking a week off when my site was just a few weeks old was completely out of the question, so sadly the Bilbao plan had to be shelved (and apparently I can’t get refunds on any of the stuff I booked, sigh). Instead, I bought a ticket to Download festival in Donington, where Muse were headlining, and went to that on the 13th of June with my awesome rainbow-haired friend Lindsay.

Holly Brockwell & Lindsay Allan at Download Festival

It rained all day. Despite it being mid-June, we apparently got two weeks’ worth of water bucketed at us. This led to people calling the festival either Downpour 2015 or Drownload.

Holly Brockwell at Download Festival

I was determined to pretend the rain wasn’t happening:



The ground turned to swampy mud, there was literally nowhere in the entire festival to sit down (even the food stands don’t have seating, I guess they assume you can sit on the grass when the grass is not made of liquid mud) and it was so cold I could see my breath.

But Muse were so worth it! Just listen to that solo:



I think it’s the 8th time I’ve seen them (I’ve lost count) and aside from some gross teenage twerps snogging through the entire set, it was amazing. If you’re a Muse fan, check out the setlist – Dead Star! Agitated! Citizen! And The Handler live for the first time! Yessss.

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Even better, they didn’t play Starlight!

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Since the festival was up in the Midlands, Lindsay and I stayed at my sister’s house in Nottingham (thanks for the last-minute rescue of a pair of wet, muddy ravers, Kathryn!) and I got to spend Sunday with my twin baby nieces, who make me so happy, it’s ridiculous (contrary to popular belief, I do actually like children). Plus, no one can say I didn’t get the true festival experience – my boots were so mud-crusted, I had to throw them out. Yay for British weather!


On the whole, then, Download was awesome and I’m very glad I saw Muse, but festivals are definitely not for me. Which is what I suspected, and why I’d never been to one before. I’ll stick to nice arenas with seats and roofs, thanks.

#30Before30 item 9: learn to sew

I haven’t sewn much since school. I’ve put the odd button back on things when they’ve fallen off, but they’ve mostly fallen off again afterwards. It got to the point where I was paying a dry cleaning shop £1.50 per button to sew them back on properly. This is clearly ridiculous. Something had to be done.

I think sewing is a bit of a lost art. A big part of the motivation behind my 30 before 30 list is to help me help myself – ie acquire skills so I can fix and do minor things myself without always having to call in the professionals. And after paying silly money to have some dresses altered (yay, I’m thinner! Nay, now nothing fits!), I wanted to learn how to do it myself. So this one was an easy choice for the list.

Rather than just dicking around with a sewing machine and some YouTube, I decided to do things properly and go to a sewing class. Not just an hour or two, though: a full-on 5-hour sewing bootcamp at Saturday Sewing Session in Chelsea. It cost £85 and was worth every penny.

So what did I learn?

We ran through just about everything. Different kinds of fabrics and threads and what they’re used for, how a sewing machine works and how to thread one up, bobbins (aww), useful bits of equipment (we each got a free stitch-picker), how to hem jeans and trousers without getting rid of the original hem, how to patch holes, and how to alter clothes to fit.

I made a lavender bag:

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Then altered my Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirt from an absolute tent to a perfectly-fitted tee – I didn’t take before and after photos but imagine something manatee-sized and then something me-sized.

I enjoyed Saturday Sewing Session more than I think I’ve ever enjoyed a 5-hour lesson before – look how happy I am!

holly brockwell sewing

The session left me dying to buy a sewing machine and Alter All The Things. But first, the rest of The List!