A few months ago my Mum & I went along to the women’s Breakfast Club at my Church. Aside from the delicious pancakes, great chat round the tables and strong coffee there was a very real & honest message about things we would tell our younger selves given half the chance. It got me thinking, what would I tell her? Knowing my younger self, she would say ‘thanks but no thanks, I’ll take my chances and work it out for myself’ but knowing me now, I’d continue to tell her my pearls of wisdom anyway! We are both very stubborn you see. So here we go, some advice to the younger version of me.
My first words of advice are to you as an eight year old girl, so happy and content but so very confused all at the same time. Keep being care free, the things that you are being plunged in to right now are not yours to worry about. Don’t listen in on your parents phone calls, you don’t need to hear what is being said. Enjoy every minute of your tiny baby sister who has just entered the world. You are doing a great job as a big sister, more than most eight year olds could or would want to do, you were born for this and it will set you up nicely for motherhood in almost twenty years time. You have a family who love you and please trust me, it will all be more than alright in the end, so chin up, let the adults clean up the mess and get outside and kick your football around like you do so well.
And now to you, my fifteen year old friend. You have come through a lot and realise that things generally look better with every sunrise. Things are great at home, you have brilliant friends but my goodness girl, stop being so obsessed with boys and how you look! And for goodness sake, ditch the diets! You are in fantastic shape, a shape you will envy when you reach your late 20’s. You are leaving your tomboy ways behind, and that’s fine, but don’t forget who you are in the midst of it all. You can still be sporty, it doesn’t make you “butch”. You can still hang out with your little sisters and have all the fun in the world with them, it doesn’t make you “childish”. Most of the things the girls at school brag about are totally untrue, and what is true, is not to be admired, all in good time, I promise. You would say at this stage that you have ‘been in love’ and ‘had your heart broken’…you haven’t. Boys come and go so stop worrying and just enjoy being a teenager. Step away from the peroxide blonde highlights, they do not make you look more like Lindsay Lohan, as it turns out, she’s not a great role model anyway! While we are at it, your hair would honestly look so much better if you grew it a little and stopped straightening it to within an inch of its life. Now that is out of the way, the country you live in has tonnes to offer, stop always wishing you were somewhere else. One last thing, that long summer you spend in America, enjoy it, forget hanging around the mall to see your latest crush, long distance romance is not all it’s cracked up to be. You are living in a funny time, it’s not cool to be confident and much of what you spend your days doing is supressing who you are, don’t do that anymore. Society has given you a strange perception of beauty, don’t let this convince you that you fall short. This too shall pass! Stop worrying so much about what people think, and be who you want to be! You are strong, you are beautiful and you are enough.
Last but not least, to the seventeen year old on the cusp of adulthood, you are finally figuring out who you are, hooray! That guy you have just met after a series of questionable love interests (what were you thinking), yeah, the one that has just become your best friend…spoiler alert, you will marry him. Together you will embark on a crazy journey of love and learning and growing up, and all that’s in between. You will have a beautiful daughter who will absolutely rock your world. You are going to be so happy together, and everything you learnt over the eight years of dating will shape both of you for marriage. You are both Christians right now, don’t walk away from that. The year that you spend far from God, you will also be far from each other and far from who you are called to be. You are right to question things; it will enhance your knowledge, but don’t try to convince yourself that you don’t need God, because you absolutely do. Take the advice of your careers advisor with a pinch of salt. Your mind is a mess and you cannot figure out which path is best, so take my advice and go on the gap year that excites and petrifies you in equal measure. Travel the world while you have the chance, there will be a very small part of you that regrets not doing so. Also, pursue your lifelong dream of becoming a Primary School teacher! People have told you not to do it because of the lack of jobs, someone broke your heart by telling you that you would become very boring if you became a teacher, it is absolute nonsense. You let those two statements dictate what you choose to do, and again, there will always be a small part of you that wishes you had pursued that dream.
You are a worrier by nature but you are about to display your first proper signs of suffering from anxiety. In a few years time you will be plunged into the depths of anxiety and depression but because you are so guarded you mostly keep the extent of your suffering to yourself. Here’s a hint; there is no shame in having mental health problems and you *need* to talk about it, you need to share how much you are suffering in order to come out the other side. The skills you have as a listener are fantastic and people will value those skills and love you for them, but you also need to be listened to. Open yourself up to the people who will listen, and to those who want to help. With time, you will learn to manage your mental health better and to take better care of yourself and you know when I mentioned ‘the person you are called to be’ you will use what you have learnt in your illness to help others. I’m still figuring that bit out but I think that may be your greatest calling, aside from motherhood of course.
I just want to tell you something I have only very recently learnt; sometimes God brings you through something not for you, but because you will need the skills that you developed through suffering to help someone else. That’s liberating isn’t it? It’s not all about us!
What else should I tell you? Gosh there is so much! I am proud of you because you have become a strong, happy, positive girl but hey, slow down just a bit. Quieten the small, lonely voice that speaks against everything you are!
Enjoy this crazy fun adventure that you have ahead of you, there is a great big world out there and you have plenty to offer. Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Slow down and enjoy the ride. Even though you are struggling with some tough, emotional issues, each experience is shaping and moulding you into the person you’ll become. Treat every day as a chance for adventure, “Roll all the windows down, crank up the music. Let someone else make your bed”
Love from You, aged 29.