Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Letter to my 16 year old self

This post is inspired by a book that's just been published in the UK . In it, lots of celebrities write letters to themselves when they were 16, giving advice they wish they'd had back then. I heard a few excerpts on Radio 4 Woman's Hour the other day, and it got me thinking: what would I say to my teenage self, if I could?

Dear 16 year old me,

I'm not entirely clear why I'm bothering to write this, as I'm fairly sure you're going to ignore this advice anyway, knowing you as I do. Still, I reckon it's worth a try, as so far the only person you really listen to when it comes to advice is the voice inside your head. Who needs to listen to parents, anyhow? What do they know? Anyway, I digress.

I know that at the moment, the future - and the life outside your parents' very lovely but isolated country home - is an intoxicating mixture of exciting unknown opportunities and frightening potential failure. Will you be able to succeed in your chosen career, something you've wanted to do for years already? When will you be able to live somewhere more exciting, ie. when will life, as far as you're concerned, eventually start? Will a boy ever feel the same way for you as you feel about them? Will your thighs/bum/boobs ever resemble those of the ladies on Baywatch? Questions, questions, questions. Here, I'm hoping to provide just a few answers. Ignore them at your peril.

1) Firstly, career. I've learned over the years that persistence really pays off, and trust me, yours will, in the end. But be prepared for a great deal of rejection. Try to learn to rationalise it and focus on the good things you have going for you. Work hard, try not to get too emotional (always a struggle for you!) and keep your eye on the prize. But the other really important thing to bear in mind, and something that will become more and more obvious as you grow older, is this; a career isn't even half of what's really important in life.

2)As for moving somewhere more exciting, let me tell you that very shortly, life will never be dull again. In fact, you will find yourself looking back on the halcyon days of wandering open fields with a Sony Walkman with fondness(but only occasionally!) All too soon you'll be at University in the big smoke. Oh, and then later on you marry this amazing man whose job will ensure life is NEVER dull! But more of that later...

3) As for the body image issues, well, the good news on this is that your body, despite what you might think right now, is lovely, and probably the best it will ever be! (That's sort of the bad news, as it's downhill from now on!) The other good news is that you will come to love it and appreciate it. You'll never quite rid yourself of your insecurity (very few ever do) but you soon realise that we all have bits of our bodies we don't like, so we're all in it together.

4) Now for the biggie. BOYS. This topic has been consuming you ever since you developed female hormones, and it will be with you a while yet. I think years of single-sex education haven't done you too many favours on this front, leading you to find all boys exciting, whether they are arrogant idiots or not. I'm quite torn on this point, actually, as I really believe every single mistake you will make in relationships makes you into the woman you will become, so I don't really want to give too much advice. I can't stop myself however from specifically telling you that, when your first serious boyfriend breaks up with you at 18, I'd like you to walk away completely, and not hang around in case he changes his mind... But come on, who am I kidding, you're going to ignore me anyway! Oh, and the other thing is... It WILL all be ok in the end. Despite the emotional rollercoaster you will be on for another 10 years, there's a rainbow at the end that's really worth waiting for. So, enjoy the ride, as best you can.

Now, for some extraneous bits and bobs:

If you're being bullied, know that the people who are bullying you probably have bigger problems than you do.

Many of the most successful students academically struggle to translate that into success in later life. So don't worry if you come (God forbid!) 3rd place in an exam!

Love and appreciate your parents, because you have no idea how long they're going to be around, and, infuriating as they might be, they are very very precious.

Persuade your mum to let you go clothes shopping with friends and a budget, to avoid mum-influenced teenage fashion disasters (I still bear the scars...!)

Lots of friends come and go. Don't be too upset about the ones that go by the wayside, this happens a great deal in life. The ones that really matter are the ones who stick with you.

Oh, and Frizz Ease is a product of brilliance. Use it on your hair!

And finally...

When something amazing is happening to you, like leaving school, going to Uni, meeting your husband, and getting married, savour every single moment. Take lots of pictures, and keep them. Keep your letters and cards. Because one day, these will be more precious to you than you could ever imagine.

Enjoy it! The best is yet to come.

Lots of love,

You xx


  1. Oh my god, this post was fabulous... really hit home for me.
    number 3) well said.


  2. That was the sweetest letter I've ever read. Well said.




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