Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Notes to my younger self

I remember being in year five at school, and being in awe of a girl in year 8. I remember thinking she was the coolest, cleverest and most beautiful girl I'd ever met and feeling totally overwhelmed that she would talk to me, let alone be super nice to me. I remember thinking "I will never be that old". I saw this girl yesterday, at Clapham Junction on my twenty-second birthday, and whilst she's obviously still three years older than me, it dawned on me that I am that old - in fact, I'm older, I'm many, many years older than the thirteen year old girl I never thought I'd be. It dawned on me even more when I saw this girl with her baby, and I realised that she was a real life adult, and one day that will hopefully also be me. This got me thinking about all the things I've done, the aspirations I've achieved and the people I've met since my days in year five in the Great Walstead school play. It made me think about if I am where I thought I'd be, or at least where I hoped I'd be. 

According to my life book (a journal my Mum has made my brother and I fill in on our birthdays every year detailing our favourites, dreams, aspirations and achievements), aged ten my favourite colours were purple and bright green; my favourite lessons at school were ICT and French; spaghetti was my favourite food; and when I grew up I wanted to be an actress. According to my personal journal, a diary which I wrote only when catastrophic things happened to me, aged ten I was most worried about holding a boy's hand at the Christmas Bazaar, whether the girl in year eight actually really liked me or whether she preferred my friend, and whether I'd keep my voluntary job in the school bookshop. They were big worries, capitalised and scrawled across pages of my diary; I don't think I thought I'd ever really overcome them. I'm happy to say that I did: I never did hold that boy's hand, I think that girl did genuinely like me and I never got booted out of the bookshop. Today I am older and wiser, I still have worries which one day will seem obsolete, and this is some of the advice I would offer to my ten year old self: 

1. Working hard usually pays off
As my brother likes to remind me often "you're not actually clever, you just work hard" - which is a bit true. My school reports always read 'hard-working' and 'conscientious' and that was something I was always really proud of, and felt like it was a real asset. I've learned that hard work usually gets you what you want, or where you want to be, and that there's nothing more satisfying than having goals and achieving them through hard work. Hard work isn't confined to academia. One of my proudest moments is still organising a charity 'ball' with friends in year ten; it was nothing like anything I'd ever done before, and was my first real insight into everything that is challenging, frustrating and amazing about organising events - and also about how incompetent people are. We worked so hard for so long to pull that evening off, and I have never been so satisfied and relieved. 

2. Sometimes you have to say 'no'
99% of my teenage years were spent saying 'yes' to things. It was amazing, and I was offered lots of really great opportunities which I was able to make the most of. It encouraged me to try new things, meet new people and realise some of my most enjoyable hobbies and interests. It also meant that I did a lot of stuff which I didn't want to do, an amount of stuff I couldn't really cope with, and felt a pressure to continue to say yes because I was Laura - the reliable one, the one who would always say yes! Sometimes you have to no, for your own health, your own sanity, and because you've got your own priorities. Help people out when you can, seize opportunities but don't knock yourself out doing it. 

3. Talk to people
Remember how you spoke to that girl in year eight and then befriended her and thought you were the best thing since sliced bread? Do that more. Do that always. Always talk to people, at school, at university, at work, when you're out and about, because you never know what might happen. They might end up becoming one of your best friends; they may offer you opportunities; they might help you out, or you might be able to give them a hand. You never know. Contacts, for whatever purpose, are always good to have. You'll never make them unless you talk to people and put yourself out there. 

4. Sometimes things get really bad, but sometimes they get really good
Age ten Laura, you're going to have to deal with some really crap stuff: you've got two years off school ill to cope with; moving to new schools; doing your GCSEs and your A-Levels and wondering how you're ever going to make it to the end of your degree; you've got rubbish friends and hopeless boyfriends and family you wish you weren't forced to be related to. It's LAME. You've also got some really fun years of school to look forward to, with awesome friends and thousands of opportunities; holidays with family and with your friends; successes and achievements; having independence; and meeting new people who will change your life. Try not to dwell too hard on all the rubbish bits. The good bits more than make up for it. 

5. You can do it
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. If you want to do it, then do it. It helps if this incorporates things you're already good at or interested in, and make the most of the skills you have and the opportunities that are available. Remember that you only have to answer to yourself - your mum/teacher/friend/colleague will probably get over it. Do what's best for you, and do it when you want to do it. Don't forget about others, but your life is your own to do what you want with. Don't settle. You deserve the best and to be surrounded by people who think the same. 
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