I have been invited to write this letter a few times and I have been thinking for a while as to what I would say. Most of the other letters that I have read have been advising their 16 year old selves to make different decisions in their life. Wiser ones. Truer ones. Better ones. But I’m not sure. I’m not saying I haven’t made a few wrong turns and bad decisions in my past. I didnt get to where I am today within the time frame I had when I was 16 when I thought I would meet the man I would marry at 22, marry him at 24 and have kids at 26 – nowhere NEAR this time frame actually. About 10 years late and one husband too many.
BUT – I wouldnt be the woman I am, with the knowledge that I have today, without taking these turns and making what was in hindsight some very poor choices. I wouldnt have met my (second)husband and have the two most gorgeous little boys if I had not been exactly where I was when I met him and I wouldnt want to change that for the world.
At 16 I was actually a good kid I think. Still a virgin but lost that a year later with the most beautiful, soulful boy and I wouldnt change that experience for anything – it was just how it was meant to be and I cherish the memories.
I was pushed too hard to go to university by my Dad – it was just a gimme that I would go, no questions allowed – without really having anything that I was passionate about in mind to study so maybe I would change that. I was smart at school but not uber-intelleigent so I was pushed by my Dad to do Maths 2 & 3, Physics, Chemistry etc and I got average scores in all, resulting in a mediocre TEE score which qualified me for not much at uni. I ended up with a HECS debt for a degree I never used (BA in Politics) and eventually became a Restaurant Manager which I enjoyed very much and loved doing for 15 years. I do regret not looking at the big picture and getting awesome scores at the less “Dad-proud” subjects.
Never did drugs, unless you count smoking pot once or twice. Only ever got hideously drunk once at my Dads house whilst he was away (woke up with my hair stuck to the rug with my own vomit – so classy). Got arrested for shoplifting once and I have lost my license twice. Whilst all silly decisions I dont really regret them and learnt valuable lessons from them.
I was horrible to my mother for most of my teenage years and I regret that now. I never forgave her for selling our family home after my Dad left and I was awful to her. I think I would slap my 16 year old self for that if I met her now.
I wanted to marry the man who never asked me and I said yes to the first man who did. Whilst I dont regret loving my first husband I do regret marrying him as it pained us both in the end and brought us both little satisfaction for a long time. However I may not advise my 16 year old self not to do this as I learnt a lot about my limits and how much I could bear and whilst it came close, it never broke me. I learnt a valuable lesson and it is one of my current life mantras (and not just about relationships)……
“You Get What You Settle For”
I decided the second time around to never settle for less than I was worth and my now husband treats me like gold which I cherish even more had I met him earlier in my life 🙂
I have learnt that geography can cause great pain in relationships if you don’t realise and work hard to accommodate. Having kids at different times to your friends can ruin a friendship and you have to try really hard, even when you are running on empty, to make them work. Realise that whilst you wont always understand what they are going through it is still important. I have lost who I thought would be my BFF at 80 through all these factors and I regret it deeply. Although I regret it and I miss her madly, Im not sure how I could have prevented it and wouldnt do anything different. I stood up for what I believe to be true and lost my best friend – how can I change that without losing my integrity no matter how much I want her back?
So I guess in summary I would say:
Dear 16 year old me,
Keep doing what you are doing. Trust in yourself. Embrace your friends – the ones you have now are truly gorgeous (you know who you are 😉 ) – you will make more friends, even better ones but how nice is to have connections to people who knew you when – cherish those ones.
Put down your foot and say No to your Dad – do Maths 1 and Biology, ace your TEE and dont go to uni straight away. Apply for an exchange somewhere overseas and travel before you decide what you want to do. Live in NYC while you can still get a working visa! Its OK if you dont know what you want to study now – just get a job and travel and you can study later. It will still be there.
Dont waste your tears on the wrong man. Wait and say yes to the right man who you have no doubts about, the man who makes you feel safe and who will never make you cry to start with. You may have to wait a while and things might not be on the right time table we had in our minds, but he will be worth it.
As the song goes, “Dont be reckless with other peoples hearts and dont put up with people who are reckless with yours”
Be nice to your mother – she loves you so, so much – give her a break and know that she can be more than a mother but also a friend. She desperately wants to and is trying so hard – let her in wont you?
I am proud of you – you are a strong, determined young woman who is going to be an amazing mother and wife – just trust that it will happen in its own time and try not to rush it cos once you have kids you will become a sleep deprived zombie who will give up just about anything, including your first born, for five minutes more under the sheets – and not in the way you imagine right now!!!
Live. Love. Laugh and be the best person you know how to be.