Being back in lockdown, the mess with exam results has made me reflect a lot on how different my life might have been if I had been born 20 years later than I was. 10 years ago I wrote a letter to my 16 year old self as part of a blog project. I thought I would do that again as I’ve now lived another decade since writing that letter!
You are 16, and life right now is really, really tough. You came to some major realisations in the last year, and through some challenges that a lot of your friends can barely imagine. And you know what, I’m looking back on you and I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for having the guts to speak up to teachers. I’m proud of you for taking control of your health now you are legally an adult (by the way, while we are on the subject, please do ask your new GP for your vaccination records. Your Mum hasn’t been keeping track of them properly so you haven’t had the vaccines she thinks you’ve had). And I’m proud of you for talking to A. back in June.
I know that at times you feel there’s no hope, feeling so trapped between trying to survive through the life you are living, and working your way towards the life you can see but never seem to be able to reach. You will come through. There will be healing on the other side. There is a purpose for you in this world. Choose to live your life unselfishly.
You are going to have so many opportunities in the next year…I know that you don’t want to go back to high school for another year. But seriously, make the most of it. Get stuck in, work hard and you will get the results you need. Listen to the teachers that are going to encourage you in your learning and help you achieve all you have to the potential for. Ignore the ones who don’t, and do not let the anger and hurt of them bringing you down with negativity get to you. Enjoy the trip to Morocco (you won’t need half the food you plan to take by the way), and get all you can from experiencing life as a dance teacher in Sweden too. You are making memories that will last forever.
You will study hard this year, but if you can, don’t give up on dancing. I think you’ll regret that. I know the back injury and the next few months will make it very difficult to go back. I know you miss the Theatre School being ‘yours’ and the atmosphere is not the same now it’s been taken over. But MDA is still there. Remember all the nights you didn’t hand in homework, the hairdressing, the babysitting so you could afford those extra classes? Remember the work you put in to get your student membership? Don’t let it all go.
You’ll be going to university next year, leaving all your friends behind as they finish off high school. This is the right decision, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. You are not the same as everybody else, and these next few years your life is going to change more than you could ever have imagined. You’re going to make amazing friends, learn so much. Yes, you will go through more heartache, but you will not be alone in it.
Perhaps leave the weird jacket and avoid the hair dye at home (it will not work in your dark blonde hair!!).
Do not get your navel pierced….or if you do, remember that if you are allergic to surgical steel earrings, you will be allergic to surgical steel navel bars (even if your infected belly button will get you out of classes pretty much whenever you like because it looks so disgusting, it’s not worth it).
Learn how to manage your finances. (Do not trust your father to teach you about this).
Find out about the bursaries and scholarships you can get. Be aware that your student loans accrue interest. Find out what an ISA is.
Oh yeah, and while we are on the subject, ask your teachers about LEAPS. You need that summer school for access because my lovely, you are clueless about university. And it would probably help you a lot to meet university students and tutors who can explain all that you simply don’t know as a 1st generation university student.
Your worldview is going to change pretty radically in the next 14 months. Um, when the time comes to explain that to your family (particularly your mother and Nana) choose your words carefully so they don’t think you’ve joined a suicide cult. Also, be aware that many of the seemingly kind, lovely people you will meet in churches are homophobic. Don’t let them suck you into bigoted side of ‘Christianity’, for I know you are feeling bad for friends who are terrified to come out. They will. In their own time.
You are also going to lose friends. Some of your friends will leave you by choice. Some you will leave by choice. Others won’t be by choice. You will discover that life can be short, and it’s why it’s so important to live being kind to others, why you should not live being afraid of failure and rejection.
The path of your future is not going to be straight, and actually you’re going to love it so much more as it twists and winds in different directions.
10 years from now, and you still love to sing (so Standard Grade Music wasn’t so silly after all, huh?). 20 years from now, and you’ve been to Australia, South Africa, New York City, travelled around Europe, and you are still writing. You will get to study briefly in Spain and Germany. You will become a youth worker and end up re-discovering that love of science that got stifled by your hate of Physics! You will at one point like Starbucks and then realise that 16 year old you was very wise and it is indeed truly awful. The online friendships will grow as the internet gets bigger, and you will make even more friends online in the years to come. There’ll be great tools you’ll discover like blogging, facebook, twitter and skype! I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the next decade you are yet to face is all milk, honey and apple strudel…
…but I promise you it’ll all be worth it.