Sunday 7 October 2018

An Open Letter to my Teenage Self (and my little sisters)

Life is strange, right? We coast along oblivious to the real repercussions of getting old and then before you know it, you're staring in the bathroom mirror tweezers in one hand, long, thick strand of grey hair in the other, wondering what you did in a past life to deserve such unkind hair follicles. Getting old can be an unwelcome inevitability but one that gives you a pretty significant level of hindsight. Which is why I wanted to write an open letter to my younger, teenage self and also my little sisters. I wanted to share some of the things I've learnt, some of the things I still haven't and also pass on a bit of reassurance that, although it might not seem like it, things do get easier. I think. 

My little sisters aren't so little anymore. They are 18, 16 and 15 respectively but to me, they'll always be little. I've seen them go through a lot growing up. Way more than I did as a kid. They've experienced pressures I just never had, mainly due to the rise of social media in the last decade but also due to a more recent shift in our popular culture. Everything seems so much harder nowadays. More pressure at school, huge expectations. It was hard when I was younger don't get me wrong, but I don't remember seeing Gucci clad models all over my walls. Virtual or otherwise. 

So here it is. My letter to my younger self and my younger sisters: 

Dear Sophy, Alice, Bibi and Mahli,

I know it probably feels like life is unfair at times. You look around and everyone else appears to have the best life; rich parents which affords endless opportunities but I can assure you, it's not all what it seems. When you get older you'll realise that people only share and discuss what they want you to see and hear. Money and material things don't have a direct correlation with happiness. 

Social media is not a true representation of real life. It's a snapshot in time and a very skewed one at that. Filters blur out imperfections but that doesn't mean they aren't there. The people that share the most are sometimes the most insecure and unhappy.

Looks are not everything. You're all highly intelligent, strong minded young women who can achieve anything you want to if you set your mind to it. Never let anyone dumb you down. Don't ever feel embarrassed to be different or ashamed of thinking outside of the box. These traits will eventually make people look at you in awe. The confused faces you see at the moment are only jealous; they wish they could be as open, honest and confident as you. 

Your parents are always learning and they aren't perfect either. They are under huge pressure, just like you but their pressure is different. It's an internal pressure to be the best parents they can be and to give you all of the things they didn't have when they were growing up. Try and give them a break; they only want what's best for you. 

Friends come and go, but the ones who support you through the tough times and deal with you at your worst are the ones you want to keep hold of. School friends may stay with you. Or they may not. You may move cities, make new friends and still keep in touch with old ones. Don't try and hold on to people who don't actively stick around. Forced friendships are a waste of energy. 

Romantic relationships will always be a challenge but if I've learnt anything, it's that real love should be pretty effortless. It doesn't matter who sends the last text, or who made the first move. If you like each other, you like each other and both parties will put in equal effort. Listen to your gut and don't ask for too many opinions from others on a potential partner. Your friends and family will always have your best interest at heart but sometimes too many opinions can drive you insane. Make your own judgement calls. You'll learn a lot about your own judge of character that way. 

Your heart will be broken. Possibly more than once. The pain will stop and you won't feel it forever. Try and stay on good terms with exes if you can. I found it made for better karma and generally a better sense of well being. Especially if you have mutual friends. 

Experiment with your style. Dye your hair every colour you can. If you want to pierce it, pierce it. Don't have any regrets. There will come a time when you won't be able to pull off that pink hair (believe me!) so make the most of it whilst you can. Holes heal and hair will grow back but the photos you get to show your children when you're older will last a lifetime. 

Do not over pluck your eyebrows! Leave those bad boys be. If you're going to style them go to a professional. 

Read all of the books and listen to all of the music. Don't pigeon hole yourself just because your friends like something. Be an individual. Visit museums. Culture and film is where you'll learn the most interesting things about your generation and why you are where you are today. Don't turn your nose up at people who are older than you; they often have some amazing stories to tell. 

Family may seem like an inconvenience at times but don't take them for granted. They won't be around forever. Don't let it take a family loss to make you realise how important they are because it'll already be too late. Go to the family gatherings and visit your grandparents as often as you can. You'll cherish the memories of those times when you can't see them anymore. 

Spend time alone and learn to be comfortable in your own company. Life affords some amazing experiences and some of the best are spent in solace. Learn to separate yourself from your phone and technology as much as you can. The world is out there for living and real life human interaction is infinitely better than communicating online.

Be honest with people and with yourself. Don't let anyone take you for granted and learn the limits of what you can and can't accept early on. You will meet people in your life who are "takers". They will drain you and make you feel like whatever you give them isn't enough. Learn to cut people off before they exhaust you. 

Finally, and most importantly, be kind. 

I'm really proud of you and I love you lots. 

Sophy x

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