Hello to my younger self,
I know that being a teenager is hard but let me just tell you that even so soon as your early twenties you’ll be looking back with fondness and nostalgia at all the things you got up to and all the things that you managed to get through. I promise that the future isn’t as scary as you think, either. Things aren’t always easy, but they never have been, have they? Things evolve and grow as you do, and as you overcome things you will inevitably be presented with new things to learn to understand and different hurdles to work out how to jump over. It won’t be easy, but it is more than possible.
What do you want to do with your life, younger self? Remember when you were really little you wanted to be a fire fighter, a teacher, the tooth fairy (I won’t lie to you, younger self, I STILL secretly wish I could be the tooth fairy). Aged 13 you wanted to be a vet, aged 15 you wanted to be a primary school teacher again, aged 18 you had absolutely no clue, and aged 19 you just wanted to not be unemployed.
Right now, younger self, we are 21. University treats us incredibly well, and we are more motivated than ever. We are currently deciding on our third year dissertation topic, partway through an internship with the Charles Causley Trust, looking at doing a masters degree after our current bachelor’s, and applying for summer internships in big, scary London. I’m not kidding. LONDON. I know that the pure thought of all the people and public transport in the big city makes you want to throw up, younger self, and I know that you would dissolve into tears at the thought of travelling around London on your own, but not anymore.
It won’t be easy for you- there will be so many tears shed along the way, but by 20 you will be comfortable with it and by 21 you will even be excited by the idea of it! Another thing, younger self, that I know doesn’t fill you with confidence: driving. You won’t believe me when I say this but last year you drove from Hampshire to Cornwall. It took hours, it was the first proper time you’ve really driven the motorway, and you did it. You’ve written your first proper poetry manuscript too! You don’t fear failure anymore, not in the same way. You put yourself out there in ways you never thought you would, because you give yourself the chance to.
I remember how you feel, younger self. I remember feeling so daunted by the future because people who are successful are perceived to be so confident and bubbly in situations, I felt like hiding away and avoiding them entirely. I thought that, because I didn’t necessarily fit the image I had of someone with purpose and determination, I would be destined to forever feel nauseous at the thought of things like presentations and job interviews. I put so much pressure on myself that I was scared to even try. I know now that the pressure was part of the problem because I was limiting my possibilities of ever being able to grow my comfort zone, stopping myself from ever seeing whether I actually could perhaps do the things that I wanted to do.
I want to work in London over summer because I need to make money and get real experience to do my masters degree. I intend to travel to Italy once I finish my masters, so I also need to start saving up money for that. I’m being proactive with this because there is more to life than just knowing exactly which career path to follow from age 4. I want to find out which career path I may want to follow the most, and so I am keeping my options open and trying as many things as I can. I am sending off poetry left, right and centre because I’ve realised that a goal of mine is to publish poetry, regardless of whether it makes me any money.
Younger self, the world is open to you. I know that right now it may seem impossible, but over time you will learn to be okay with it. Small successes are so important, younger self, and we wouldn’t be where we are today if we hadn’t celebrated even the smallest things with pride. I remember how happy you felt when you went to the cinema and didn’t feel anxious for the whole film, despite being nervous beforehand. Now you don’t even think twice about going to the cinema- it’s a source of fun rather than an anxiety-inducing event. Now, our small successes consist of applying for jobs and internships without giving up halfway through due to not being confident enough in our own ability. I’d say right now it’s 60/40 success rate, and it gets better with every application I submit!
Younger self, I won’t tell you not to worry. I won’t tell you ‘it gets easier’. I won’t even tell you that things all work out magically in the end (spoiler alert: aged 19 you realise you are lactose intolerant and have to wave goodbye to dairy. Vegan cheese just isn’t the same- it’s tragic and I’m sorry). What I will say is that you are doing the best you possibly can, and your best is absolutely good enough.
You are just as good as any successful person, even with all the overwhelming moments during which those things you think should be ‘easy’ make you panic. Working to cope with those feelings makes you strong and brave and those are the aspects that are most important. Things that you consider to be small or insignificant like learning to breathe through anxious feelings and panic attacks, it all proves how strong you are. Being able to stand up in front of a room of people and talk may come easily to some people, but it took you a lot of practice to get better at it. It doesn’t matter whether you are born being able to do something, or whether you have to teach yourself to do it, it’s your ability to want it that makes you able to succeed.
Younger self, keep trying. That’s what makes a successful person. Continually trying. Success doesn’t have to be seen exclusively in terms of career paths either. Success is measured in happiness too, and that’s another thing that your strength contributes towards. I have a supportive and frankly incredible group of friends at uni, Social situations no longer make me feel anywhere near as anxious, and I see my happiness as the most important thing, especially when thinking about my studies and my career. Give it time and don’t stop trying, younger self. Things are still hard, I can’t deny that we don’t still struggle with things, but we keep going and we seek out new challenges. You are determined and strong, and that is the key to success.
One last thing, younger self, and I’m begging you to listen to it. Don’t get a fringe when you’re 15. Just don’t. It really did not work, and whilst I commend you for trying, it wasn’t a good look.
Don’t be scared of the future, don’t avoid change, and don’t put so much pressure on yourself- things that I am still learning, granted, but things that we get better at each and every day💙.
Lots of love from your future self x
If you would like to join us in #SpeakingTheUnspoken or to find out more about the campaign, go to quietconnections.co.uk/speakingtheunspoken