A Letter to Myself

Dear 18-year-old-self,

You are just about to head off to university to start on a new path, full of hopes and ideas and a very specific plan about how the future will be and what your life will look like when you are a proper grown up.

Firstly, you should know, you’ll always look back on this past year of your life as one of your favourites.   You met and became friends with some awesome girls and you’re not wrong in thinking they’ll still be here fourteen (fourteen?!) years later.  They are now awesome women that you continue to learn and grow from and who challenge you in all the best ways.  They are all strong, all intelligent and will be there for you more ways than you can imagine in the coming years.

It might also surprise you to know that a lot of the boys from this past year will also still be in your life too, some not as close or as much as they were at this time (one way closer ;-))  but you’ll keep in touch and watch and cheer them on from the side-lines in all their coming successes.

The thing you should know is that the plan you have in your head – your life isn’t going to work out like that.  You aren’t going to become some power-suit-with-killer-heels wearing human rights lawyer who travels the world and fights social injustice on a world scale.  You won’t meet the man you’re going to marry at university (you’ve already met him but that’s another story), you won’t get married at 28 and have your first child at thirty and you still won’t be three inches taller, have smaller teeth or have managed to stop biting your nails.

It won’t matter though.  Your life is wonderful, beautifully different and better than you could have imagined.

You won’t really enjoy your law degree and will spend the time fantasising about having done Philosophy and Ethics.  After graduation you will work in one of the most deprived boroughs of London, with the most vulnerable members of society, those living with mental health diagnosis, battling addictions, single mothers and elderly people who are lonely.  You will love the work and will it will lay a foundation for your belief in the importance of human connection, empathy, understanding and support. It is social justice on a small scale, not a grand one, there’s no real glory in serving a deprived community. You will refer to this in years’ to come as your favourite job – despite the terrible money this job made you come alive, taught you a huge amount (mostly about yourself and your capabilities).

Later, you will have the privilege of supporting women affected by domestic violence, people going through emotionally difficult times.  It will be challenging and you will become impassioned about women’s rights because you see first-hand how society ignores them too often.

All of your roles will teach you something but the most important thing that they will teach you is that just because things don’t go to plan that it doesn’t mean that you have failed.

I know you don’t like to quit.  You have not been taught to quit.  A different plan is not the same as quitting.  You have been taught to listen to your gut.  Do that more. At 18 you have this plan and path all planned out and you keep going on it even when your gut tells you that maybe, maybe you should be doing something different.  Trust your gut a little bit more.  Listen to your feelings, acknowledge them and then work out a new plan.

Your heart tells you where you should be and what you should be doing.  The things that you enjoy, that give you a sense of purpose, that make you feel that you are doing something worthwhile, the things that bring you joy and laughter these are things you should be doing, never mind the picture in your head.  The idea of “should” and the image of how it “should be” is not to be confused with what actually makes you, you.

Enjoy it when you’re in it, (you get better at this) appreciate every stage in your life, it won’t come around again.  Ignore the picture, the plan, and go with your gut, your heart, it will be better and it requires you to have a little more trust, be a little braver and to be a little more laid back, no bad things.

You have so much to look forward to.

Love, 31 year-old you.

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