Dear 15-year-old Me

These letters are doing the rounds this week to celebrate the launch of Emily Freeman’s book Graceful, for teen girls. Check out her fantastic letter and some others here. Since it fit right in with my letter-writing-Friday, I wrote one too.

Hey young lady,

It’s me, your future self. Truth is that I’m not that much older than you but I’m a lot smarter. I want to reassure you of a few things to lighten the load that you burden yourself with. Your worrying keeps you up at night and it holds you back from enjoying these awesome and pain-in-the-arse teenage years, so I hope to allay some of your fears.

First things first, you will be relieved to know I’ve given up my endeavour to be perfect and I’m happier than ever. I’m kinder to myself and I laugh more. It’s so refreshing and I can’t wait for you to experience this. However you’ve got a few tough years ahead of you yet, which is how you will arrive to where I am now.

You have no idea what you are capable of. That frustration you feel with your seemingly talentless self? It will take years (sorry), but it will pass. You will grow, create and learn. You will discover your passions, flourish, and fall into your identity. The years to come of not knowing who you are, they are so important to your development. You will find your place eventually so don’t sweat it too much okay?

You are brave, smart and fun. Try to focus on these things instead of your faults. Like the attention seeking, which you will mostly grow out of. Though you will always be loud and that’s actually a good thing, so ignore the lies that whisper ‘you are too much to handle’. To some people you are too much, but they aren’t the right people for you. You are loved by your friends and people enjoy your energy. So quit wishing you were quiet and demure because that isn’t who you were born to be. And believe it or not, there are plenty of quiet girls that envy your social skills.

You think you’re fat but girrrrl, you ain’t. Enjoy those legs and that cute bum. Soon all that junk food you eat will take residence on your hot bod and you will miss what it is now. I have more confidence than you in my fuller and curvier figure, but you are way hotter.

You can be very melodramatic and self-involved, and it isn’t endearing in the slightest. Stop crying in the mirror for one second to gain some perspective. Your life isn’t that bad, and other people are facing hard times too. Look up and look out. While I’m taking you down a peg, I may as well also inform you that you don’t know everything. You could do with some humility. Wisdom and maturity come from experience, of which you have none. Yet.

The only thing that I deeply regret and wish you would do differently, is how you treat your sweet little sister. That kid adores you and asks you to play a board game with her most days. She is lonely and needs you, but you always say no. The age gap feels more of a chasm, but when she is still young you will go on the adventure of your life and be apart from her for too long. These days she and I are great friends from afar, and though she doesn’t hold it against me, I do. Your time with her is precious so play the damn games. Indulge her. If not for yourself, do it for me. I miss her.

On a final note, don’t take yourself so seriously for heavens sake! You think far too much and we both know how exhausting that is. You’ve had to grow up fast so cherish the naivety you still possess. Stop worrying. You will get your driving license, you will have enough money and you will do great things. You will see the world and find out where you fit into it. You will be happy and create a life that you love. I would know, I’m here waiting for you.

The Lord’s face is shining down on you, so look up and bask in His sunlight. Everything will be okay.

The future you

To Somebody That I Used To Know

To Somebody That I Used to Know,

Sorry to be another person to use that damn song title, but I couldn’t help it, it’s just so perfectly fitting. And I mean it quite literally; I used to know you and now I don’t. Unlike the song (which I happen to like a lot), where Gotye is actually talking about someone he used to love. Gotye’s poor ex, being the person he is nonchalantly referring to. Where is the credit for her putting up with such an emo-hipster-musician for a boyfriend? Anyway, I digress.

It’s best that you know now rather than later that you’re not just one person. There are a bunch of you, so I’m sorry if you thought you were special for the first paragraph of this letter. You see, I have this uncanny ability of growing incredibly close to people incredibly fast. You could say I’m a connector. I loves a good connection, I does. Or I used to, until I got sick of having so many ‘old friends that weren’t friends any more’ and decided to start collecting some long-lasting, forever type friends. Such a romantic notion, which I think I’ve successfully achieved. I have a spectacular inner circle of friends whom I love dearly. Tick. Now, back to you.

As I mentioned, you’re many people. Some of you I really fancied the pants off of (not literally, I was much too frigid for that). Which yes, means that a good portion of you are male. Of which another good portion just stopped talking to me, and quite abruptly. Ouch. Guys tend to do that, or is it just young guys? I don’t know but it rather hurt. Until I wrote to one of you years later, a hateful and angry email that felt great to get off my chest. The response was hauntingly obvious and helped me understand; guys don’t do ‘friends’ if they actually would prefer to date you. They want all of you or none of you at all, and I had my rule of being single until I was 18. I wanted you to wait for me, I wanted you around. How utterly naive and selfish I was.

Right, that’s one of you out of the way. But you were the first and there were many to follow. No boyfriends, just emotional, coy and flirtatious flings. We liked each other a lot, and talked/texted/hung out, but never dated for one reason or another. However, lets be clear on one thing: I was never a wild or promiscuous teenager. In fact I wore the title of ‘Virgin Mary’ among my school friends, not so proudly but definitely with dignity. There was the year that I went a little bit overboard on the meaningless kisses though. Like I said, I was frigid for a long time. But it seems I then discovered the art of kissing at 17, and I just took off! Making up for lost time, maybe? I don’t know but it’s funny when I think about it now. My point is that from the age of 15-19, there were a few of you that I absolutely adored. You could say I was an ’emotional harlot’. I wore my heart on my sleeve. I wanted love and I was looking for it in you young men, the wrong people. I’m so glad it didn’t work out with any of you. Though I am still single now, it’s all worked out for the best. Most of you are happily married now, which is nice.

The rest of you somebody’s that I used to know are friends that didn’t stay friends. We changed. I know, another cliche, please forgive me. But we did and you really do need something in common with friends for it to work. Whatever that may be. I do like to think some of you were around for a special season, that maybe God blessed me with you then took you away again. You were good to me and had great impact in my life, at the perfect time. I hope I returned it adequately. I was sad when you left my life but not willing to chase it, because it was obvious it wasn’t meant to last. I know I sound like I’m talking about a romantic relationship, and not just regular girl friends, but I’m a little bit lesbian like that. I take all relationships in my life very seriously. All that matters is people, which makes this letter quite ironic. Oh, life.

We may have spoken recently, old friend, on Facebook. I’ve been reconnected with a few of you and its the darnedest thing! To see how you have grown up and who you have become. That some of you have even had children! Facebook aye, the site where everyone is ‘friends’. But we’re not friends anymore, are we? It’s a weird and awkward thing to navigate, friendship. We would still call eachother a friend, it would be harsh not to. But the fact of the matter is that we aren’t friends any more and that’s okay. It’s mutual.

Whoever you are, friend or flame from the past, I pray that you’re happy. I truly and genuinely hope that your life is swell. I also hope that you remember me, for one reason or another. I imagine it will be a particularly embarrassing reason that will keep me alive in your memory, that would be fitting and is fine with me. Just remember me, okay? Because I remember you, all of you, even though I don’t know you anymore.

May the Lord’s face shine upon you,

Image credit

Confession: I can’t fix myself & I don’t know everything

I like to think I’m pretty emotionally stable. I process my emotions, I don’t run away (I try not to anyway) and I cry a lot.  I’ve even been known to call myself a ‘self-analysing pro’ because I can come up with a reason for every single one of my behaviours. I’ve got my sh*t sorted right?

Wrong. Turns out I am somewhat of an ’emotional perfectionist’ (self-diagnosed, of course. See previous paragraph!). No but seriously, I like to be so in control of my feelings and know exactly why I do everything that I don’t let things happen organically.

This is my greatest blessing and my greatest curse, because while I’m very emotionally ‘in-touch’ (are you loving all this psycho-babble?) I also over-think to the point of insanity and exhaustion.

When I talk to my friends I like to sound like I’ve got it all together. Then in the dark of the night I break down, because emotions and grief work on their own schedule that you can’t really control. Turns out being human has some painful disruptions, and I don’t have my sh*t sorted at all. 

So I told my over-active mind to go on holiday and called in a professional.

Yes, I’ve started seeing a counsellor; someone who has qualifications and actually knows what he is talking about; someone who can help me fix me so I don’t have to do it all by myself.

I went to my first session with a heavy heart; I was sad, lonely and running on empty. On the journey there I prayed ‘Please Lord let this be good for me, let me gain something from this because I’m spent and don’t have any strength left’. God heard me. I sat there and released months worth of tear-stained words to someone who is paid to listen to me. I didn’t feel guilty for ‘dumping’ on him, I just went for it (pray for him, poor guy!). He helped me reach some important conclusions in that very first session and I  left feeling so light I thought I might just fly.

The second session was a little harder, grittier and a hell of a lot more painful. That’s when the good stuff happens though and hey, I’m still alive. During these sessions my pain is justified, understood and accepted, but our (my counsellor’s and mine) ambition is my healing and I’m not allowed to sit in my pain and pity for longer than necessary. I must keep moving forward.

I’d rather be dealing with this at 22 than at 42, 52, 62 when I’ve caused other people pain from my own wounded heart. Have you heard? Hurt people hurt people. All of my hurt has come from hurt people, and out of that hurt I’ve hurt more people. It’s a vicious cycle, BUT I have the power to break it and it’s my choice whether I do or not. No I won’t ever be perfect but the goal isn’t perfection, it’s wholeness in Christ so that I’m not operating everyday life out of brokenness.

You might be thinking ‘gosh she is so honest, telling the blogosphere she is screwed up enough to go to counselling’. If it helps you, then heck yes I am honest enough. Frankly we are all screwed up at least a tiny bit, even if we like to act like we’re not. It’s what makes us beautifully human. 

Here’s a tip sponsored by moi: if you have faced trials in the past that you still haven’t overcome, or if you’ve never been to a counsellor, or just think it would be good for you, then go and talk to someone. Who knows, you may only need one session, or you’ll need loads. Whatever the case, deal with your pain so that it doesn’t deal with you. Also I personally think that if you’re in a relationship then it’s even more important; there is a lot of stuff that comes up when we share our lives intimately with someone, and sometimes they can’t carry our baggage. Oh and because I don’t like to leave anyone out: if you really are emotionally stable and this doesn’t apply to you, then that is great and feel free to ignore this paragraph!

All this was to say it’s nice not having to figure everything out by myself. Yes I still have to think, feel, process. However I am externalising it in a healthy environment instead of running circles in my mind. Oh and in case you were wondering, my over-active mind came back from her holiday and then handed in her notice of resignation. Turns out I don’t need her anymore, anyway!

If you can closely relate to the above and need to talk to someone about it, then feel free email me. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing someone understands and is there to listen. 

Now and Then

We did not change as we grew older; we just became more clearly ourselves.  -Lynn Hall

When you are through changing, you are through.  -Bruce Barton

Life changes and we change with it; that’s just how it goes. The weird thing about it is that we can only see how we’ve changed in retrospect. I have been thinking a bit about how I’ve changed since I moved from New Zealand to London in 2008. The experience of moving overseas and travelling has inevitably changed me in a unique way. If I had stayed at home, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I have also changed in age just like everyone else, yet so much can change in those ‘development years’ of 18-21. In some ways I don’t recognise the girl that landed in London almost three years ago, yet in other ways we are still the same person and always will be.

So, who was I then? People have asked me how I moved to London alone at such a young age, with no friends or family living here. To be honest, I don’t know how I did it because I feel more vulnerable now than I did then. I was naturally apprehensive with questions constantly swimming around in my head; what’s it going to be like? Who am I going to meet? Will I be homesick? The concerns of homesickness were very applicable because of the distance between London to New Zealand, and I had only booked a one-way ticket. But I put my head down and didn’t let my fear stop me; I knew it was the right thing to do and that I would be okay. It’s like I had put my running shoes on the day that I decided to go to London. By the time it was time to leave 6 months later, I was ready to run from everything I knew and into the unknown. I was ready to grow up as my own person with nothing to hold me back.

Sadly I was so eager, almost too eager, to grow up. I wanted to leave behind my complicated childhood to a life that I could create myself, without any unwanted additions. It was my dream; to pick and choose who I had in my life and what I did everyday. I was craving independence and a fresh start. I also desperately wanted to be taken seriously; I thought I could do anything and wanted everyone to see through my fun and ditzy persona. Underneath my social façade there was a deep and intense girl. I had flown (quite literally) the nest and was ready to take over the world.

What I didn’t see then, because I lacked the humility and maturity, was that I had so much to learn. If you had given me the world I would have tried my best, but crushed it like a delicate flower in my hand. I was not ready for anything but I thought I was ready for everything. Thanks to some incredible people that I’ve met along the way, I’ve learnt a lot. On the first day of my first job in London, I called my boss ‘dude’ because I didn’t know how to address her. Uh, maybe by her name?! Cringe. However, thankfully, she doesn’t remember this happening and laughed her head off when I recently recounted the horrid memory to her.

My life has changed incredibly since I moved to London. Friends have come and gone, there have been romances, hurts, travels, lessons, trials, amazing ups and very low downs. My whole life I have always worn my heart on my sleeve, even as a kid on the playground I would do whatever it took to hold on to a friend. A few weeks after I finally put my heart in its rightful place as a woman, I met my amazing boyfriend. Life’s funny like that.

So far, there is not one thing I can pinpoint as ‘the reason’ for my moving overseas. I always thought there would be, ‘Ah-ha! That’s why I came here, it all makes sense now’. Now I can see that there are many reasons; I had an incredible job where I learnt a lot that will be the foundation to the rest of my career; I’ve found love, which has softened my heart; I’ve travelled, which is something that cannot be described, only experienced. But more than anything, I’ve grown up, pure and simple. I think that’s why I came to London and the rest is just what’s happened along the way! I am so thankful and consider myself incredibly blessed. And it’s not over yet, I’m still here.

Who am I now? I am more vulnerable because someone has cared enough to teach me how. I am happier because my expectations are realistic. I am more secure because I know that I am loved. I am more confident because I know what my strengths are. I am more mature because I have learnt from my mistakes. I am less hyperactive because I no longer feel the need to seek attention. But while being all of the above, I am also still me. I am still a chatterbox, have bad punctuality and bad financial management, and still struggle with anxiety. Hey, life’s a journey… Hopefully on our death bed’s we’ll all be perfect!

If you gave the world to me now, I would give it back to you. Because even though I have three years more life experience, I know that I can’t take over the world. I know that all I can do is today, and do it well. Each day contributes to the next, and we can only take one at a time.

Then. So excited to be in London, 2008

Now. Barcelona, 2010