I’ve just come back from a weekend in Nice and had planned to write a post on all things French, however as I queued at the boarding gate to fly home I heard there had been another High School shooting in the US. This got me thinking about how the more I am exposed to events across the globe, how little of them I really understand. I can’t possibly begin to try and make sense of why someone would do such a terrible thing. Whilst thinking about this, I realised that although there is a lot in the world I will never fully comprehend, there is an awful lot about myself and my personal world that I have learned as the years have ticked by. One of the most important things I’ve picked up along the way, is that often the best advice we can ever seek comes from within, so I have decided to write a letter to my younger self with some titbits I’ve learned about life so far. Here goes… (oh and I know the backing song is super cheesy but my Dad used to twirl me about to it when I was little me)…
Dear Little Me,
As we turn 28 next week I thought I would roll back the years to when you were just eight years old. You were a funny little thing who adored your family and friends just as you do today. I can picture you now, contentedly sitting in the middle of your bedroom floor surrounded by dolls and Sylvanian Families. You were always so happy running and cartwheeling about the garden without a care in the world.
I wonder if you would even recognise yourself today. Your curls are far tamer than they used to be (unless it’s humid – then my God do they return with a vengeance), your freckles have faded somewhat but still make an appearance on your shoulders each summer when the sun shines and in the last few years a couple of lines have appeared around your eyes – that’s nothing to be ashamed of, they have developed from years of laughter and overall you still look pretty young.
So, where do I begin with all this? At times life has been a little unexpected to say the least. You have matured not because of the years that have gone by, but because of a little damage as well as many, many amazing experiences. You will push yourself to the absolute limit at times, but you will come back stronger and I am so proud of you for that.
You currently see the world as being very black and white, that’s ok right now, after all your life is fairly simple at the moment, you are still being told what you can and can’t do, your biggest decision is what breakfast cereal to have (when in doubt, have Coco Pops). As you grow up you will learn that there is a lot of grey in the world and your way of seeing things will be very different to someone else’s. It will take you a while but you will come to understand, that just because someone lives their life differently to you doesn’t mean that they are living their life incorrectly. Be a little softer on people Soph, when someone does something wrong, don’t forget all the things they did right.
Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity for a good few years to come (12 to be precise), but that will change as you start to realise that people do things differently based on their own life experiences which are unique to them, just as yours are to you. Just because someone works in a job that would make you unhappy, doesn’t mean that they are unhappy. People you believe to be rich are not always as wealthy as they may appear. People you think have it easy, may have worked harder than you will ever know for what they have now. So long as someone is not hurting themselves or purposely hurting others, let them live their life the way they choose. You still judge people because of their choices (you natter with friends with similar viewpoints about what you see as mad decisions) but don’t voice these opinions to those living their lives differently to you, you don’t know their reasoning. Not every situation, needs a reaction, just let people do their thing. You’ll come to realise everyone has a past which often acts as a compass when they make their choices, never use their past against them.
Little you assumes that by now you’ll have gone to university, become a children’s author (or a princess), married a nice boy, own a pony, have a couple of babies and be living happily ever after – this older you can’t think of anything you’d like less (except the pony, although now you’d like a horse)! You won’t go to uni by the way, you won’t conform to any of that; at 28 years old you still feel too young for those things and you’ll want to have many more adventures before those things even start to come into the picture – if they do at all. So don’t fret too much over the so called norms society seems to expect, stay true to yourself in whatever you do. You’ll have your own dreams, so live them. Don’t buckle under the pressure of others expectations, that’s not you baby girl.
You are too small at the moment to worry about what people think of you but a time will come when you will crave others approval. I wish you could skip that step because you’ll learn as the years go by that actually you don’t need anyone’s approval but your own. In a few years from now you will walk into a room and wonder if people like you, a few years on from that, and you’ll walk into a room and wonder if you like them. That’s called confidence kiddo, it’s something that will come to you as you start to learn your worth, which you will in time, but it will take a few knocks along the way.
Talking of knocks, I have been a little rough on you at times. I should have looked out for you more and nurtured your gentle soul, instead I threw you into the fire and tried to change you in order to make someone else feel better about themselves. Even as a little one, you have a big heart and love sharing your toys and doing things for people, this is an innocent quality that will remain with you, but at times it will seem like a curse as your generous nature will be taken advantage of. You will be really disappointed on occasion by believing that people will do the same for you as you do for them, but you will come to learn we do not all have the same heart and by the time you reach the point I’m at now, you will have a better sense of who you can trust. Don’t regret being a good person to the wrong people, your behaviour says everything about you and theirs says more than enough about them.
You will dislike yourself for a while in your mid-twenties and be made to believe that your soft heart makes you weak, don’t believe those that tell you that, you will come to learn that it is by far your biggest strength. Take that away from you and the very essence of who you are is lost – your compassion, openness, humility, empathy and naturally caring nature – these are things that make up the bulk of who you are and you never need to apologise for that, these are all the things that the people who really matter will love the most.
I wish I could warn you to be more careful with who you give your heart to; not everyone will take care of it or love you the way that you love them, most people don’t even know how to love themselves. In your twenties you are going to meet the wrong person and put yourself in an incredibly toxic situation for a few years. As much as I would love to protect you from all the pain you will endure little girl, I can’t and nor can anyone else, but to some degree I feel you need to go through it. You were so sheltered until all this came about and although you are in for a world of hurt, sadness and heartbreak one thing is for sure, however horrible things seem, you won’t give up on yourself even when things are scary, you’ll keep going and you will get back up far stronger than before. The only relief I feel about putting you through this little Soph is that it’s over now, you learned so much and never will I put us through anything like that again, I promise.
Although you’ll grow not to regret going through the bad patch, if I were to rewrite history I would tell little you to do yourself a favour and learn to walk away sooner. Be smart enough to know when “enough is enough”. You will never be the sort of person to turn your back the moment things get tough that’s not in your nature, we hate “what if’s” and like to know we have given our all in every situation. You will see friends go through rocky patches in relationships and as a result become far stronger couples, but when someone mistreats you or is careless about your well-being then get out, right away. Yes, you might have rescued a cat, guinea pigs and even a duck, but you can’t rescue people. Even if you do everything right you won’t be good enough for the wrong person, likewise the right person will accept you even when you do everything wrong.
At eight years old you hate boys and think they smell, at almost 28 there will be times when you think exactly the same! Meeting the perfect person is all a bit of an illusion, you’ll come to see there is no such thing as perfect. Materialistic people often fall for idealists, needy people seem to fall in love with players and homebodies try to capture and smother those with gypsy souls.
It hasn’t happened for us yet, but I hope one day you will fall in love with someone who will keep you safe and love you for just being you – idiosyncrasies and all. I think you deserve the love you give to everyone else, I owe little you that and I won’t allow you to settle for anything less. If and when you do find that love, cherish it, say it and most importantly show it.
You have a gang of little friends now who you will grow apart from due to a change in schools but over the years you will make a new bunch of friends who are an infinite source of strength and laughter to you. Although you won’t fall out with people you will come to see that your friends represent you and you may need to cut a few people out who just seem to be there for the good times, that’s no bad thing, as you will learn who your true friends really are. These girls will see beauty in you even when you don’t see it in yourself, make sure they know you have their backs too.
Many of your travels will be with your girls, be it weekend city breaks, a week lazing on a hot beach or three months travelling around Australia. Enjoy each and every minute of these trips, absorb those moments. Oh and although you really can’t afford it, you will buy the blue strapless dress in Sydney and it will be worth every penny you stuck on your credit card, when you look back at the photo of you dancing bare foot on the beach in Byron Bay without a care in the world. Very few of us do it and you won’t when you’re so young but try not to take moments like this for granted.
People rarely appreciate what they have until its gone and sometimes when we take things for granted they never come back. Ten years from now on your 18th Christmas, when Papa Wales gives you a book he spent hours in WH Smiths finding for you, don’t look at him sceptically after he tells you it’s one of his favourites and how he thinks you will enjoy it too. Don’t toss it to one side and tear eagerly into your next gift as though the book means nothing to you. Papa Wales will die two days later and 10 years on you will still regret the small thing you didn’t show – appreciation. Say it in the moment and send thank you letters quickly Soph.
When it comes to your family you have been incredibly lucky. Right now they applaud you at sports day when you win the 100 metre sprint with a beaming smile across your freckled face and they cheer even louder when you come last in the stilt race with tears in your eyes (you’re so slow the next race starts behind you!). Mummy and Daddy will remain your biggest cheerleaders, make sure you appreciate them as you’ll come to learn not everyone has this type of unwavering support. They will not always understand the choices you make and when you hurt, they hurt, but they will also be the ones that make you see your full potential, they will champion you always. You don’t need to tell them everything, there’s no point causing unnecessary pain. I don’t really know when it happens but at some point you will almost become like the parent at times, looking after them and their well being. Right now you cry when you go away from them for a night, in a few years time, Mum’s eyes will well up when you go off on your travels. Now they take you to the doctor if you’re ill, in time, you’ll nag them to go. I guess it’s just the natural progression in life. They will love you fiercely and you will them. Always.
At the moment you are such an open little book, you tell everyone everything but this will all change. You won’t become secretive, but you will share less. It’s not that you hide things from people, you just don’t say anything now until they ask the questions. Don’t bite your tongue too much though Soph, there’s not enough time to leave important words unsaid, don’t worry about looking ridiculous, what’s truly ridiculous is passing up on an opportunity, especially if it is to tell someone you are invested in them. In the end it seems people only regret the chances they didn’t take, relationships they were afraid to have and the decisions they waited to long to make. All those things are avoidable if you are brave.
Worrying will be your specialist subject for a while and I can tell you now it will be totally pointless as the things you think are earth shatteringly important never are. Most of what your little mind will worry about won’t ever happen – you won’t go to prison because you accidentally ripped Andrew Leavers coat during a game of Bulldog, nor will it matter that you forgot your cue in the school play as you were too busy waving at Mummy! There is very little that can’t be cured with laughter, a cwtch and a good nights sleep.
You still do this now but please try not to overthink or you will ruin things before they even begin. Life is a bit of a risk and there is no point in trying to predict the outcome of situations. Take the risk, it may not work out, but maybe it will. Don’t be one of those people that’s left wondering what would have happened if they’d been a little bit braver. Remember though, be fearless not reckless. Don’t let your young mind overanalyse, it will confuse you and invariably take you down the wrong path. You will have to hold yourself accountable and admit to being wrong at times which has always been hard for you but you’ll learn that swallowing your pride and holding your hands up when you are wrong is one of the bravest things you can do, it doesn’t make you weak. Strong people make as many mistakes as weak people do, but the strong ones admit to them and learn from them.
So there we have it, I have mainly told you the negatives as I wish I could prepare you for those but the good times will by far outweigh the bad and you are in for some incredibly exciting experiences and will make some awesome memories.
Remember that I love you and I am proud of who you are and who you are becoming. Bottom line is, just like when you hold Motley upside down, you’ll always land feet on the ground. You’re always going to be ok Soph.
Lots of Love