On the eve of flying out to live and work overseas (after lots of travel in unusual places for professional and personal development reasons) – I thought I would write to my 18 year old self.
Why? Because I am just an average Australian woman who came from a working class background who never thought (unless I was going to war as per family history) that I would be doing what I currently am about to do. Living and working overseas (and not in Europe) has been a long term ambition.
On my 18th birthday, I sat alone in a mess hall, two days into my Royal Australian Air Force service. I didn’t know anyone, I had a basic kit of army green clothing and I wondered what the hell I was doing. I was afraid and feeling very lonely. I had no idea of what lay ahead of me, of F111’s, an anthropology degree, several years doing remote field work in Central Australia and travels to 13 countries, (only one of which was English speaking and a “comfort zone” country). Never would I have dreamed of taking my then 13 year old son to Jordan, Syria and Turkey for 6 weeks on a shoestring budget. Certainly not, would I have imagined, trekking the Andes and the Himalayas.
This letter is a pithy kind of thing, so I apologise for its clichéd nature. But it’s truly what I would like to say to my 18 year old self. If only she knew then what I know now?
Life is a big roller coaster. It’s fun if you ride it with that in mind, but if you don’t – it’s terrifying.
Nothing is strictly right and nothing is strictly wrong, but right now you are very “black and white” in your thinking. That will change and you will realise that there is a whole rainbow of experience between the two poles of your current reality.
You are never alone and you will never be again; life isn’t this lonely mess hall. In fact, there will be times when you wish you could be alone and won’t be able to.
The world’s a big place but people are people and going from Australia to the other side of the world can be just like crossing the street. It really just depends on how you look at it.
Don’t love someone too much. If he can’t give you the same depth of feeling don’t go there. Romance is not love; love is altogether something else. Love comes from you first, everyone else second.
You’re going to get hurt, physically and emotionally, but it’s all worth it. A sheltered life is not an option for you, your personality and what has been modelled to you by your father won’t allow that.
Know yourself. Not just a little, but a lot. Don’t give up on your goals and remember; you have to be true to yourself before you can be true to anyone else.
There isn’t a recipe for life, but there are good ingredients. Anger and resentment are a patent and boring waste of your time. They will suck you dry.
A doormat is for feet, not for you. Stand back from letting anyone walk into your life until you determine whether they are going to walk over you or with you. Walk “with people”, not “for people” or “to people”.
Seek to forgive others and don’t be quick to judge and definitely take your time making decisions. The only person you can hope to control is yourself. All else is pointless and soul destroying.
Your body is your temple and don’t trash it. Fashion is unnecessary, create your own style and forget what the magazines dictate. Food is fuel and fun, but don’t buy into food fads.
Meaning is everywhere and you don’t need to seek it from anywhere except nature itself. In nature there is everything you need and more. Don’t deny the merits of knowledge either; there is not balance without both.
You are not your mother. You are not your father. You are you.
Finally, it’s okay to change your mind and to allow yourself to learn and grow. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.