A letter to my teenage self
I know right now you feel lost and confused. Here you are at 14 after having landed your dream job as a main cast member on a new TV soapie. Wow. Acting is all you have ever wanted to do forever and ever. You never even bothered to consider any other career. This was it. This was always it. At least, it was supposed to be.
The only problem is this doesn’t feel like it’s supposed to feel. There is no relief at achieving your dream, there’s no joy or an ounce of happiness to be felt. Instead, you feel scared and confused and alone.
Listen, come here and let me give you a hug. It’s OK. It will all be OK. I promise you that. But first, you’re going to need to go through some pretty horrible experiences. Stuff that will test you. Stuff that will (at times) make you wish the ground would open up and swallow you whole. Stuff that will make you cry into your pillow at night before bed. Stuff that will exhaust your soul.
Here’s the rub; you will need to go through it to come out the other side. Just like Andy Dufresne in Shawshank – you’ve got to crawl through that tunnel of shit.
But it’s worth it because the other side is glorious. It’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful in its own messy way.
And so, with that, let me share a few things that I know for sure … trust me, I’ve even got the scars to prove it.
Your morality is not tied to your weight
For years you’ll associate your goodness and worth with a number on a scale and for a brief period it will send you mad.
Down, down you’ll go into this weight-obsessed jungle until, eventually, you will have ventured so deep that you won’t be able to find your way back out.
By that stage you will have whittled your weight down to 34kgs. You’ll have your first near-death experience and be rushed to hospital with doctors warning that you’re only hours away from a cardiac arrest.
While other castmates are holidaying and soaking up the summer, you’ll spend your filming break in hospital with a nasal gastric tube stuck to your face. The experience will break you – but remember what Hemingway said, because years later you will be stronger in those broken bits.
Life won’t fall into place if you lose that extra five kilos
A week after getting out of hospital you’ll attend the Logies. Your hair will have thinned out, so a hairdresser on the night will spend extra time trying to ‘make it look thick’. Eventually they’ll give up and throw a hair pin in there.
Finally, when you’re back around castmates and other actors that weight talk white noise will fire-up.
Talk of fittings and calories and scales and fasting and diets will come at you like a freight train. You’ll need to breathe. You’ll want to run but you can’t.
This kind of talk is everywhere and it will always be everywhere but it will take you some time before you realise that you don’t win the war by ignoring the world’s obsession with weight … you’ll win it by making peace with your body.
This is a hard one, so it’s OK to be scared by it and roll your eyes because it is so cliché. And look, you’ll have relapses but know that you’ll never return to hospital.
Eventually you’ll realise that you will have wasted years trying to become smaller – years that could’ve been spent reading books or travelling. Losing that extra five kilos will not make you happier. Deep down you will know because you will have lived it.
Yes, there is something worse than hate – apathy.
As time goes on, you’re going to meet a lot of people who will pontificate about their morals and ethics. They’ll talk a big game. They’ll seem so … put together. Only issue is, they’re kind of like a drunk at a bar – the one that sits slumped on a stool berating their footy team and yelling “even I could’ve scored that try”.
But when push comes to shove … they’ll be all talk. The world is full of people like that. Some of them will be your friends. Some of them will see you struggle through all sorts of issues – from relationships to work – and, instead of standing up and speaking out, they’ll say nothing. It will hurt and you’ll feel betrayed, but please know that even when you may feel alone and abandoned the world is actually filled with many good people.
So remember to foster and guard those friendships when you do make them
All those deep friendships that people talk about … honestly, you won’t really experience them until your in late 20s.
But these will be the ones with lasting power. These will be the friends who will stand up and speak out. They will be the friends who will understand if you’re too busy or too mentally exhausted to see or talk to them for several weeks.
They will still be there when you’re finally ready. You will able to be your full and unedited self – dumb jokes and all – and they will still hold you close to their hearts.
That said, remember to carve out alone time
Every day, if possible. It doesn’t matter what you do, but make sure you do it alone.
I want you to find solace in your solitude. Of course, this will be incredibly hard when you hit 18, and I know what you’re going to ask: what are you supposed to tell people when they ask you what you did on the weekend? Sat alone in your room and read? Went for a long walk … alone? Yup, that’s exactly what you should tell them. There’s a power that comes with being unashamedly you. This lesson is a slow-burn, but you’ll get there eventually.
On that note, wear whatever the heck you want to wear
You’re going to go through a goth period, a pink hair period, a short hair period, a brown hair period, an over-the-top fake tan period, a no-make-up period and a really bad skin period. Through each and every period someone somewhere will find fault. They won’t like what you’ve done with your hair/eyes/lips/skin, meaning no matter what do you there will always be someone who doesn’t like your style or look. Once you realise that, and that too will take some time, you’ll feel so much freer to lean into yourself. You’re creative and artistic and you’ll always find a way to express that through your looks – whether it’s with red lipstick or blue eyeshadow. Your style will likely change as your personality grows and develops – don’t worry, it’ll be your way of figuring yourself out.
While you’re figuring yourself out, you’re going to fail…
… and not just once or twice, but often. It’s going to hurt like hell. It’s going to make you question yourself, your skills and your abilities.
For a little while you’ll wonder if maybe you had yourself all wrong. You’ll feel confused because your entire world view will have been shattered.
Listen, I know you’re an anxious perfectionist but failure happens to everyone.
Read that line again.
Not only that, it will keep on happening your entire life. Remember how I told you to make sure you carve out alone time t foster that sense of self? Yeah, that’s why. Build and strengthen that internal resolve so that regardless of what the world might throw at you, you’ve got your own back.
That said have fun along the way
Joke and laugh and for goodness sake EAT THE DAMN CAKE … and go back for seconds.
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