[A Letter To My Sixteen Year Old Self]

What pearls of wisdom would you share in a letter to your 16 year old self?
I loved this idea when I first came across it in a collection of retrospective letters written by an assortment of celebs, authors, politicians and more. Some are sweet, some funny, all inspiring. But one of my favourites, captured in a locally spun version of the book, is this one from our formidable Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.
I don’t think you need to be particularly wealthy or famous to write one of these. I’m certainly neither of those things, but there are still some pretty solid life lessons I think I could teach that younger version of myself (if only she’d listen. My guess is she’d probably roll her eyes and give a cheeky click of the tongue and a flick of the hand, because duh, she knows everything already!).
But here goes anyway…
Dear 16 Year Old Jo-Ann
I am writing to you from the year 2014. Yep, that’s just one year away from the future that Marty McFly visited in that lovely old movie you once watched, so now you have an idea how faaar off this really is. Except it’s not really. Time flies, honey, and before you know it, BAM! Here you are. 34 going on 35. Phew. Seems ancient hey?

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that your early adult life turns out OK. Not sensational or mind-blowing, but pretty darn OK.

I already know that in your quest for 16 year old coolness, you’ve just ‘re-branded’ from Jo-Ann to ‘Jozi’, complete with a swirly gold, cubic zirconia encrusted name plate that you wear hanging from your neck. Eventually, ‘Jozi’ will stick and one day you’ll find yourself fielding questions of whether you’re named after the city of Johannesburg when it, too, gets re-branded. Trust me, it all gets rather tired.


I also know you’re confused as all heck about your future, and flitting between thoughts of journalism or psychology or HR as a career. (I’m so glad you got over the doctor and/or ballet dancer phase, Little Me, because let’s be real here. Know your limits. You just flunked higher grade Maths in your 3rd term exams. And your big butt and ample thighs don’t work well with tutus.) Keep working hard, whatever you choose to do. A little hint: it might turn out to be a close cousin of journalism and you might still get to write stuff every day. Pretty cool, on most days.
On being single, Little Me: I know it bugs you every now and then. Everybody around you has boyfriends and they’re in love and snogging left, right and centre. Hang in there, because, spoiler alert: somewhere down the line, (OK, many years down the line), after a handful of close encounters with a few frogs, you may meet a watered down version of that dashing dude you swooned over in teen romance novels. And he might be totally worth the wait. 

I see you there, Little Jozi, with your part-time job and your entrepreneurial little side business selling ice creams and fudge (illegally) at high school, just so you can have some financial independence. Just try hold onto that keen money sense, OK? 


Soon you’ll be a varsity student, and one part-time job will become three, with full-time university studies in between. Even before you graduate, every bank and retail store will  be bending over backwards to offer you credit. Step away from the credit cards, missy! Cash is king. Ignore this and you will easily spend a year of your 30s trying to undo some of the bad money choices of your 20s. 

Start saving early. Like, as soon as you get your first proper paycheck, that early. Mum was right. (Mum is mostly always right, by the way). One day there will be a home and a kid (yes, even a sproglet!) and school fees and hell, even retirement. And it will happen all at once. This is because you’ll first spend a few years after university, living la vida loca overseas (exciting, yes!) and travelling, without a care in the world. And once you’re back home, you’ll delay normal adult life just a bit longer, because procrastination is just your thing and you never do quite outgrow it. Life is certainly for the living, but while you’re living it, Little Me, practice a teeny tiny bit of restraint, will ya? 

Speaking of procrastination… at 16, I know for sure that your body has just begun its process of letting you know that all is not as it should be. See a doctor, and when you’re not happy, see another. Waiting 10 years while you’re out having a jol through your 20s could turn out to be a stupid, expensive thing to do.

On other body issues, please stop using the F word. F-A-T. At 16, you do not even know the true meaning of that…yet! Keep your short, stocky ass active with your ballet and dance classes and sport, because before you know it, exercise will become a swear word to you and you will yearn for the days when you could slap on a bikini without worrying about all the jiggly bits and bobs on display.

On matters of the heart: Visit your dad, even when you don’t want to. Yes, he is complex and complicated, but soon he might not be around. And you will wish that he was.

Make the most of extended family time. It may not always be that way.

Nurture the friendships you have, some of which will survive the long journey from high school to adulthood.

And finally, good on you for signing that True Love Waits pledge. But know that right now I’m giggling at you. So quit being such a Judgy McJudgins, will ya?


Sincerely,
34 year old You



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