It’s an interesting question. As a woman entering her sixties, what would I say to my 16 year old self? To do this, I need to go back there to that young girl of 16.
I was on a fairly traditional path. I came from a large family and felt so secure and loved, even though we were poor and I knew my parents were struggling to make ends meet. I loved learning new things and I was curious. I enjoyed my school work and loved the achievement of gaining good grades. I was very conscientious and put everything into whatever it was I was doing.
I loved physical activity and dancing was without doubt my favourite thing to do. I had a level of anxiety and worried far too much. However, I doubt the word anxiety entered my head at the time, let alone the idea of learning strategies to deal with it.
My 16 year old self hadn’t thought a great deal about the future although I always knew I wanted to go to university and I loved learning languages. I wanted to teach and make a difference and in particular I wanted to teach migrants. Strange really, as at that time we were living in a monocultural society and I hadn’t a lot to do with different cultures but it was always there at the back of my mind. I was also a romantic and often dreamed about meeting my true love one day!
Now I look back at my 16 year old self and I say to her what a roller coaster ride of a life you are going to have. You mind is going to be expanded enormously through the vast experiences of life and through your openness to learning. You will learn that failure is an amazing teacher. Your eyes will be opened too, to the diversity of people and cultures, the vast range of viewpoints of the world and the different values people hold.
You will be overwhelmed at both the heroism and cruelty of people. Through it all you will keep that optimistic view of life that you gained as a young girl and your belief that most people are decent and are doing their best to live in a complex and uncertain world.
Whatever you do, you will put your heart and soul into it. You will win some and lose some! You will find your true love and have 3 amazing sons that are the light of your life and that teach you so much. You will have a successful career in education and not only teach migrants but have senior leadership roles.
You will face enormous challenges; your heartbreak when your sister dies at such a young age and your fear of losing loved ones who have significant health issues. You will appreciate the simple things in life and be grateful for so much you previously took for granted.
You will become fascinated by the way people behave and become an ardent supporter of personal development. You will learn that we all have such potential, if only we can harness it, and you will learn the importance of following your passions. In fact, you will get into coaching people and love it and even write a guide on how to coach yourself!
Underneath it all, you will see that the core values you developed growing up are intrinsically the same. You will continue to treat people the way you want to be treated. Your strong family values passed onto you by your parents will be integral to the way you live. You will remain open to learning and curious about the world. You will keep on growing and expanding your mind, learning so much about yourself and others.
You will also see that old patterns and conditioning and that old story of not being good enough rears its ugly head at the most inopportune of times. You will learn that you are so much more than your thoughts and ego. You relish the times you feel and know this, even though your anxiety and fear can get in the way at times.
You will be so proud of yourself for the times you step out of your comfort zone. You won’t shy away from challenges. In fact, you’ll embrace them and through them you’ll become stronger and more resilient. You will learn to be kinder to yourself and appreciate them now rather than looking at the what ifs and being fearful about the future.
At 16, you think anyone in their sixties is ancient and is probably retired anyway but I can tell you, my 16 year old self, that is so far from the truth. Your desire to contribute and make a difference remains very much the theme of your life no matter what age you are.
Your life will continue to unfold in a variety of ways. Yes, there is no doubt you are a lot wiser as you enter your sixties but you have still so much to learn and experience. You have different paths to take and will continue to challenge yourself and try new things, even though many of your family and friends can sometimes be puzzled by this way of thinking.
Those old limiting patterns continue to rear their head but you are becoming so much more aware of them. You accept they are there but you aren’t consumed by them. They are just thoughts and are not the essence of you! You know life will continue to give you curve balls and they end up being your best teachers.
Dear 16 year old, finally I just want to share a powerful quote with you that has held me in good stead and sums up how I am living my life.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” — Victor Frankl
Jeanette Brown is author of 10 Essential Steps to Creating a Life You Love and an experienced personal and career coach. Check out her latest book here. Also, check out her latest article for Ideapod explaining how to handle the pain of being an empty nester.