Letter To My 21 Year-Old Self

photo by Erwan Hesry

Forty years ago this month I was preparing to go off on what I thought at the time was the biggest adventure of my life. 

As milestones often do, this has prompted me to reflect on what I would tell my younger self if I could write myself a letter and mail it back in time, given the benefit of hindsight.

Born in England to parents who migrated to Australia when I was five, I grew up in this beautiful country without grandparents to visit on the weekend, or cousins, aunts or uncles to share Christmas with. 

Plenty of my school friends had these relatives, so I knew what I was missing.  The result was that even before I hit my teenage years I had a longing to connect with my country of birth and the many relatives that I knew about from my parent’s stories, letters exchanged and ‘important day’ phone calls shared.

This absence of relatives and longing for England does not mean that I had an unhappy childhood.  Far from it.  But I think what it did was it gave me a goal.  A life goal.  I knew that when I was old enough to travel I would go, and I had a sense of independence that I would go on my terms, not as part of a family holiday.

Fast forward to my 21st year, when I had not only the ticket to go but also a best friend to travel with.  However, the circumstances at that time were not perfect. 

Firstly there were some serious problems in my family that threatened to block my plans to leave home.  Then, with six months to go and savings to bolster, the company I worked for closed down. I had no foreseeable prospects for work and a gaping hole in my planned budget.

Looking back, I don’t ever remember wallowing in self-pity. I was positive that this trip was going to transpire.  I do remember my determination to get another job and to honour both the ticket that I had and the goal that was burning inside of me. 

The prospect of the dream I had carried in my heart for so many years was too strong for any negativity to steal it away.  I did get another job for the six months.  I did save money.  My family did support my strong desire to leave. 

Even a serious car accident coming home from my last day at work, only days before departure, did nothing to get in the way of my goal. 

So what would I write to my 21 year old self today about what she thought was the most exciting adventure of her life? Here is a list of just some of my thoughts.

1. Life itself is a great adventure.  Enjoy each day as if it is the greatest gift you have ever been given.

2. Do not let anyone or any set back destroy your dreams, goals or visions for your life.

3. Just because you have achieved this goal, do not rest on your laurels thinking everything you set out to do will work out how you expect.  Sometimes the universe has a different plan for you.

4. Experiences are worth so much more than possessions, gold, money and ‘stuff’.

5. People and relationships are precious – treat them as such.  But if they are not supporting you, your happiness or your well-being, you may have to love them and let them go.

6. The journey of 12,000 miles will take you to meet the love of your life and the best friend ever that you could share that life with.  Keep your eyes peeled for that person.

7. Life is not always going to be smooth sailing.  You will not move forward if there is no wind in your sails.  You have to be prepared to dance when times are great, and hunker down and look for the lessons when they are not.

8. Learn from your mistakes.  They are part of the school of life.   Do not punish yourself.

9. If you don’t learn some lessons the first time around, they will keep coming and knocking at your door.

10. Focus on the positive more than the negative.

11. Be grateful for the blessings in your life.  If you’re not sure what they are, start to write them down.

12 . If you live in the moment and you are optimistic about your plans for the future, then you will live a long and happy life.

As I flew off in 1979 for a 12 month working holiday, who would have ever guessed it would take me 8 years to return with a husband and two beautiful daughters, and that I would have the platform through which to tell that story today?

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