Sixteen was a big year for me.
For the first half of sixteen, I was at high school and I was unhappy. And not just because it was the nineties and that’s what all the arty kids were doing. I was unhappy because there was a real shortage of other unhappy arty kids around me; everybody else in my teeny tiny little town had the same blonde Rachel cut, a violin case and bright white trainers. None of them were actively unpleasant to me but I did not fit in.
But then the summer holidays came. I went to Germany on my own. I learnt the phrase “You’re baking small cakes”. I didn’t realise that when drunken boys with guitars asked if I loved anyone, they meant did I make love to anyone. One of them wrote a song for me. Despite me never loving him.
I came home to find that I had sailed through my Highers so, eager to avoid another year at high school, I called up Aberdeen University to ask about late applications/early admissions – and they offered me a place.
So the second half of sixteen was enormous. The second half of sixteen involved me leaving home, moving to a strange city where I knew nobody, starting my degree. It involved me making friends with Kirsty:
I’ve read a lot of Tweets and posts about what people would like to go back and tell their sixteen year old selves and over the last week – turning 32; turning 16 x 2; becoming twice her age – I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. And, honestly, I wouldn’t go back and tell my sixteen year old self anything of significance.
Oh, sure, there was no need for her to be in so much of a rush – it turns out 23 is not the end of all possibilities; the good stuff happens much later and very much at its own pace. And, yes, she could have chosen her degree and some of her boyfriends and a few of her skirts a little more carefully. And, of course, some of the painful times could have been avoided.
But without her mistakes, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Through her, I learnt that I can handle the hard times, that I need not avoid taking risks. I learnt to admit and correct my errors of judgement. I learnt to think more clearly, to be both nicer and stronger. I learnt that I alone am responsible for taking care of myself – my health, my money, my happiness – but that letting other people near me need not be a bad thing.
My sixteen year old self had the courage to make a huge change, to leave an unhappy place in her life and start completely afresh; I’m proud of her and a little bit inspired.
And, of course, if she hadn’t had the guts to move to the city which I now call home and start a whole new life, this might not be one of my oldest friends: