Dearest 20 year old me,
I’ve wanted to write to you for a little while now. You see we’ve just turned 30 (!!!) and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the past decade, attempting in my own way to make some sense of it all and wrap a neat little bow around the lessons of my / our 20’s.
This feels like a good way to do it.
So here we are, hello! I’m currently sprawled out on the floor of our London apartment (yes, we made it — a little after you’d imagined, but we made it!) eating porridge (some things will never change), with Frownies plastered on my forehead (you’re starting to get frown lines, sorry for that news) and I can probably imagine what you might be doing… updating your Myspace page? Out running? Drunk? Downloading illegal music or drawing pictures to frame and stick on your wall?
You’ve just turned 20. You’re living in Melbourne with your two best friends, one year into university and babysitting on the weekends to make cash. The boy you kissed on your birthday? He’s the first of four men you’ll fall in love with over the next ten years. (Yes, you say men now. So grown up, right?) For two years you’ll treat each other terribly and wonderfully and when you look back it’ll seem as if you were both too young and immature for the intensity of that kind of love. You’re going to make some mammoth mistakes, most stemming from your own lack of self worth and uncertainty about who you are. So will he. You’ll cheat and lie and try to Mother him back into your arms and when he finally breaks up with you — and you finally let him do it — it’ll feel as if nothing will ever be good again. (It will! I promise!) Crying in the Honda, finding excuses to go back to his apartment and do things in bed you hadn’t said yes to before; it won’t work. You’ll move on, fast.
(Speaking of sex, it gets better! Yay!)
You’ll be living with your next boyfriend by the time you’re 23. Dad’s going to tell you he thinks you’re too young but you won’t listen. You give and give and give and give but he’s right, there’s too much growing up to do. No boy / man is ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever going to fill that gigantic gap you feel in your gut. No matter how cool or kind or creative or charismatic they are, they don’t — and will never — define you. You care so much about what others think! What would happen if you asked for what YOU want? I know that you don’t know what that is. Don’t worry, it’ll come.
I know that there’s no point in me telling you what to think or do differently, because I still have zero regrets and time travel isn’t *actually* a thing — yet. Oh screw it, let me just rattle some tips out, okay?
Write more. Write more. Write more.
Be nicer to your little sisters. They’re babies now but they’ll be your friends sooner than you know.
Stop taking the contraceptive pill. No, actually, don’t. Keep taking it. No babies at 20 is good, but know that you’re sacrificing A LOT by being on it. No babies at 30 is good too! *wink*
Save more money. It turns out that having money is actually awesome. You’re going to dip in and out of debt for most of the next decade but I won’t say ‘don’t get a credit card’ because it’s going to fund a whole lot of adventures and creative ideas… but at least do better on your repayments and don’t buy frivolous crap on it.
Stop shopping. You hate it.
Read more literature.
Ask your grandparents more questions about their life.
Keep making stuff! Lingerie, screen-prints, tea towels, stories, art. JUST MAKE THINGS.
Take better care of your belongings.
You don’t have to choose between your head and your heart, your intelligence and your intuition. Use both.
Stop listening to the kind of music that you think makes you look edgy and will make guys want to go out with you. Listen to more Leonard Cohen instead.
Don’t go cold on those you love.
Swap your Pump class for yoga — it’s going to change EVERYTHING.
Take more risks at uni. Give it a little more of you.
Keep exploring this creative, eclectic side of your personality that living in the city is drawing out — some days you’ll look like a complete weirdo in your bright blue tights and cow-print overalls but I’m cheering you on from here, okay?
I know how much you can’t stand the skin you’re in — your soft belly, breasts and wide hips. The thing is Claire, you weigh 57kg. You are tiny! You wear a size 8 – 10 for fucks sake! It hurts my heart to think about how much time and energy you spend obsessing over and hating on your body. The calorie counting, the hours in the gym, the laxatives, bingeing and vomiting and wrapping it all up in a lie of “I’m detoxing!” when it’s really all about bringing that number on the scales down, down, down. Soon you’ll realise that speed and ecstasy help with this! I’m not going to tell you not to do drugs, because there is a lot of fun ahead…
…but drugs and alcohol have a lot to answer for when I think about the darkest times of the past ten years. Drugs will destroy one of your relationships and one of your favourite people. As will alcohol. Booze is something you still haven’t quite figured out; it seems to take more from you than it gives and you don’t need it at 30 like you *think* you need it now. You’re funny and clever and lovely with or without it! Embrace the part of yourself that is a little quieter than the rest of the room, a little softer, a little more introverted. I know you think these qualities are the signposts of your lack of conviction but it turns out that a quiet confidence is actually quite sexy. Just. Be. You.
Keep travelling. Between travel and ditching the diets and yoga and writing again… there’s a whole lot of you to unravel! Berlin is as amazing as we’d imagined and India is as challenging. You’re going to lose your passport in Paris and find yourself in a silent, sweaty mess on a yoga retreat in Ubud when you discover that you need to take better care of yourself — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. As with any expansion, there’s always a contraction and you’ll get back home after the retreat and sleep with someone you shouldn’t have and feel bad about that for a long time. Forgive yourself.
Forgive yourself, forgive yourself, forgive yourself. Keep doing that.
You’re going to do things that you thought you’d never do. Some of these will be amazing, like living in Western Australia and meeting your sister soulmates there and some will suck, like having an abortion (don’t worry, there’s no lingering guilt and it’ll be an easy decision to make) and the reason why you moved to Perth in the first place — at 26, life is going to crumble, shatter, implode in a clusterfuck of pain and sadness and grief and you’ll be forced to do the work on yourself that you’ll avoid for the next few years. It’ll be okay though… sort of. Tell everyone you love how much you care about them! Especially your family. Be annoying and smothering with your love.
Things are good from 30! I haven’t quite figured out the “career thing” but I’m getting there and I’m not sure if anyone ever actually does and I care much less about that now. It turns out that there are far more pathways to choose from (or create) than we ever saw growing up. What I’m doing is what I love, mostly. The repetitive query of “what am I doing with my life?” is going to create endless turmoil for you over the next few years and I wish I could take it away from you — at 25 it’ll reach fever pitch! Hello quarter-life crisis! Just keep travelling, studying, being curious about who you are. I know there are things that you think you should be doing, but seriously, let them go. Let other people do their thing and you do yours. Others will want the house and the big car and the kids and the salary and… you won’t. At least not yet. The world is going to change so much over the next ten years. You know that weird thing that girl at uni has called Facebook? Turns out it’s going to be quite a hit!
What else can I tell you about 30? You really like history now! And being in nature. And that dream you’re secretly harbouring about writing a book feels like it might actually happen one day. We’re still dancing! Being a woman is really amazing. Your skin clears up. Self doubt comes and goes but we’ve got a better handle on it; trusting yourself is key. Romantic relationships don’t seem to get any easier but the one you’re in now is GREAT. You have your ups and downs, doubts and desires but he’s patient and kind and loving and willing and you actually know him, but I won’t tell you who it is… 😉 You’ll learn that running away doesn’t cultivate growth in a relationship (who would have thought?!) and that the relationship you have with yourself is EVERYTHING. Oh and I know you literally *just* got a tattoo to represent the one thing in your life that you feel is concrete, but it turns out that it’s not. Ha! It turns out that nothing really is! Classic. Oh and here’s us now… No, sadly our hair doesn’t always look this clean and brushed! Yes you still love turquoise jewellery and lace and we decided blonde is best.
If I could wrap all of this up in one neat little bow it might sound like this: give less fucks about what other people think and continue to pursue the things that you love and bring you to life. Take note of what those things are and follow them with a vengeance because my darling, another thing we’re slowly realising is that our time is indeed finite. We do get older. People do die. Shit happens. All of the time. So be kind, kind, kind, kind. Kindness towards yourself and those around you.
Enjoy it ALL! The light, the dark, the confusion and the clarity and the joy and frustration because it means YOU’RE STILL HERE. You have so much to be grateful for and look forward to.
And I love you. You’re awesome.
(Ps. Hello there, did you enjoy this letter? If so, would you share? Or leave a comment below. It might land right where it’s needed. Thank you!)