A letter to my 18 year old self.
A letter to my 18 year old self.
I was 18 in August 1989, living in Worcestershire. This was a time of kylie Minogue, Princess Di in her translucent Sloan dresses, Seventeen magazine, morning TV and Nintendo game boy – though I never had a game boy as that was the last thing I was interested in. I had finished my pre- nursing course. My friends and I, all went on holiday in our clapped out old cars to Newquay, Cornwall for our first holiday.
One thing I would advise my younger self would be to take GCSE's more seriously. I spent most of my time two years earlier sunbathing and going out or watching videos. My closest friend and I would both enrol on the pre-nursing course at our local college. I think at the time our mums had despaired with us and forced us to go to college and enrol ourselves on something useful. That ended up being the only course available, once we had got around it. So two years later we were hooked by nursing and walked away with the five GCSE,s at grade C or above to get ourselves onto a full nursing diploma. I guess you could say, my career as a nurse was both accident and fate.
I would tell the 18-year-old Helen to stop worrying about her body. It is what it is and there’s nothing you can do about it, ever. So just forget it. I wasn't anxious and didn’t have any body image issues but I was thin, very thin and I knew it. I didn't have curves or boobs or a bum like the other girls, I was just a bean pole and I couldn’t put weight on to save my life. In reality, I didn’t reach the point of acceptance until I had my first child at 27 as this was when I put weight on and everything got rounder. I soon lost weight again after giving birth but that didn't matter, Being a Mum brings life in to perspective.
I got up to all sorts of mischief as a teenager, I went to parties and stayed out all night. I didn’t have a mobile phone then, they were like bricks and only for people who worked in London. I had a Citroen 2CV which I loved. It was completely rotten but it was my first car and I went everywhere in it. I made money working at a local supermarket and I had made the decision by then to spend a year as an au-pair in Boston Massachusetts before starting nursing college. It was a way of stamping my independence on my family. You have to do this as a teenager for parents to believe you have grown up mentally and socially.
I became a more independent person by the time I got home. Too independent I guess. My mother instilled the concept of independence. She always told me to be self sufficient, 'don’t rely on other people, especially men' she'd say. She drummed in to me the importance of having my own money and to do the things I wanted to do, She always said, don't let anyone or anything get in your way. I don't think my parents were keen on the idea of me travelling half way around the world but they understood my reasons and supported me all the way. Life isn't that simple though, nobody is independent, we all need someone, we all need people around us. I am still learning this now.
Eighteen was the age at which I First fell in love. It was later than all of my friends, they all seemed to attract boys when I just stood in their shadow. I didn't mind though, we had good fun, besides I enjoyed dancing more anyway. We were clubbers, we had our local night clubs and everyone, knew everyone. It was a small town. I fell in love a few times but none of the boys were right for me. I didn’t realise that at the time. It was not until I found my husband that I knew what true love was, and still is. We have been married for 17 years now. We have had our ups and downs, life has changed but the one person I can count on, who has been there through thick and thin is my dear husband. He is my best friend, he tells it like it is and I know that he loves me. I'm not sure why sometimes, but he does.
If I met the 18-year-old me now, I’d think, Who does she think she is? I was not the same as my friends. My brother died when I was 10. Mum and Dad sheltered us from the world, they kept us close. We moved house several times during my childhood, Mum and Dad just couldn’t settle anywhere after the sudden death of my brother. I grew up in nice houses but by the time I had made friends, we had moved house again. I don't think I would have wanted it any other way, Even at 18 I saw it as a life experience. Every move was a challenge, a challenge to find out how I would fit in, to make friends and to settle in to a new school. I don't remember worrying about these things, to me it was an adventure. I didn’t need to worry too much about keeping friends for long periods of time as I probably would not be there in 3-4 years. It gave me a sort of confidence, I knew I could do anything with a little perseverance but it also made me distance myself from people and at the same time seek approval.
If I was to give the younger Helen advice I’d tell her to stop seeking approval and be more confident in life and at work. I’ve been saying that for 25 years. I’d tell her to do something about being a compulsive yes girl. Concentrate on family first. Just because you are a nurse does not mean you have to say yes, you can’t help everyone in the world. I would also say 'walk before you run' and' ask for help if you need it', nobody will think less of you. Lastly 'stop' once in a while to be more mindful of yourself.
I wouldn’t go back and show off to younger Helen about my career. She wasn’t very easy to impress. If I told her about my success she’d say, you’ve ruined the surprise. I don’t want to know how things pan out. I want choices. Now you have made my choice for me. She would hate that. Younger Helen only knew she wanted to be a nurse, she had not made any plans after that and that was the way she liked to do things. She was tempestuous, she was impulsive and she was spontaneous.
I’d tell the younger me, in order to be in a strong relationship you need to curve your traits slightly. relationships are about mutual respect, mutual reciprocation and compromise, all the things you have not yet learned yet. However, until you are in that marriage or serious relationship do not change. Life changes but It gets better. When I was 18 I didn’t know what life would bring and I didn’t care. All I was interested in was 'now' I didn’t care about how I would meet Mr Right, or will my career work out, I knew I would always be happy but how ,was yet to be decided. That was the exciting bit!
When you get to 45 you will be at the peak of your career. It wasn’t until you'd had your boys that your career became clear, you knew what you were meant to do and you had big plans. You will finally be doing the job you worked so hard for after having your babies. However, You will not be able to complete your dissertation and you will be considering giving the whole thing up as life and work with a chronic pain condition is too difficult
If I could go back in time I would make more time for my husband before having children. We would travel and make our house nice and have mini breaks. I only knew my husband for about six months when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. We were already planning our wedding but this was all put on hold now. We managed a short break away and a week in Cyprus before our boys came along. I certainly don’t regret having children , they couldn’t have been more wanted but contraception should have been higher on my priority list.