A love letter to my 15-year old self...

Dear 15-year old Shanny,

If I could sit next to you now, I would give you a big hug, wipe away your tears, and tell you that you, m’dear, are going to live a big, bright, beautiful life one day. You may feel that this is impossible to imagine now, and I know that life is hard for you - trying to figure out where you fit in and always thinking that you aren’t good enough - but I want to set the record straight and tell you that you are an amazing little gem of a person and that one day you will find your place in this world - I promise.

You will spend your teenage years wondering why you aren’t part of the ‘popular’ crowd, why people laugh at you behind your back, why they poke fun of your bright and bubbly personality, when all you want to do is be liked and be a part of something that gives you comfort and a sense of belonging. Don’t worry so much about what people think – there will come a time in your life when you finally shed this insecurity and you will find comfort and solace in yourself, your own uniqueness and magic, and there will be people who love you for it.

High school will be some of the hardest years of your life, but you WILL overcome them, I assure you.

It will take you many years, and lots of hard lessons will be learned, but you will get there. You will encounter some very tough times in these years, and you will hurt with such intensity that you will feel like there is no way out and you will look for anything to take the pain away. As much as I’d like to tell you not to do these things, I know that you need to experience them to help you become the person you will be – just don’t let yourself be defined by your circumstances. Learn to roll with the punches, let the insults slide off you like drops of water, and develop your resilience. Keep striving and dreaming of a better life – it is coming your way, I promise.

Just before your 18th birthday, you will meet someone who you think is the love of your life. He will sweep into your existence with such charisma and magic, just like a modern-day Prince Charming, and you will fall madly, truly, deeply in love with him. He will open your eyes to another world, the one you’ve been so desperately seeking, and he will encourage you, support you, give you a sense of security, and love you very much. You will marry this man and it will make your heart soar with love and promise of a glittering future together.

You will cultivate a beautiful life together, laughing endlessly, sharing openly, and basking in each other’s love.

However, you will also have to face your demons during this time and it will manifest in a terrible and crippling condition of anxiety that will rob you of your joy and lustre. You will feel like you are going crazy and that you have no control over your mind, your body, or your life.

It is going to be a tough slog, I won’t sugarcoat it, but I promise, you will triumph and overcome it eventually – it will take years, and much hardship and heartache, but you will be cured one day.

You will also finally wake up and follow your true calling in life.

You will give up your corporate job and all the amazing financial perks that come with it to pursue your dream of becoming a teacher. Even though you will feel like you are going backwards in some way, you will actually be propelling yourself forward in ways that you never dreamed.

You will love university and the new life that awaits you as a student, and you will excel and finally find a place in this world where your intellect and feistiness will be a merit, not a liability.

Unfortunately, though, my darling young one, you will not get the happily ever after you had planned on and dreamed of.

You will be betrayed by your love in the cruellest and most horrendous way imaginable; you will lose everything you ever worked for – your marriage, your house, your financial security, your future together – and it will leave you devoid, broken, and lost. You will spend months and years mourning the loss of this love, the future children you will no longer have together, and the death of the life you had planned for. Your identity will be stolen; you will not know who you are because all you did for a decade was build yourself around him, and when all this is stripped away from you, you will be left a broken, empty, and confused mess.

I won’t lie; these will be the most excruciatingly painful and bleakest months of your entire life; you will feel trapped in a war, not of your own making. You will feel like your heart is breaking all over again every morning when you wake up, and you will move through the days like a zombie, searching for anything that will give you peace and leave you numb. You will cry yourself to sleep every night, praying and begging for the pain to end…

But in these moments, the darkest of your life, you will still triumph. You will overcome.

You will re-build yourself and discover who you truly are and what you want from your life.

You will experience amazing opportunities that you never dreamed possible: you will travel the world alone, marvelling at the beauty and grandeur of cities like Paris, Rome, Berlin and London.

You will be challenged, and you will overcome these experiences with grace, bravery, and dignity.

You will weep with gratitude and forgiveness as you stand before the Eiffel Tower; you will pray under the roof of the Sistine Chapel and marvel at its beauty; you will stand before the relics of history and bow your head in respect and reverence; and you will laugh and dance and feel more alive and freer than you ever have in your entire life.

This journey of self-discovery will take you to places you never imagined.

Shanny, you will be empowered and independent for the first time in your life; your dream of studying abroad will come true, and you will move to the other side of the world and meet some of the most amazing and interesting people of your life. You will fit in within this crazy piece of the world, and it will feel like home, even though you are so far away from where it all began.

You will find solace and peace within yourself and you will rejoice in this understanding, as you will finally know who you are and love yourself for it. You will be grateful for the tragedies that have befallen you because, without them, you would have missed out on this breathtakingly beautiful and wonderful life that you now lead, and you know you wouldn’t change that for the world.

You will blossom.

If I can give you any final words of advice, my darling little me, it would be these:

Live your life with intention, not in imitation.

Be proud, be bold, be brave. Never let your inner sparkle be tarnished by the cruelty of the world.

Smile, even when it hurts. Lift your head up high and hold it there. Learn from every experience – the good, the bad, and everything in between; this will help you to recognise the signs next time they come along.

Be kind to others; but most importantly, be kind to yourself; you are so precious and amazing. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you or makes you happy.

When you get knocked down, stand up, dust yourself off and ask: what can I learn from this? Be the heroine of your own story.

Smile. Laugh. Pull faces for no reason.

Take a chance – you never know what is coming next.

Kiss the boy.

Make it happen.

Today is a new start: live it like a boss.

All my love, light, joy, and gratitude to you always, my precious soul…

From 29-year old Shanny