Claudia, now 34, took up the challenge of penning a letter of advice to her former 18-year-old self.
Dear 18-year-old me,
Listen up, lady. Here are a few things I’ve learned that will help you live like a legend. No need to thank me, you are me.
So your A-levels didn’t go to plan? You did enough. It won’t change your trajectory. Shake off the self-doubt and move on with an open mind.
It’s time to think about what you really want. Not what others want for you. Not the mad art teacher with the mad hair. Not the well-meaning parents stuck in the 1960s. Not the CDT teacher you have a crush on and whose every word you hang off.
Use your time at university to study something that inspires you. Don’t worry about your student loan. Education is worth the price. Picking a subject just to score points with the big graduate employers will throw you down a career path you really won’t like. And you’ll just end up looking like an unemployable weirdo when you try and cheat the psychometric test. Yes, it happened. It hurt. Can we move on, please?
You can’t know your calling yet, so follow your heart and not your head. If you work hard and love what you do, you’ll be paid back in ways you won’t have thought of yet.
Don’t take university too seriously. You’re there to study and do well but you should also enjoy its freedom and indulge in a bit of irresponsibility. Work fewer hours at the phone shop, you’ll work long enough hours when you leave (and there’s no commission in Pay As You Go anyway).
Hey. That Land Law exam you’ll cry during (darn, confounded trusts!)? Well, you ace it.
Don’t obsess about money. You’ll pay back your student loan when you’re ready and earning a decent salary. Get a new piercing, dye your hair pink, kiss all the handsome boys, stay up talking all night on a school night. These are the memories you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. And seek out your forever friends – you’ll need them for the journey ahead.
You’ll spend a lot of time at work soon. And that’s why you need to pick a path that’s true to you. Not everyone is cut out for office hours or climbing the career ladder. Never force it. Success comes in many forms. My advice: find something the nine-to-fivers can’t do.
Here’s a nugget that took three P45s to learn: it’s not just about the job, it’s about the people you work with. Scratch that. It’s all about the people you work with. Some industries are just full of sucky people. Find your crowd, find your calling.
Don’t worry too much if you make the wrong choices. So long as you’re brave enough to recognise what needs to change and to take the steps to make things right, you’ll get back on track. Wrong moves aren’t wasted; they help inform where you should go next. So leave the job that makes you sad every Sunday night. Start over in a new career if the thought of doing your boss’s boss’s job makes your heart sink. Go back to school if you need to. The sooner you leap, the sooner you’ll sleep better. Do it now.
Don’t waste time on people who drain you. They won’t be there in ten years time, even if you work hard to please them. Hold on to the people who make you laugh, who build you up, and who inspire you to think big. Drop everything for these people when they need you, because they will do the same for you.
To live is to learn. Even the misguided romances and dubious decisions will make you a stronger, wiser person (although maybe skip the guy who looked like Alan Partridge, there was nothing to learn there). Not everything will come easily. But it’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s better than okay. To never fail is to never try. Keep trying.
The plan is meant to change. So don’t beat yourself up when your ideals turn out to be less than ideal. Your priorities will shift over time. Let them. Change is refreshing. Shake things up as often as you can – it keeps life interesting.
Love, 34-year-old me.
P.S. Go easy on the hair straighteners.
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