Tomorrow, my 13 year old daughter starts college. It hardly seems possible that she about to go to high school - and I suspect I am more anxious about it than her! She's been at a small country school for the first 8 years of her education, and we've experienced all the highs and lows that go with the big fish little pond/undiagnosed learning issues/little town clique life that we live.
But there it is, and over the summer holidays, as I've watched her shoot up taller than me, with better skin and hair that I ever had, let alone as a teenager, I've been thinking about what I want her to know as she starts this 'next stage' in her life.
My days of high school weren't exactly fun. I was a total nerd who struggled to make friends and as I was in the 'little bit fat and got red hair' category, never really felt like I belonged nor was accepted. I was smart enough, as it turns out, but never realised this at school despite being in a high stream and doing weird subjects like art history and music. I left school at 16, and to this day regret that I never graduated, and that I can't even really look back on those 4 or so years of high school with rose coloured glasses. For all that though, I have turned out OK, made some lifelong friends, and can pick out a few high lights (and laugh at a few cringe worthy moments - skirt around my waist when I tripped on the steps comes to mind, as does the day I nearly knocked myself out on a lamp post because I was so busy looking to make sure the class bully wasn't too near me...).
But I digress. Here's my letter to the little princess, now not so little, and the things that I wish I'd known when I started high school:
It's tough being a teenager sometimes eh! And, it can be scary doing new stuff, and its a lot of change for you - here's some stuff to help guide you through it all...
Be a friend and be friendly - but remember that not everyone will want to be friendly back, nor be your friend, AND IT DOESN'T MATTER
Try everything - music, sport, clubs and groups - and remember that you won't like all or them, nor be good at everything AND IT DOESN'T MATTER
Work hard - focus in class, do your homework - and remember that even though you might not be excellent at everything there'll be some things that you will shine at, and through that you'll find your way through school - AND IT DOES MATTER
Think about your choices - people, classes, how you spend your class time and your free time - and remember that there will always be things (and people!) that can distract you, that can be unhealthy,and some that are just plain dumb or bad for you. Choose wisely because IT DOES MATTER
Be kind to your mother! (and your father...)and all the other grownups in your life, who it will feel like are are constantly on your case, or annoying you, or asking too many questions, or all of those things at once. Lots and lots of people care about you and they are NOT trying to make your life miserable! But they want the very best for you and are interested in your life. Sometimes they will be your taxi driver, funder, counsellor or escape hatch. Answer their questions, smile even when you don't want to, (change your dress if you are asked too by your mother!) and treasure them because just like you, THEY MATTER
Remember this - you are a kind, interesting, talented and thoughtful girl. You have amazing potential and the chance to shine. Grab that opportunity with both hands!