A LETTER TO MY FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SELF

Hey fifteen year old Jane,

It’s twenty six year old Jane. There’s probably lots of things you’d like to know, like which Backstreet Boy you’re gonna marry or how the career of that cute girl from ‘The Parent Trap’ is going. It’s bad news on both counts. Don’t sweat though, I’m not writing this from the maximum security wing of some futuristic women’s prison. That’s all I’ll say about where I am, I remember how much you like surprises.

So you know the way you’re the bane of your teachers’ existence with your constant chatter and witticisms?(In your head, anyway.) Well, GUESS WHAT? You are now the recipient of this behaviour; you decide (I think you’ll be around seventeen) that it would be just WONDERFUL to become a teacher. And you know what? It is wonderful. You’ll have a pretty stressful few years in your career (you’ll be thrown in to teaching a maths class and you know how crap you are at maths), but you’ll love it and you’ll even get gifts from your students from time to time (as well as grief, but it’s all part of the job). Remember this one tip: teenagers will work insanely hard for rewards of a chocular variety.

Also, stop messing with your hair. At the moment, it’s a very bright blond and you look RIDICULOUS. I’m sorry, but have some sense woman/girl. You’ll get to eighteen and you’ll realise that being a brunette suits you so much more. And also, the bleach will actually result in some of your hair falling out when you’re seventeen. I’m sorry, ok? You were going through your obsession with The Simple Life and it got out of hand. But right now, I have very long and thick hair (I don’t really care anymore but I know you’ll appreciate this). Also, an amazing invention known as hair straighteners will mean you won’t look like Melanie Griffiths anymore #winning (sorry, a little futuristic humour for you there).

Now, you’re gonna need to sit down for this one (maybe on that really cool bean bag that you end up losing in college). By twenty six you still won’t be married. Or have kids. Or a very stable job. But hear me out.

Soon enough, you’re going to meet the person that will change your life. You won’t know it at first but he will make you happier than playing snake (which I know is totally your thing right now). He’s handsome, funny and intelligent and you’ll even start a little pet family together (really, you could open a petting farm). I won’t tell you anything else because the journey you’re about to take is the best thing that will ever happen to you so just act surprised when you meet him, okay?

You will think about marriage and babies for a long time, but then you’ll realise that you’re happy just being in the moment and going with the flow. The moment is pretty great.

You have some tough times ahead. You know Mam and Dad? Yeah, they split up. And you know the way you faint sometimes? That’s not low blood sugar like you self diagnosed (thank you, dial-up Google), it’s epilepsy (but you kinda kick its ass so don’t worry). You’ll be in a car accident. But look, you’re still here. You’re alive, you’re relatively healthy, your family are safe and you currently have a cat sitting on your shoulder…how cool is that? (Just to clarify, you have the cat there by choice, you’re not in some dingy alley way somewhere surrounded by stray felines.)

The friends you have now? You keep lots of them, but you also lose a few. One of your male friends will profess his undying love for you and you’ll both laugh about it years later. Try to guess which one.

You’re gonna end up moving around a bit, but strangely, you’ll enjoy it. You’ll end up far away from home (and so will your brother, who you’ll miss terribly) but you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll thrive. You gain far more confidence in your early twenties and you will learn to be more assertive. It won’t be an easy process but you become a person that you finally feel proud to be and because I know how low your self-esteem is right now, that’s pretty amazing.

Your sister (who you’re probably squabbling with right now, HEY PUT HER HANSON CD DOWN) will become one of your best friends. I know you don’t believe me now, but no one will ever make you feel as loved and protected as she does.

I want to say one last thing: you’re a teenager which means you’re…well, you’re kind of a bitch sometimes. Stop pouting at me, we both know you’re not scary. When you get to my age, you’re going to really regret how shabbily you’re treating Dad. I know you find him annoying and embarrassing now, but you’ll look back and realise that he loved you and nurtured you in the most selfless of ways and you were just a big bag of nasty hormones. Go hug him right now.

So Jane, twenty six year old you is not that much different to fifteen year old you. You still watch Kenan and Kel. You still wear jeans (they don’t really go out of fashion but they become a lot tighter) and you still love spaghetti like Miley Cyrus loves twerking (I just realised that pop culture reference makes zero sense to you, just take my word for it). Things have changed though. You’re living with a real life boy. You have a career. You drive (you just got a speeding ticket tut tut) and you haven’t seriously injured anyone yet. All in all, you’re happy.

Just please, please don’t get in anymore photos where you’re wearing dungarees. They will come back to haunt you in ways you can’t imagine. And stop over-plucking your eyebrows, you look like a meth addict.

P.S. No, they don’t have flying cars yet but they do have something called ‘Facebook’ which is just as creepy as it sounds.

If you could write to your fifteen year old self, what would you say?

Poem: A Christmas Childhood

This is a beautiful poem that I learned when I was in school that will punch you square in the feelings. It’s by poet Patrick Kavanagh and it’s called ‘A Christmas Childhood’.

My father played the melodion

Outside at our gate;

There were stars in the morning east;

And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called

To Lennons and Callans.

As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry

I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother

Made the music of milking;

The light of her stable-lamp was a star

And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,

Mass-going feet

Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,

Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters

On the grey stone,

In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,

The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over

Cassidy’s hanging hill,

I looked and three whin bushes rode across

The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

An old man passing said:

“Can’t he make it talk” –

The melodion, I hid in the doorway

And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post

With my penknife’s big blade –

There was a little one for cutting tobacco.

And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,

My mother milked the cows,

And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned

On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.