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13 Things to Remember When You're 13: Advice to My Younger Self

I thought it fitting that there's no time like the present to knuckle down and join the writers out there writing to their former selves. Not in a 'Clare, Clare, can you hear me?' way, but a reflective, reactive, and 'actually, you can learn a lot in 11 years' revelation that only comes with historical hindsight, and I hope is something others can relate to.

I really should be doing something productive but seeing as writing is a verb and verbs equate to doing something, then this is going to be productivity as its peak this evening.

As someone who is often late to the party (not strictly speaking, i'm usually early), I only started watching Friends decades after everyone else in the world..I thought it fitting that there's no time like the present to knuckle down and join the writers out there writing to their former selves. Not in a 'Clare, Clare, can you hear me?' way, but a reflective, reactive, and 'actually, you can learn a lot in 11 years' revelation that only comes with historical hindsight, and I hope is something others can relate to.

1. It's okay to feel strange

You may not know who Cara Delevingne is right now, but in the future she is going to take the supermodel, media, and social worlds by storm because she embodies something far bigger and more universal than bold brows...'Embrace your weirdness' - why aren't you doing so? Or maybe you are on the sly. If you're feeling strange now about where you want to go in the future, don't sweat it. Nobody really knows what they're doing either, though you will be told otherwise. And that's okay. That's more than okay. Just enjoy the time figuring it out.


You might think pandas are loveable rogues but mascara smudges and eyeliner lines that look as though they're about to double up as lipliner is not a thing of the here and now, or indeed the future. You might feel like a zombie after that night out, but you don't want to wake up looking like one. Cleanse, clean, and clear - your skin will thank you for it later, promise.

3. Keep writing those poems

You're 15 and poetry might not be deemed the most interesting or fun thing to be associated with, or to admit to enjoy doing, but there is a reason why you are still scribbling in that folder.

You didn't just get 100% on your GCSE Poetry paper because you regurgitated Browning's use of hyperbole and feel the words, and most importantly, you love them. Writing a sentence isn't just a necessary form of communication to you, it's a life force, and you must continue to breathe into it, else it will die, and I am sure that a piece of your heart will die with it. (Or failing that you will continue to write melancholy paragraphs like the one you've just read)

4. Appreciate what you have

It may seem premature to consider what you have got as opposed to yearning for what you haven't, but what you should know is that if you continue to disregard what you already have in favour of yearning for the things you do not, you will never regard anything satisfactorily and you will never be happy in the moment.

Take a second to not only acknowledge the comfortable, yet chaotic home you live in, and the friends with whom you can sing along loudly to Calvin Harris and not feel a twinge of embarrassment, but take a second to really value how you got them, and what you can do to help make others happier too.

That is when you will begin to enjoy living in the moment while appreciating what you already have, and how it makes you feel.

5. Take time out for Family

You may feel fed up at times when being told to load the dishwasher, or having to teach your parents how to use Facebook, but remember....they taught you how to walk and how to hold a spoon; you owe them.

Your family aren't going to be around forever, and you know that. It's far harder and more heart-rendering to consider the what ifs of life than it is to just clear your schedule and assign some time to seeing your beloved Nan for a couple of hours, trying her latest (delicious) cake, and listening to her tales from Bletchley Park during the War. Value the sheer incredibility of your family, their strengths, their values, and their progress. Listen to their advice, thank them, and most of all, cherish them. When you're sat here typing this in the future, you'll have seen a lot, been through a lot, and witnessed loved ones endure the most heart-breaking situations ever to be encountered. Make the days matter.

6. Serve an Ace

You don't have to be in your tennis whites for this one, though playing tennis as much as possible and enjoying it is one of the best things you can do at the weekend.

Serve an ace whether you're writing an essay on the suffragettes, doing a speech at Parents' evening, entering that clarinet exam you've been dreading for 1325 months, or volunteering - work hard, and serve that ace. Don't revel in winning, but enjoy the act of progress and working for something worthwhile, the endurance and determination will serve you well in all aspects of your life.

7. And then there was that one time...Hahahaha

Laugh. At yourself. With your friends. In the cinema. At a book. Watching YouTube. When you fell in the lake. Whatever.

Not maliciously - don't mock people by laughing at them, but don't take yourself too seriously, and laugh at things (when appropriate - as tempting as it is when you're being told not to laugh) and take everything with a pinch of salt.

Situations that happen to you don't define who you are as a person, but the way you react to them does.

8. Plan ahead, but not too far

Fail to plan, plan to fail. Always a strong rule to live by, but don't fall into the trap of planning so far in the future that you miss out on the everyday, and vice versa.

If you're considering University, book a place on an open day. If you're planning that career path, talk to people in in that sector. Get your foot in the door by asking questions, taking the initiative to implement your plans and thoughts, and get ready to learn by trial and error. Plan to be ready, but also be ready for your plan to change.

9. Do things that scare you (within reason)

Travelling on the underground alone may seem like an arduous and impossible exercise, but there are far more brilliant, exciting, but scary opportunities out there waiting for you. If you don't feel ready to take it, then it's time. Say yes to jumping off that cliff (attached to a paraglider in Turkey), say yes to travelling alone, say yes to that work event, go and work at a festival where you know nobody, say yes to anything that you think would be good for you. And in equal measure, learn to say no....

10. Know who your friends are

Relish the friends you have right now, and appreciate the time you have with them. Life is comprised of numerous chapters, and you may not hold the same qualities as a protagonist in each chapter, and circumstances change. This is okay, and is normal. If you're not growing up, you're stagnant and the important thing is to continue to grow, develop, and change....though sorry i think you're going to remain 5"4 forever, kiddo.

Keep your mind open and your judgement clipped. Friends come in an array of forms and parts in your life, and if you are lucky enough to find a friend who makes you feel safe, happy, and that you can be your strange self (remember, you're embracing it!) around, and cares for you as much as you do for them, then hold on to them.

Friends come and go, but solid, palpable friends are rarer. Invest your time wisely - 24 hours in a day is not a great deal, so spend your golden hours with those who matter, and those who would do the same for you.

11. Don't be ashamed to be the 'photographer'

Hey, everyone needs a photographer, and one day Chief 'Oh you were so drunk you don't remember falling into that skip - here let me remind you with my series of photos' will be a full time career. After all, there has to be someone there to document accounts and be able to feedback and pass on the knowledge (smugly) to others...

University, work, travelling, and nights out all provide you with memories (though maybe not in the case of the latter), and having photographic evidence and momentos to go back to whenever you feel like far outweighs cringily asking 'Is it okay if I take a snap?"

12. Be a good person

Respect your teachers (even though you're cheeky sometimes), listen to others more than you speak, be genuine and kind-hearted, and don't let negativity pull you down...that's gravity's job, and gravity's job alone.

If you're in a context where you feel you're changing for the worst, take yourself out of it and find yourself a less hostile environment. You will be glad of it. Treat people fairly and kindly, even if they don't reciprocate. Why plummet further into the realms of anguish? Smile, brush it off, and keep on moving towards better things.

13. Be kind. To yourself.

If you aren't going to be, who is? You are on this earth, and it is up to you to make the most of it. Living vicariously through others won't make you happy. Treating yourself poorly will bring you down further. Don't speak about yourself in a manner you wouldn't speak about a friend in the same way.

The truth is, there is always going to be someone out there who is cleverer, prettier, happier, smarter, thinner, and 'cooler' than you, but even though Caitlin Moran already exists, you can be happy being you, and that is not a bargain or a compromise.

You might get fed up of those freckles on your face, or the podgy cheeks that engulf your facade, but to a stranger they could be beautiful sun spots, or the most cutting cheekbones they've seen...and even if these things did or did not matter to a stranger, it does not mean that it does not matter at all. Because you matter. You are enough, and everyone around you is enough too. Don't compare yourself with others because you will lose sight of what you've already achieved, and put you down from achieving anything in the future.

If you want a kick-start to motivate yourself and feel better when things feel confusing, just remember that someday you may be saying this exact same thing to your children, or your friends, or younger relatives, and you should practise what you preach.

After all, who knows what might happen in 11 could end up with a Masters in Poetry, still play tennis and a couple of instruments, meet up regularly with your friends, have gone travelling alone, be the avid and proud photographer, and be on track to plan your future in writing or something similar that you enjoy. You'll just have to enjoy finding out.

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