Advice for my 13 Year Old Self

Posted by Jill Chivers in My Story

Good morning!  Welcome to blog #76 and today I’d like to give some advice to my 13 year old self. 

There I am!  I’m the youngest of three, with two older brothers.  Yes, they made my life a living misery which was their birthright (even so, they seemed naturally adept at it, like it was no effort at all).

When I was thirteen, we moved towns.  From a large-ish regional centre of a hundred thousand or so to a smaller mining town or less than 10,000 people.  Big change.

By the time I was thirteen I was wearing glasses and a bra.  Those two things kind of neutralised one another, in the invisibility/visibility stakes anyhow. 

This giving advice to your younger self is quite a popular phenomenon.  It is a concept pioneered by Ellyn Spragins in her books, New York Times bestseller What I Know Now (2006), If I’d Known Then (2008) and What I Know Now About Success (2010).

I saw it first in a magazine a few years ago, a woman in her 50s giving advice to her 10 year old self.  It was poignant.  And you know what they say “it’s never too late to have a happy childhood”.  I think they’re referring to the power of therapeutic interventions like reframing, rebirthing and re-writing.  But perhaps laughing, loving and drinking will also help to re-create those memories of childhood?

Ok, so here I go.  Here’s the advice I would give to my thirteen year old self (and I’ll try to make this as style/fashion/shopping focusesd as I can, since that’s what’s probably brought you here, reading this, in the first place, right?)

And before I start, let me just say this.  I could just recite the entire set of verses from the Sunscreen song , except perhaps the bit about living in New York  City and Northern California (that would have been weird advice to a kid living in Central Queensland, Australia, right?), it’s all so on point.  But I won’t – you can listen to the song yourself.  That said — there is one piece so good from that song, I’m going to start with it.  

  •  You are not as fat as you imagine.  You are not even fat.  Full stop.  If you could see yourself through my 40 year old eyes you’d see how unbelievably cute you are!  Ok, so you’re not a swizel stick and you don’t have long legs like Theresa (a family friend who lived with us and was (probably still is) six foot tall).  Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.  And you are beautiful. 
  • Ok, you can read Dolly magazine.  But it’s like diet soda for the mind – too much and it will rot your brain.  And those advice columns?  They’re just made up – 27 year old freelance writers use pseudonyms and create all those ‘problems’ and write all the answers.  
  • Don’t fret about the freckles.  They’re there, and I can tell you now that we don’t end up becoming a mega movie star like Nicole Kidman so we don’t end up having ourselves dipped in bleach like she did to get rid of her freckles.  So, they’re here.  We got ’em.  And in a weird way they’ll be kinda good because, when you hit your late 30s, they disguise some emerging wrinkles. 
  • Yes, you do end up making it out of that small mining town.  And yes, you do end up being grateful for spending your formative years there, which seems unbelieveable now but it happens.  (why do we end up grateful? Well, for one reason because there wasn’t enough of a police presence on Saturdays at 2am when you were driving 12 people home from the disco in the back of the Mini van.  But that happens in a few years so don’t worry about it now).
  • Pay attention to the things that work for your body, and I’m talkin’ clothes here now, ok?  Like, that long full waist-gathered skirt that you get given next year?  Don’t wear it – it doesn’t suit you.  And those bright yellow brass button up “bib” style jeans that somehow make it into your wardrobe in 1985 – hmmm, go easy on wearing those, ok?  You look like you should be on romper room in them.  And I’m not even going to mention the pale pink pant suit you buy in the early 1990s.
  • The kids-curtain-fabric shorts epidemic will hit in the late 1980s – lots of people at University wearing home-made elastic-waist shorts made out of kids curtain fabric.  You think I’m making this up, but I’m not.  And because your Mum owns a fabric store, and you have rudimentary sewing skills, you’ll end up making about 29 pair of these.  Stop at 2, ok? 
  • Those jeans you cut off at the knee and then cut horizontal strips in them an inch apart, all the way from thigh to knee… and then you wash so the fabric ends up not only frayed but a mass of tangled threads – don’t do that.  Those shorts frighten people.
  • Pale purple doesn’t suit you.  Hot pink doesn’t suit you. 
  • It’s ok that you and Tina (best friend in last years of high school) dress like the Bobsy Twins in reverse-matching outfits (she wears the black t-shirt with the pale jeans, I wear the white t-shirt with the dark jeans).  You might rethink the “one ear only pierced” policy though where you buy one pair of earrings and each wear only one.  That’s taking ‘twin’ dressing just a bit too far.
  • No, you don’t get caught driving around the streets at the age of 14 – 16 without a license, although you probably should.  Yes, you do get your drivers license on your 17th birthday.  No, in the driving exam, he doesn’t ask you to reverse parrallel park.
  • Boys.  Sigh.  There is not enough room in this blog (or the right kind of rating) to cover this topic thoroughly.  Or even briefly.  They come.  They go.  You live.  I’ll leave you with this:  if he says he’ll call and then he doesn’t?  He’s either had his hand caught in a piece of industrial machinery and literally can’t call, or he’s saving you a lot of time and grief right up front.
  • Don’t ruin your eyebrows by overplucking them.  I cannot tell you the grief I’ve had to go through to get decent eyebrows back after that mad tweezing of the 1990s.  You’ve got a good eyebrow line – don’t bugger it up!
  • The high-neck cream long-sleeve blouse with the lace around the neck isnt’ really your style – it’s nice, sure, but not really you.  You’re not really a frills and flounce kinda girl, right?  Now, those blue Edwin jeans from 1984 – they’re you! 
  • That cropped turquoise jacket with the funky collar you buy in 1992 when you first move to Sydney — keep that.  We’d still be wearing that today if you hadn’t chucked it out in one of your frenzied clean outs when you moved from one flat to another.
  • Choose happy.  You get a choice in this.  Choose happy.  If for no other reason than happy looks better and it’ll save us a fortune in skin care down the line.

Ok, there’s probably a lot more I’d say to my 13 year old self.  I might have a private 1:1 session with her to cover a few more topics.  Maybe later.  It’s fascinating to think what might have happened if time travel were possible and our younger selves could hear, and take, our advice from now.  How our lives may have been different.  What advice would you give your younger self?  There’s one more thing I’d tell my younger self:  those typing lessons in Grade 9 Typing — they’re worth it.  Who knew typing would be such a millenium skill.  Right?

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    4 Responses to “Advice for my 13 Year Old Self”

    1. Katie says:

      Hello Jill! You look so cute in that picture! Looking at that picture, I feel a lot of warmth for your 13 year old self – and in extension, for my own 13 year old self! I think of how vulnerable we are when we are 13 – and how much hope we have. And all that unneccessary fear that we could have just dropped. Then I think about my fears as a 39 year old – bet many of those can just be dropped, too 🙂

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Katie – thanks so much for that comment… I never felt cute or attractive or much else of a positive nature when I was that age. I just recently reconnected with some of those painful old feelings actually. Yes, we are vulnerable at that age, aren’t we? And I guess that’s part of the magic of writing a letter to your younger self (which we do in the MYWCS program, mid year) – to help our older selves to drop the baggage that isn’t serving us.

    2. Tracey says:

      Dear Jill

      Hi, Tracey here again. Love this post. You were beautiful as a 13 year old. I don’t mean to say you’re not now, but I’m keeping to topic here. I have only just gone back through my early teen/ pre teen era with a therapist I am seeing. It seems I have a lot of self-esteem issues, which is one reason that I spend money on clothes. And wouldn’t you know it, they stem back to childhood/teens, to a few horrible photos and the fact that growing up I was not a classic blonde blue eyed skinny tanned Aussie girl like all the girls I went to school with and like all the girls on the front cover of Dolly (yes, I read that dreadful excuse of a magazine too). My parents were both good looking people, but they were also obsessed with looks and weight. I was born stocky, red haired, freckled and loud. I grew up believing (and it’s still an automatic unconscious belief today) that good looking people have better lives. They are loved more, they have money, style, friends and way more fun than me. For years I was jealous of Nicole (the one who bleached her skin, lol). Because we are the same age, I always compared myself to her. ” If only”… I would lament. Odd thing is, my life is really fantastic, even though I don’t have her millions and am not married to a chap who is like the adorable Keith. Buddhism and psychology has taught me that every person is on a Journey, and that you cannot tell how happy a person is in their own skin by looking from the outside. If only I could have reached down and assured my 13 year old self back when it mattered. My life may have been less burdened. Any how, thanks for sharing. You were right about the fashion mistakes. I made them too. They didn’t really cater for us strawberry blondes with freckles who weren’t pretzel thin back then. Thank goodness there is so much more choice out there for us ‘normal’ women now.


      Tracey xx

      • Jill Chivers says:

        hi Tracey – thanks so much for sharing here in the comments! It’s so good to meet others who “weren’t Nicole”, isn’t it? I love a quote attributed to a woman who wrote her life lessons down at the age of 94, she said if all our troubles were placed on the table, we’d quickly grab our own back. I assume that Nicole has problems of her own and perhaps sometimes wishes she lived a more normal life, and had our problems instead of her own! Whether it’s a celebrity or someone closer to home, it can be SO tempting to play the comparison game, and I’ve learned (like you) that there are no winners when that game is commenced. The journey is all about finding our own genuine path and walking it with as much joy and sincerity as we can. Nobody else can walk our path, and as much as we sometimes might wish it, we cannot walk anybody else’s.

        I also wished I could have healed many of my teen angst in ‘real time’, but since I have today, I’ll do my best to heal past wounds now. And yes, how fabulous that there is recognition of different body shapes and styles now, and clothing to suit!

        Thanks again for stopping by to read and comment!

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