Dear 16-Year-Old Me …

Somewhere along the way, you started to believe in the fallacy that pain is art, and that to create something beautiful you were required to feel pain. In retrospect, when I think of you, I am utterly confused – you’re like a very odd character in a book.

If I could wish anything for you it would be that you understood the world better instead of assuming fiction presented the world accurately. That instead of romanticising heartbreak and rationalising boys being means to you, you understood feminism and fought for your own rights and independence. I wish you understood that any form of racism wasn’t acceptable and instead of blaming yourself, you enjoyed wearing the colour of your skin. I wish you weren’t affected by the homogeneous definitions of beauty present in your high school, and instead focused on empowering yourself instead of putting yourself down.

– Aleyn Silva

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Dear 16-year-old me, you don’t have to have sex with a guy, simply because he wants you to. You can say no. Just because a guy breaks your heart, does not mean it’s the end of the world. Please cherish yourself and know you’re perfect the way you are.

Show your love and appreciation for your family. They support you immensely, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. Just know everything will work out.

– Sasha Murray

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Men will hurt you, but women will hold you. Love will cut you, but it will also heal you. Just remember, you are more strength than weakness. You’ll be just fine.

– Madeleine Dove

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Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t even compare yourself to yourself because, in times of struggle, you won’t be able to beat you back when you were at your best. Compare yourself to where you want to end up in life. Aspire to be better, to be closer to your goal.

This year would have been difficult for you. Your friends making snide comments about the girl code, about how skinny you are. Your parents telling you how you should feel after the death of your guinea pig. That’s rough. You’ll be told that you can’t go out because it’s too dangerous, and watch as your younger brothers go out because it is still somehow safer for them than it is for you. You will learn to fight for your freedom, and for your safety. You will be ridiculed, but you cannot give up.

So, 16-year-old me, never give up.

– Cat Yeong

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It’s not normal to be sick all the time. It’s not normal to be sad every day. It’s not your fault and it’s okay, but please don’t accept that this is who you are or were meant to be. Don’t let anyone tell you everything is okay if deep down you know it’s not. Keep looking for help even if no one believes you need it. Believe in yourself even if no one else can. Your future is bright, and unimaginable at this stage. But one day you will come to know that you are much more than a survivor.

– Holly Louise

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Dear 16-year-old me, the dork that you are,
Here’s 19-year-old me sending you thoughts from afar.
Three years isn’t much, I do hear you say,
But I’ve learnt a lot, so listen, okay?

It’s cool that you’re Christian, do not be ashamed,
For wrongs of the institution, you are not blamed.
Keep your mind open, and your wits sharp.
Your faith is not stagnant, it sets you apart.

Don’t be alarmed by that dream that you had;
Kissing a girl isn’t actually bad.
Your identity shouldn’t be something to fix,
Just do your own thing until it all clicks.

You can’t save everyone, as much as you try
You’re not a failure ­– those voices, they lie.
But here is a thought that is long overdue:
One that you can save, and should save, is you.

This mud of existence you’ve always swum through.
You’re not too broken, you will find the glue.
Medication will help you, so please don’t resist.
You really do have a right to exist.

– Janine Wan

***

Dear 16-year-old me, you don’t have to run on the treadmill so furiously. Start forgiving and showing compassion to yourself. It will help you recover later.

– Christina Fawns

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Please stop wanting everything too fast. You can’t be perfect and that’s okay.

– Claire Wastell

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The ‘black dog’ will never completely stop following you around. It will come back from time to time, but you know how to deal with it now, and no, it doesn’t stop you from finishing the HSC or getting into your dream course at university.

Don’t forget to be kind to your parents. They’re the ones who ultimately got you through. It’s true that blood is thicker than water. Oh, and there’s no rush to tell your parents or friends that you like girls. But when you do, they won’t think of you any differently – in fact, they all already knew. One more thing: break up with your boyfriend before he becomes a complete dick.

– Isabella Keith

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Dear 16-year-old me, keep focussing on your rowing. It doesn’t matter that no one in your friendship group does it. It doesn’t matter that these girls seem to only be your ‘friends’ at the moment. You will make new friends, and you won’t regret rowing. Rowing will bring you so many happy memories, and really support you when you need a break from those ‘friends’.

I know your identity is at odds at the moment and you are not sure where you fit but it will work out in the end. Trust your instincts on what feels right and you will look back fondly on high school, especially those last years. Lots of love to you.

– Emily Townsend

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You are not different to other girls. Love them. Cherish them. Oh, and in eight years time, the opinions that currently get you relentlessly bullied will be cool. People will find them interesting, so much so you can do a PhD with them – so hold on tight. Life will be hard for the next few years and your anxiety will get far worse before it gets better. You will lose loved ones but life gets so, so much better. Stay strong.

– Blair Williams