Firstly, I have to try and remember what I was like when I was 15. It was 26 years ago, after all. Much like now, I was very quiet with people I didn't know. I hated being the centre of attention and loathed being asked to answer questions in class. I remember the encompassing dread I felt when my English class was told we each had to stand and make a presentation to the class. Public speaking was not my forté! I also remember that we never had to do it, in fact, as the class was so naughty and disruptive, we managed to delay the teacher sufficiently to postpone it permanently.
Apart from being quiet, I remember little things seeming to have importance out of all proportion - for example, crying with rage because my fringe wouldn't 'go right'. Really.
So what would I go back and tell my fifteen-year-old self? In no particular order:
- Don't sweat the small stuff. No-one else cares if your fringe is sticking up on one side. (My hair is never perfect. I can live with it.)
- You are never going to use matrices in normal life, so don't panic when they try to put you down to the next maths group. Your maths will be sufficient for a working life spent mostly in accounts (I might not mention that bit, though - my fifteen-year-old self may well have a meltdown at the thought of such a future).
- You are not fat. One day (26 years later, say) you will look back and wish you were still that size.
- Stop wishing to be taller. It's not going to happen.
- Don't go to the A-level certificate evening. The humiliation of your horrible form tutor announcing to the entire hall that 'Louise is currently unemployed - any offers?' will linger for a long time.
- You're right to think your relationship with your parents will be improved by leaving home. Sad, but true.
- Work harder. I was the mistress of the 'revise-right-before-the-exam-only' technique. It shows in my grades.
- Be more tolerant of people who don't grasp what you're saying right away. One day you will realise that there are far greater qualities in human beings than a quick mind.
- Stop waiting for good things to happen to you. Make the things you already have good.
- Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, don't do it, no matter who you disappoint.
- Don't suppress your creative side. It will find its way out!
- In spite of what you hope, you're never really going to feel grown up. But you will have the right to walk away from a situation that makes you uncomfortable. You may never do it, but knowing you can helps.
- Finally, to myself and my lovely friend - the permed hair. Don't do it. Nothing else to add.
What would you go back and tell your fifteen-year-old self?