I was so looking forward to turning 17.
I could start my driving lessons, I was going into my final year of high school and I could FINALLY point to myself when ABBA were singing of the Dancing Queen.
When I think of who I was then, just a mere five years ago, I don’t even recognise that girl.
A girl who lost one of the most important people in their life, had to sit Higher exams while grief stricken and depressed and eventually was forced to leave school as the taunting, bullying and constant worry caused her mental health to spiral out of control.
I think of her now, putting her school blazer on adorned with badges galore, telling herself each day that she deserved the shiny ‘Head Girl’ token pinned to her lapel.
It’s truly tragic that the title that I’d longed for my whole high school career caused nothing but distress from the moment my name was read aloud as the winner of the school election.
That night, sitting in a restaurant across from my mum after receiving the honour, I ignored the abuse being hurled at me on social media as it was the first nice thing to happen to my family since we lost my gran just a mere month before.
It’s easy to look back now and say that you’d have handled things differently and wouldn’t have been such a pushover – but that’s with five years of life experience and a whole new outlook on the world.
If I could tell my seventeen-year-old self a few things though, the first thing I would say is to never take notice of what other people are saying of you, as chances are, it’s from a place of jealousy.
It was rare to be a teenage girl dedicating her weekends to voluntary work and raising money for charity, but I’d tell her to hold her head high.
Yes, people may have said that it was purely for clout and yes, people may have spoken about you behind your back or rolled their eyes as you presented another cheque or appeared in another article for your fundraising work.
But, think about it for a second.
Anyone who has ANYTHING negative to say about someone attempting to better the lives of those in need is – to put it politely – an arsehole who should be ignored.
Also, I wish my seventeen-year-old self wasn’t so bloody mature.
I had this idea that I had to be this ‘person’ – an all-rounder, do-gooder, box-ticker - as that would be how I’d do well in life. I had almost two personalities like I was some sort of walking Victorian England separate sphere ideology, I was a different person in public life and private life.
I could go home at night and sing daft songs and dance about the living room or I could be so low that I even struggled to wash my hair.
Yet, to the world I was this level-headed, mature and almost ‘super’ human, somehow totally fine, coping and needed no help from nobody.
If only people had known that inside I was drowning and working through the spectrum of emotions while trying to navigate the huge upheavals happening all around me.
I’d tell her to be honest with both herself and others instead of raiding the rails in New Look three times a week for an emotional distraction.
Also, and I’m sure we’ll all want to tell our younger selves this, I’d have told her to stop worrying about her weight.
Fast forward to now and factor in five thousand yo-yo diets later, I’m probably bigger than I was back then.
I wish I’d have realised that I actually wasn’t this HUGE elephant and would’ve made bolder fashion choices and dressed how I really wanted to, not what society deemed as ‘flattering’ to my figure.
What does flattering actually even mean anyway?
Now, here’s the biggie.
The thing that if I were to come face-to-face with 17-year-old Amy in her Mr Ben’s Vintage clobber, paler-than-pale foundation and Dr Marten shoes (I was ahead of the trend), I’d pin her down and SCREAM in her face until she got the message.
Know. Your. Worth.
You didn’t need to always go above and beyond for everyone. You could’ve said no if you really didn’t want to do something. You didn’t need to stretch yourself so thin that you burned yourself out.
If people really liked you, they liked you for you.
Not what you could do for them.
Kindness should be reciprocated and it isn’t always up to you to be the bigger, better person.
Yes, you might love to help people and didn’t want to see anyone stuck: but I wish I’d have stepped back from some scenarios and thought to myself: “Would this person do that for me?”
So, I’ll end this piece by telling 17-year-old me two things.
Mum will eventually let you dye your hair.
And, everything happens for a reason.
Amy Claire Shearer