Happy Friday!! Today is my XX birthday (can you guess what age I am??), so I’ve decide to forego my usual Friday Five this week and have a slightly different post. First of all, can I just say that I am 100% not the type of person to make a big deal out of my birthday. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it, but I just think everyone has one and I’m sharing this day with about 19 million other people (give or take), so it’s not an unusual event to be totally honest. This years birthday is a little different though, so I wanted to mark it in some way. I recently read Victoria Beckham’s letter to her 18 year old self and was so inspired by I though writing my own version would be the perfect way to mark the day. So here goes… I honestly have absolutely no clue how this is going to turn out, so bare with me on this…!!!
I know you are a little lost right now – You’re in Leaving Cert and you have absolutely no clue what you want to do with your life. I’m going to let you in on a little secret – most people don’t! We’re all faking it here, trying to figure it out as we go along. It’s not your fault that you don’t know, it’s the system. ‘Career counsellers’ in schools are crap and to be totally honest Google will give you a better idea of your options than they will. But remember, you’re 18! How are you supposed to know what you want? You’re a baby!! You have your whole life ahead of you and many years to figure out what you really want to do. Just focus on studying for your Leaving Cert (please do study – and make Emma study too!!). You will be fine either way but you will regret not putting in the effort when you get your results (actually don’t make Emma study, it will work out for the best for her).
I’ll tell you one thing though, you DO NOT want to be an accountant. I know you like it, but trust me when I say it is not the career for you. You need something more creative. You are going to listen to those people who tell you don’t bother trying to go for fashion design or architecture – I wish you wouldn’t! Please just give it a shot, because if you don’t you’ll never know what could have been. You will though, and that’s fine but listen to me now – I need you to try for everything you ever want, because you never know what might happen.
Listen to your mother too. That day she tells you she wishes she could just shake the shyness out of you, oh how I wish she could! You’re not that girl you were when you were 14. You’ve stopped scraping your hair back off your face (THANK GOD – your hair has volume for a reason girl!!!!!), you’re weight has balanced itself out (aka you stopped eating all of the Tayto’s – one pack at a time is more than enough) and you’ve discovered eyeliner (it’s a game changer – don’t ever go without it!). Your shyness will get better, it will take a few years, but you will get better. You won’t shake it completely, but baby steps here.
Make the most of your undergrad college years, because post grad life is a different story – spoiler alert, you will do a post grad (you’ll actually do two but we’ll get to that). Make the most of your first year, go out more, join more societies and participate, spend more time in The Bialinn and Smokey’s, and stop being so god damn shy (aaaah I want to scream at you)!! You need to stop caring what other people think, especially in college because you’re never gonna see 99% of those people once you finish. And, who cares… Life is short, do whatever the hell you want!
You also need to make the most of your undergrad summers. I know you love working at the races, it’s fun, you get to dress up and the money is amazing, but undergrad summers are when you should be doing J1’s, going inter-railing and spending months working in Spain or Greece. It’s not about buying stupid bags and enough Abercrombie to last you a lifetime (a major regret btw). Seriously though, if you do one thing do a J1. It will change your life… And do more than one. Trust me on this one. It’s something you will live to regret.
Speaking of J1’s, this is where you will finally start to lose some of that shyness – You’re gonna be waitressing in New York and you have to work for those tips. By work I am mean open your mouth and talk to people – Play up that accent girl, it’ll make you $$$!
Let’s skip on a year to your post Masters months (ooops here’s another spoiler). It’s such a confusing time. Fresh out of college and no clue where you’re supposed to go or what you even want to do. Don’t let this uncertainty shake you – remember, you don’t need to have it all figured out.
After you graduate you are going to get offered a PhD. I can now tell you you should do it BUT you will regret it A LOT/every day over the next 4 years. Why? Well it’s going to completely consume every single day of your life and you will have to sacrifice so much more than you ever imagined. Eventually you’ll be so happy you did it and you will realise it’s value, but it will take time. I do have to warn you, Derrick is going to tell you the worst thing about doing a PhD is that it will tie you down so much that you won’t be able to travel with your friends – boy is he right! You will travel here and there, but you won’t be able to really spend time travelling.
2012 will be the worst because Emma and the girls will be living it up in Oz while you look out the study window and realise you’re jealous of the life your dogs have – I think this could possibly be your all time low (I wish I was making this up!). It’s also the time in the 4 years where you’ll have absolutely no idea what the hell you’re doing (even more than usual), but apparently no one knows what they’re doing, so don’t panic. You’ll figure it out. You got this!
Ok I got a bit ahead of myself there, let’s rewind… 2010 will be your annus horribilis! You will get through it but whatever you do DO NOT go out on July 19th. You will never know why, but please trust me on this one. Your self esteem, bank account and teeth will thank you for it. This is going to be something you have to live with for the rest of your life. If you do decide to go out and the inevitable happens – don’t be too harsh on yourself. This will make you stronger and although you will have to live in slight discomfort for the rest of your life, you will look back on it and kinda laugh one day – this will be hard to believe when you’re living on a diet of soup for 3 weeks, but everything happens for a reason and all that jazz. It’s also a great story for your grandkids too – lol don’t ever tell your grandkids! Oh and just an overall life tip – take it easy on the Jagerbombs! For the love of god you DO NOT need to break the record for the amount of Jagerbombs consumed in one night.
2010 will also be the year you discover Pinterest and blogs! You’re going to look at these blogs and think ‘I could do that’ and you can! DO IT!! DO IT NOW! Start your blog the second you have that thought because when you eventually do start you’ll regret not doing it earlier… When you start, go all in. Don’t be shy, it gets you no where!
Of all the ups and downs you’ll experience throughout your PhD years, the last few months will the worst. There’ll be some big wins throughout the whole process and they will be just enough to keep you going and push you over the finish line. You need to know that these years are not going to be easy. A PhD is not meant to be easy, if it was everyone would have one. I need you to believe you can do it. Don’t doubt yourself, stop listening to those voices that tell you you’re not smart enough or you shouldn’t be doing this, and DO NOT listen to those spoofers you meet at conferences – those one’s who think they have it all sussed out. You’ll eventually realise they have even less of clue what they are doing than you. You will think about quitting every single day but DAMN IT, YOU ARE NOT A QUITTER! You can do this, you will do this, you know you can!
If there’s one major tip I’d give you for these years it’s travel more of Europe. You won’t truly appreciate how easy we have it in Ireland (and with Ryanair – I can’t believe I’m saying this) until it’s not longer an option for you…
Photos by Claire Petersen
Eventually the light will shine through the end of that loooooong dark tunnel and you’ll be faced with a major life decision – London or New York. You know what your heart wants, don’t even question it. I know it’s scary and the harder option but just go for it. It will work out. Do some research first though. Maybe try a little harder to look for a job and do some ground work on the apartment situ. You’re moving to one of the most competitive cities in the world, you need to be prepared.
One of the best pieces of advice you’ll hear is that New York will make you do your time. This is so true. New York is kind of like a love/hate relationship, you love it but it hates you. It’s worth it though. SO just go for it… Believe in yourself, you can do it!
A few NYC tips to make your life a little easier:
- Value yourself and know your worth! Don’t just settle for anything you can get, you’ve worked too hard to settle.
- Try to go home within your first year. A year away from home on your own is too much – the homesickness just isn’t worth it.
- Watch what you eat. You are not invincible and if you don’t, you will get very sick!
- Try not to live in Queens. I know it’s cheaper, but you’re a Manhattan girl and you’ll be so much happier there.
And in life remember:
- Everything happens for a reason
- Every person you meet comes into your life for a reason
- At the end of it all remember that everyone has a story and more often than not – it’s fascinating…
If you managed to make it this far, thank you so much for reading.
I’m off to mourn my lost youth in Newport for the weekend – Happy Birthday to me! Keep an eye out on Instagram later today to see what I treated myself to.
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Really inspiring! I am in the same boat as your 18 year old self but you’re letter is very encouraging to go for the career of my dreams!!
Great Idea and really well written! I can relate to a few things haha Well done on making the decision to move to New York, its one thing I wanted to do but wasn’t brave enough!