A Letter to My Twenty Year Old Self

And why it was a bittersweet task

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A terrific women recently asked me to contribute to a book she is co-producing. The book is to both commemorate and support Lou’s Place, a daytime refuge for female victims of violence.

I’ve written and spoken before about my horror and dismay at the violence that women, girls and their families in Australia endure. My work to achieve gender equality in sport and business is grounded in the knowledge that gender inequality, discrimination and marginalisation fuels violence against women.

So it was too easy to say yes when this bittersweet task was presented to me.  Bittersweet because I wish that we didn’t have to commemorate an organisation that has been in existence for 20 years to support women who need a refuge from violence. Bittersweet because I know that the need for their services is not going to diminish anytime soon. And bittersweet, because the request was to write a letter to my 20-year-old self who lived back in the 1980’s!

I deliberately chose to write the letter to my younger self before 2018 ended. I knew that writing the letter would (obviously) require a great deal of reflection given I am now a woman in her fifties. I am also someone who has navigated some interesting territory in  my life, love and career in the years since I was twenty. All of those experiences were formative, some of them very painful, some of them very joyful, but all of those experiences have, quite simply, been the making of me as a woman, leader and human. So this reflective exercise was beautifully (and a bit painfully) timed for me.

So here it is…. a snippet or two from the letter that I wrote to myself. For the whole shebang, and letters from inspirational women who’ve taken refuge at Lou’s Place and from women who inspire and advocate for women, you’ll need to buy the book. I suggest you follow Lou’s Place and Kim Chandler McDonald to get your copy.

A Letter to a Young Woman in a Hurry

At the age of 20, when it was 1985, I was a young woman in a hurry.  I was in a hurry to find new friends, new places and in a hurry to experience everything a young woman with high energy, high expectations and a raging zest for life wants. I was in a hurry to do it all, go everywhere, see everything, experience everything.

The truth of the matter, which of course I only realise in retrospect, is that I was in a hurry to conform. As much as I thought I was being a rebellious non-conformist, I was simply hurrying towards the well-trodden path that so many women had trodden before me had. School, work, marriage, children, life.  I was hurrying towards a well-trodden and socially acceptable path that lures so many of us into a lifetime of sameness and conformity.

The 20 year old Michelle

My Wish for Me (aged 20)

My wish for you, my 20-year-old self, would be to slow down and listen to that nagging voice that you shut out with your busy, hurrying life full of activity. I wish for you to stop hurrying and listen to that voice, because it will help you find and use, your courage, your burning drive and your voice sooner.

I wish for you to slow down and listen to yourself and allow your courage, drive and voice to both guide you and to block out the messaging that society sends your way. Because that messaging stopped you hurrying towards the right things for you, your bliss, your purpose and ultimately true happiness.

I wish for you to stop hurrying and listen. But listen to what matters. Then be in a hurry. But be in a hurry to ask courageous questions, take courageous actions, explore your burning drive and be in a hurry to understand how you can make a difference, find your purpose, your bliss and true happiness.

There is a wonderful saying I learned in business. You need to slow down to speed up. My wish for you, the 20-year-old version of me, is to slow down, then speed up, towards the right life, sooner.

Why Not Try It?

What would you do if someone came to you and asked for a (public) letter to your twenty  year old self? What would you write? How would you feel? Would you do it?

Me? I’m now thinking about the letters I am going to write to my thirty year old, my forty-year old and fifty year old self. But you know what? I’m really excited about writing to my sixty year old self, because I already know that I like her and I’m going to congratulate her for living her best life and slowing down enough to be courageous, driven and following her bliss!

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