An open letter to my daughter Grace as she begins secondary school today.
You have reached that time in your life where the skies you look to will widen, and the seas you travel may at times be choppy.....and if I could impart anything more profound than that I would. However, I can act only as a conduit to acne plagued memories seeped in self-doubt and academic mediocrity (with shining lights provided by the odd intercept at Wing Defence).
At best, I can offer you my top tips for navigating the next 6 years (with the odd cautionary tale). You are smarter, funnier, more self-confident and mature than I was, so much of this you may find perplexing and downright embarrassing, but then again - what's new?
Your father and I have hopefully mitigated some of the perils of pubescence that befell myself at your age, by sending you to an all-girl school, however there are some learnings that can be garnered regardless of the institution or decade.
Tip 1: The length of your dress is not directly related to the circle of friends you have: it is a misconceived notion that your uniform length directly relates to your ability to create and maintain meaningful friendships . At the rate you grow it will be a mute point by the end of the 3rd week anyway, so don't ring Gran she isn't going to take up the hem.
Tip 2: Tomato sauce sachets from the cafeteria are a menace and should be avoided at all costs. The ever-evolving mechanism for opening a tomato sauce sachet means that you are prone to wet, cold sprays of red gooey condiment landing everywhere (face, lap, chest, hair, eyebrow) except for the item for which it was intended. The rest of the day will be consumed by flashbacks and over-exaggerated memories of the entire student body seeing the incident, pointing fingers and laughing! Hardly conducive to study?
Tip 3: Casual clothes days. Pick a couple of key items for each fashion season and resist the temptation to buy everything that is considered 'on trend'. The shelf-life of Pink Panther earrings, bubblegum jeans, 'Choose Life' t-shirts (both the black and white and the fluro coloured versions) and white le Specs sunnies with the matching neck chain, were remarkably not as long as initially anticipated. I do however insist that legwarmers were prematurely removed from mainstream fashion.
Tip 4: Question authority and be committed to your views; just not those of your, English teacher (or have a good bank of essay topics on hand), Home Economics teacher (apparently there is only one way to bake scones), Math professor (I don't even have to explain that one), the school principal (career limiting) or visiting members of Parliament, (or at least have a back up question in case their press secretary questions whether you are wearing a recording device)? Home-room teachers, sport masters, career advisors and art teachers - go your hardest!
Tip 5: Staying home when the science class is dissecting frogs as a protest against animal cruelty is not going to affect the university you get accepted into or result in 'conscientious objector' being stamped on your permanent record.
Tip 6: All official secondary school photos are vile and have no place on a family mantelpiece - don't worry I have your back on this one. However still bring home the order form because Gran may want a copy! Note: I know at this point it would have been good to insert a high school photo of myself..............hence the need for Tip 6!
Tip 7: Winning an academic prize for an elective subject still counts and your father and I will be proud of you regardless, (shorthand is a remarkably difficult skill to master and sitting a Pitman 1000 exam anyone will tell you is stressful)!
Tip 8: Joining the editorial team of the senior yearbook committee is a valuable and worthwhile way you can leave a legacy with the school. If that ensures that only the good photos of you make the publication and the not-so-good ones of the girl that gave you a hard time for 6 years does, then so be it.
Tip 9: Although a new hairstyle before camp sounds like a good idea, any 'do' that requires a minimum of a half-hour blow wave and a vertical fringe won't survive a flying fox or 5 km mountain hike, so save it till you get home.
Tip 10: As much as I am the 'follow your dreams' kinda gal, it is highly unlikely that any of the quaffed and laser teeth young men from any boy band is going to send through a marriage proposal in the next 6 years. John Taylor certainly left something to be desired in terms of return communication, so allocate an appropriate amount of time for poster gazing then hit the books, it is a far better investment of your time.
So there you have it, pearls to take with you I know - and there is plenty more where that lot came from! Consider me an anthology of teenage angst. I look forward to our teapot chats as I am certain you will be keen to extract my view on just about anything!
All my love,