At the time of writing this you are eight months old. I am 27. When you’re old enough to read this I know 27 will seem ANCIENT to you. I can’t believe I ever reached this age at all really – being an adult with rent and bills to pay and work to do was something I always knew would come around. I just didn’t think anyone would ever really trust me with vast(ish) amounts of money and not to leave the hob on when I left the house for the day. Madness.
I’ve been thinking recently, little Bonnie, about what I wish I’d known as I was growing up. About how to really be true to myself instead of doing what a TV personality or a magazine article said I should (their advice has ALWAYS been terrible and conflicting anyway). About what that would’ve meant for me and the way my life is now.
That might seem like a slightly strange thing to direct at you. I don’t know if the concept of ‘blogs’ and ‘bloggers’ will still be around in 10-15 years time (I kind of hope so, my career has been all about them so far), but often a blogger writes a letter to their teenage self to impart advice upon them, detailing what they would’ve changed about their life. Then they publish it online for the world to see. I don’t know if I’m down with that. I’ve had a really great life so far. I’ve had some terrible times and made some BIG mistakes, but they made me who I am. You’ll make mistakes too – it’s the only way humans learn to get better at life.
Without them, I wouldn’t be able to write you a letter to share what I know about becoming a woman in a world that can throw some hella massive surprises at you. Your parents are going to do such a perfect job at preparing you for those things. I was there when they got together, I was a bridesmaid when they got married, I was there two days after they brought you home from hospital. I have never seen parents love a baby more than they love you. There is nothing they wouldn’t do to protect you. But in case you need little reminders here and there, and in the absence of a son or daughter of my own to share this stuff with, I’ve written down the life lessons you’ll probably have to navigate sometime.
If your childhood is anything like mine was, you’ll be bombarded with images of what you *should* look like. How you *should* think. How fat or thin you *should* be. How you *should* walk, talk and what you *should* wear. It’s always fun to watch beautiful people and shiny outfits prance around in the world, earning their fame and attention and money and being absolutely adored.
That’s cool. And many of these people say very poignant and worthwhile things. But lots of them are also going to make you feel pressure that I wish didn’t exist. There isn’t a right or wrong answer – beauty means something different to any person, and that means you don’t have to change anything about yourself to be beautiful.
Maybe it’ll be different for you, but the pressure I’m familiar with is to be thin. Often really, really, slightly unhealthily thin. If you’re not super thin, the media tend to try and show you how you can be, and shame women who are not. But then, because women feel pressured to be this way, they tend to insult women who are naturally skinny, being slammed by their peers for looking that way even though they eat like a horse or maybe have a health issue that stops them gaining weight.
It’s a terrible pressure Bonnie. As you grow up, do what you can to focus first on how good people are as a person, and not how good they look. Whatever kind of body you have, focus on the great things it does do for you, rather than what others tell you it *should* be like. The best thing you can do for your body is give it a little bit of everything, and help it be strong. If you focus on the positives, it makes it harder for others to bargain away your confidence and self-worth for the sake of selling newspapers, or for a brief moment of spiteful self-satisfaction.
If another person makes you sad all the time, you have the power to remove them from your life. People can make their mark on you in strange ways. If that mark is to hurt you or control you or make you feel anything less than the amazing person I know you are, let them go. Good people don’t make you compromise on who you are or what you have planned for yourself. You were born five years to the day after someone hurt me in a way that is always going to haunt me. It had taken all that time for me to realise that bad stuff is always going to be replaced by something incredible, but you have to let go of what’s hurting you first. You were that incredible thing this time. I never really did thank your parents for helping me do that. But I’m so grateful.
It’s ok to be sad for no reason too, Bonbon. And if you start to feel really, really sad, all the time, don’t be scared to tell your Mum or Dad. Some of the greatest, happiest-looking people in the world are so sad behind closed doors. I hope more than anything you never feel this way, but if you do, do not face it alone. It can be made better. Everything is always going to be ok when you are surrounded by people who love you. Just remember to tell someone you trust, and that there’s no shame in doing so.
Never be sad alone, Bonbon. Remember that.
Oof. Work. I am very good at working, less good at not working – just ask your parents what a nightmare I am for doing this too much. I work too hard then crash and burn all the time. It’s a terrible idea. If you can achieve balance between working hard, socialising, sleeping and time to yourself just to be calm and breathe, share your secret with me! Working all the time – even if you love your job – isn’t the best idea. I wish I had dedicated more time to looking after me instead of looking after other people’s income. I’d have fewer wrinkles, that’s for sure.
The thing about working, Bonbon, is that it’s really unpredictable. If the schools you go to are like mine, where you’re told exams and coursework will determine your future, do your best in them. Do your very best. If not for the love of education, then for the options they’ll give you when you leave school – so many girls don’t get the choice of an education. Your Mum is a maths teacher, and so so clever. You’ll never be lost in a school system with her guiding you. You’re going to be just fine.
What’s weird is how quickly your time as a schoolgirl flies by, and then how life is not even SLIGHTLY as straightforward as picking a job and working your way up the ladder. Your generation are the ones who are probably going to be starting their own companies rather than working for others. That is such an exciting prospect.
One thing I wish I’d known about before I left school, is that you don’t have to do something highly academic if you don’t want to. If you grow up to eat, live and breathe art or engineering or fashion or sports or performing, if it sets your soul on fire and gives you life, do it. No matter how hard you think it’ll be or how unlikely it seems that you’ll succeed, start determinedly down that road and don’t look back. Life is too short to do something you don’t love. Everyone is rooting for you.
And if what you choose doesn’t work out? Do not worry yourself. Sometimes what feels like a total failure can lead to the best thing that ever happens to you. Come and talk to me about that sometime.
On being unapologetically, unrelentingly, fiercely, you
I don’t need to tell you that the best people are kind, mindful and honest Bonbon. Your parents are a testament to that. I have such a different life to them; I’m late for everything (your Dad really hates that), I cancel plans often and I’m terrible at messaging back most of the time. But despite my flaws, your Mum and Dad have never not been there for me. Everything I need help with, they offer it. Sometimes they can’t do anything to help, but their friendship is something I don’t think I could’ve managed without all through my 20s. Follow in their footsteps – they’re great people. For all the high-flying, glamorous and bejewelled role models girls have paraded in front of them throughout their lives, good parents like yours are really hard to come by. Love them unconditionally and find the woman you really want to be by seeing the goodness they bestow on others – even when they tell you you can’t leave the house wearing THAT skirt. Prepare for arguments during the short skirt phase by the way – they make for a lot of awkward Friday nights.
Just do you, Bonbon. The world and the people around you will thank you for it as you grow up. Be kind, always. You won’t believe how grateful and inspired people will be if you avoid being the next whoever, and instead just be Bonnie Bourton. Trust me.
See you for hugs and kisses soon,
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