Dear 16 year old me,

I know you think that you have life pretty much worked out. Fun girlfriends, good grades, a nice job that funds your wardrobe, a boyfriend you adore, dance class every other day, and big plans.

But I want to share some things I know now which could help you make the most of the next two decades.

Firstly, wear short skirts now. Quit hating your thighs. They will never look better than this. And you are more beautiful than you think. Later you’ll look back on this body and wish you could have it back.

Hit the beach in bathers. Do not hold back from doing anything because you think you’re fat. Big girls need role models too. Be one.

Wear sunscreen and quit baking yourself like Sunday dinner. They’ll be cutting cancerous chunks out of your skin soon.

No tattoos. You’ll be more original by having inkless skin in time. Get scars from making great stories instead.

Treasure your adorable boyfriend. He is your first love. He will become the benchmark for your future fellas. And when, after fifteen years, you cross paths in the doctor’s surgery, each with a snotty kid on your hip, you want it to be lovely.

Sex is rarely as fabulous as in your mind. So hold on to your virginal status and enjoy exploring all the other options in the meantime. Then have sex with enough people to know a great bang from a blah one.

Don’t freak out. The nuns have you convinced that you’ll get pregnant if you miss a pill (not that you’re even on that yet!) So it will come as a rude shock when you struggle with infertility in your early 30s. Keep it together. You are meant to be a mum.

Learn all you can about boys. One day you’ll be responsible for raising two of them, so pay attention.

Cook. You’ll eat more than a thousand meals every year. Knowing how to make them enjoyable is an essential life skill. And cooking for others will bring you joy. Learn from your mum while you don’t have to pay STD call rates to find out why your crackle won’t crisp.

Stop drinking Diet Coke. It will be bloody hard to kick that nasty habit later. Quit now. And do not eat whatever you want. Sure, Caramello Koalas are yum. But if you can learn to love eating healthy now you’ll save yourself a lifetime battle with the bulge. Of course, I know you’ll ignore this advice.

Be good to your parents. You think they are overprotective, old-fashioned and naive. But you’re wrong. They are your rock, lifeline, lighthouse, sanity, saviours and fans. Always will be.

You will meet Olivia Newton-John, in a bank, and she will sign a copy of Grease for you. It will be the highlight of your financial services career. Yes, you’ll have one. Shockingly uncool, I know.

Be of service in retail and hospitality. It’s fun. And it will teach you how to be a good manager, and nice to your waiter.

Remember your roots. You can’t wait to spread your wings in the big city. But don’t forget your hometown best friends. You’ll need them to remind you who you are when you lose yourself. And when you make the big decisions, like getting married, you’ll want one of them standing by your side.

Keep shooting. You’re dreaming of being a photographer. Do it. You can do anything, but not everything. So if you get a ‘proper’ job first then it will be decades before you find the space to pursue this passion again.

Travel far and wide, with friends and solo. It will keep you forever curious and grateful. And it will help you recognise home.

Get some manners, proper toffy ones. So you don’t feel uncomfortable at a formal function or ever wonder what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Know the rules, then choose to break them.

You will always love Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing, but don’t confuse your dance teacher for him. That man will break your heart. This blow will help you to recognise a truly good man when he opens your car door for you. And when he proposes, in a spa, while you’re wearing ill-fitting bathers and last night’s makeup, say yes.

Marry a man who is good with his hands. Musicians and dancers are fun, but a guy who can build a cubby, unblock your drain, assemble flat pack furniture, fix a leaking whatever, and make you come is a keeper.

Love learning. Study. Take jobs that are just beyond what you think you can do. Read. Seek out inspiring people. Stretch your head in new directions and you’ll always find something to be excited about.

Fail more often. Stop hesitating to try things that might not work. It’s a terrible habit. Nobody cares if you fall on your face. Honest. So long as you can laugh in the mud.

Play an instrument or sing. Otherwise you’ll spend a fortune of music festival and concert tickets while you live vicariously, dreaming of being on stage.

Be nicer to your crazy uncle and your spinster great aunt. You’ll miss them when they’re gone. And, believe it or not, you will aspire to be like them one day.

Pace yourself. You can have it all, and you will. But it is a hell of a lot to juggle. And you’ll be happiest when you’re clear about what is most important at any given time.

Save. Money can’t buy happiness, but it does give you options. You will always earn more money than you need. Don’t waste it.

Never stop dancing. It is essential for your happiness. And when you take a big break, it is bloody hard to get your groove back. Trust me.

Be happy. Not just because it feels good. But because you are better, healthier, more generous, more patient, more productive, and more creative when you are happy.

Worry less. It’s going to be splendid. And when it’s not, you’ll be just fine.

Of course, I know you’ll ignore all this advice. You’re determined to find your own answers. And it will make for one big, beautifully messy life. Enjoy it.

Big love,

36 year old Me

PS: Rethink that velvet hat, please.

PPS: This post was inspired by the regular Womans’ Weekly column ‘Dear Me’.

PPPS: If you like what you read, subscribe below for more.

What advice would you give your younger self?