Dear fourteen year old me,
You've just had your first bout of glandular fever, but you didn't realise that was what was making you feel so tired and run down. You didn't take yourself to bed like your mother told you to, nor did you take days off school like your teachers told you to. There was FAR too much to be done and finished and stressed over for you to do that. There was the choir performance coming up and rehearsals to get to, there were debating championships, and you needed to practice your public speaking competition entry for the national finals in Sydney. You are just so busy. Busy planning, busy studying, busy rehearsing. Busy becoming a workaholic and busy becoming a stressful and anxious teenager and training to become a stressful and anxious adult.
By the end of next year you'll be burnt out, have had your second bout of glandular fever and you'll be no better at taking care of yourself. You'll still be driving yourself into the ground over marks that - let's face it - don't really matter as far as entry into schools or universities go. Not yet. You still have two more years of high school, or what we call 'college', to stress over those.
You love school, I get it. You love learning - you always will. But it will take you a while to find your 'off' switch. Your 'no' switch. The 'too much' switch. As a result, you'll slowly develop a level of stress that you find acceptable, but it is not good for your body, or for your spirit.
You've not necessarily been pushed into succeeding at what you do - it was always self-determination and self-drive and you will always be driven by wanting to help people. Because of that you'll often go far beyond what you know you should in terms of time, in terms of commitment and 'busy-ness'.
Common phrases? 'Don't burn the candle at both ends', 'slow down', 'be gentle with yourself'. You will listen sometimes though and you'll keep practicing yoga intermittently and meditating like your Dad showed you how to. But the stress still slowly builds.
You will have an amazing time at college where you really switch 'off' (as much as you can) and focus on your studies instead of your studies AND your extra curricular activities. You do really well, you defer university and you travel around Australia for a year off. It's so good for the soul.
You'll never stop traveling - don't. It brings you back to your equilibrium and reminds you what is truly important. Being free.
You'll choose to study law. Not because it was the 'done thing', though many people you study with may have chosen the degree because it was 'the thing to do', but because you can see how you are able to truly help people. Don't lose sight of that. For a long time you will. Again you'll throw yourself into university like you did at school - you'll work two jobs, you'll join every committee and group you can, you'll do an exchange overseas, you'll volunteer. You'll finish with fantastic grades and a good job lined up. You'll re-enter the busyness and the addiction to work.
'Hi Kate, how are you?'
'Soooo busy! How are you?'
You'll escape again with travel. Listen to what the road whispers in your ear. It will be one of your greatest teachers. You'll begin to truly listen to yourself and what you want. You know it's not corporate law so you resign before you've started. You'll start some amazingly interesting research that becomes a PhD and you'll teach amazing students throughout their law degree and your passion and flame for teaching and helping others will burn brightly.
But you'll still have the stress. The anxiety. The workaholism. Ticking away. You'll reach a point where you question everything you've ever done, and everything that you are. You have married the love of your life, had two beautiful children, love your teaching work, but you don't love what the academic world has done to your sanity. Your nerve. Your stress levels. Your sleep!
Fourteen year old me - you are young. Yes, you love being involved in life and everything it has to offer, but don't fall into the glorification of busy. Don't let your conversations become a silent competition as to who has the busier life - it's not a competition, and it's not good for you. Relax.
Slow down. There is so much time to take on more responsibility. You don't need to be involved in everything. Lying on the couch for a few hours on the weekend is truly a delicious and nourishing activity. Honour yourself and do it more often. Spend more time alone. Keep reading. Keep traveling. Keep writing. But listen to yourself more. If your body is telling you to rest, listen. If your grandmother is telling you to rest and cover your kidneys - do what she says. Because it's true - if you get sick, you really do fight it off when you stop, retreat, and care for yourself gently.
No matter what anyone tells you - your classmates, your teachers, your little brother, or even, heaven forbid, your friends - don't ever stop drawing, doodling, writing, creating. Creativity will be an amazing outlet for your future life. Don't forget to ALWAYS do things that you enjoy. Dancing, sports, playing the piano - but ONLY what you enjoy. Don't do something because your family wants you to do it, or because your friends are if it's not something that really lights you up.
Learn about self-care. Treat yourself gently, and kindly and take time every day to slow down. Because you'll need it. When you grow older there will be so many opportunities to speed up and take on those responsibilities. But you'll need that self-care and self-love to keep you balanced, and keep you sane. Learn to count your breathing, and to breathe slowly. Learn to connect with your body - your amazing, incredible, perfect body that is exactly the way it is supposed to be. Move every day.
Fourteen year old me - you have so many amazing adventures ahead of you. Don't forget to pause and enjoy them. Don't question your intuition like you have begun to. Don't live at a million miles an hour and don't get too 'busy'. Lie down. Stop. Run around with your friends. Read more books. Because there's plenty of time for all 'that'.
For now - dance, love, sing and live. Because there is nothing on this earth more important than that.