"I wish someone had told me when I was younger to accept the things I cannot change and embrace the things I can" writes Laura Davies.
As a teenager you’re told many things to get you through the horrible, awkward, emotional roller coaster that is high school but they are all typical clichés that don’t help. When a boy breaks your heart for the first time you are given a cuddle and told there’s plenty more fish in the sea, when your bullied people tend to say it gets better after school. Body issues are rampant for every teenager as we are bombarded with photoshopped images of beautiful men and woman that is in no way possible to achieve for the normal human being and yet we were still told, chin up it will get better eventually.
Did these things help me? No. I struggled as a teenager, I never felt like I fit in as I was very shy,. Sure I had a group of friends but only a few of those people are still in my life. I suffered deeply from depression as I tried to make sense of how I was supposed to act, dress and look and not once did someone teach me or tell me what I know now.
Accept what I cannot change. In all honesty this valuable lesson I learnt through becoming a mother, something I never considered in my future. I, in a way, was forced to stop worrying myself sick because for the first time in my life I had to put myself before others. I had to stop worrying about what other people thought about me, about how my hair looked in the morning or putting makeup on. I stopped trying to contact the people who never bother to contact me first. I stopped putting other people’s needs above my own because the fact was if I didn’t look after myself; my son would suffer. All this was because I had realised that I couldn’t change how people saw me or how my hair has a mind of its own or how people I had once considered important did not see me that way. I accepted it and I stopped worrying.
Once I had cut out these trivial things I noticed the parts of my life I could change and this opened up a whole new world for me. If only I had known this when I was in that dark, horrible place as a teenager I could have made the changes then but at least I have been able to now. I had accepted that I wasn’t going to be model thin, pimple free with shinning hair but I could change how I felt about myself. I was overweight due to having a child and eating nothing but big macs so I joined a gym, changed my eating patterns and chose a reasonable goal to work towards; which I reached. I decided that I could use being a single, stay at home mother to my advantage towards a decent future for me and my son and chose to study at home; which I am still doing in hopes of gaining a nursing degree. I also came to the conclusion that I wanted positive, supportive and motivated people in my life so I cut ties with those who tried keeping me down.
Now I’m not saying that this has made my life easier or carefree - I’m saying that it has given an inner strength to overcome obstacles that previously held me back and overwhelmed me. Life is still hard, I deal with constant conflicts in my surroundings and within myself but I have learnt to keep focus on what matters and to push aside, confront and conquer the things that I once struggled with. I have learnt to open up to people, to rely on those who genuinely want me to succeed and most importantly to believe in myself.
When my son is at that age I probably will say one or two clichés; I am only human, but I will try my best to always be honest with him and get him to see that life is what he makes it. If he is unhappy it will be up to him to change it and that if he waits around for things to get better they won’t. I hope to teach him that to get to where he wants in life it is not about being better than someone else or looking a certain way but to respect himself and others around him. If he learns to respect, believe and trust in his decisions there is nothing he can’t do.
I wish someone had sat me down when I was younger and said this to me as I believe it would have saved me from a lot of heartache and unwise choices. I wouldn’t have put myself in positions where other people made me feel worthless, stupid and mistreated.
If I had stopped worrying about trying to please everyone else and accepted that they didn’t care for me as I did them, I would have not put myself in the position where I gave them the power to dictate how I saw and felt about myself.
Yes, life has gotten better since my teenager years but that is because at 24 years old I learnt that accepting some things gave me the power to change other things. I’ve embraced the challenges and I’ve conquered obstacles that for years held me back. I can finally say that I truly look forward to the future being bright, full of happiness and success rather than a world I no longer saw myself living in. To change our lives I believe we need to accept the things we cannot change so our eyes open to the things we can.
Laura Davies was a runner-up in our summer short story competition.
Published December, 2013.