You have just graduated from your undergraduate degree in Mathematics and you have an amazing opportunity lined up for September; a graduate position with one of the biggest accountancy firms in the world. You dream of your entire wardrobe having Topshop labels and owning an apartment in a city centre, kitted out with the latest Next home collection. You found the summer internship a little dull, but if you stick out the job in three years you’ll be earning in excess of £40k. You believe that this will make you happy.
You are spending your birthday in Dublin with your mum, you’re going to have a fantastic time but don’t worry, it definitely won’t be the last trip you enjoy together. Or the last time that you visit Ireland for that matter!
You are obsessed with the size of your waistline and the length of your hair. You’re certain that in a few years, you’ll be skinnier and therefore prettier and happier.
Emma, over the next few years your priorities will change. You’ve always been compassionate, but through voluntary charity work you will realise that you have more to offer than number crunching in an office all day (don’t worry though, you won’t leave your love of maths behind!) You’re going to start a career that you’d always said ‘never ever, ever’ to. You’ll be pretty good at it too. You will have the opportunity to make an impact on many peoples lives, whilst growing as a person each and every day.
However, it’s not all going to be plain sailing. There will be some real challenges and some very dark days where you feel that you are incapable of doing anything at all. Like every other day, these days too will pass. As I’m writing this now, you are stronger than you have ever been.
Your waistline isn’t going to get narrower and your hair will always stop growing when it reaches a certain length. You will try hair extensions and realise you hate them. I’m sorry. The good news is you’ve started to work towards accepting this.
Whilst at university, you used to envy those friends who had taken gap years and spent summers exploring exotic horizons. You spent every weekend working and took on extra work at the university but it wasn’t enough to afford those trips. Your ability to be resourceful and budget will come in very handy though, very soon.
You will continue taking short trips to European destinations but then one day, after having your heart broken you make a decision to spend some time travelling to one of these exotic destinations. You have some money aside (I told you the budgeting would come in handy) and one day you spontaneously book a trip. A SOLO trip.
I’m sure you are terrified at the thought. ‘Alone?! I’ve never left Europe with somebody, never mind alone!’ But you will go and have the time of your life. But whilst you were there you will be bitten… That pesky travel bug!
Then, when you return, thinking you are a ‘strong independent woman who don’t need no man’ something will stop you in your tracks. You’re going to fall in love like you never have before. You will find somebody who completes you in every way. He will encourage your silliness and make you laugh everyday. He will support you in everything you choose to do. Together you will explore new places and have the best fun.
Along the way, with some influence from him, your priorities change. You don’t want a wardrobe full of Topshop clothes, you instead want a pair of leggings and walking boots for hikes through the countryside. You’re not interested in buying a house or a glamorous city centre apartment, instead you want to spend your money travelling to new places and experiencing new cultures. You’re not concerned by how quickly you can climb the career ladder, instead you want to be happy and have inner peace.
So, before you get to where we are today, there are some tough decisions to be made.
You love your job Emma, you really do, but something else calls out to you… It’s going to take all your courage, determination and hard work but you will make it through.
As I’m writing this, the 24 (nearly 25!) year old version of us is sat on a plane flying from Dublin to New York. A few weeks ago, we quit the job that we loved in search of a new adventure. It got to the point where we were more scared to stay than we were to leave. The love of our life is sat by our side and as I’m typing he keeps looking up from his magazine to smile at us and check that we’re okay.
After spending 5 weeks in the United States, we have a flight booked to South East Asia but not much of a plan. We are completely fine with that. I’m sure you are very surprised, but we really have changed.
I know that you are expecting that at age 25 we will have a successful career and a beautiful house. In reality, we have all our belongings in one rucksack and no fixed address.
But we are so excited. We feel alive. We feel empowered. We feel free.
We don’t know yet whether we’ll have the time of our lives or be home within 2 months but we are confident that we will never regret the decision to try this new lifestyle.
Our life won’t be what you expect it to be, Emma. It’s going to be even better.
1 thought on “An open letter to my 21 year old self…”
You go girl…live the dream…tomorrow will come regardless…and if by chance it doesnt…you have lived the life you have dreamed with the one who completes you
..and makes you happy.