A decade later.

Dear old self,

Today marks exactly ten years since your Year 12 results came out. Back then, you called them ENTER scores. These days they are referred to as ATARs. Not that that matters much. The fact that you remember, in your current form, the date that those scores came out is indicative of how much it weighed on you for years after and how much that moment was both excitedly and cautiously awaited for the years prior.

You remember even now the course of events that day. The fact that results came out at some abominable hour of the day but that you refused to wake up early to check. The fact that you quietly checked them yourself, and didn't then pass on the result to anyone immediately. You just sat with those results for a little while, saddened but also knowing there was nothing you could do about them. It wasn't until your mum came to your room a little while later, herself both cautious and excited, wanting to know the result. She admonished you for not sharing immediately. She congratulated you on a job well done. She said, "but isn't that the result you wanted, it's bigger than the number on your wall?" pointing at the hand-made poster above your desk. But you just shook your head. You wanted two points higher.

Your mum, having quietly travelled the two-year (two year? Or thirteen year?) study journey with you, letting you off cooking and cleaning duties around the house, putting up with your sullen moods and cranky mornings during stressful times (though, to be honest, the whole two years was pretty stressful), texted her closest friends to tell them how the results panned out. You didn't know she'd done that. When the phone rang during the day and her friends were on the other end, you politely told them that she wasn't home. When they requested to talk to you, you thought that was super weird. Congratulations! They told you. Well done! Mostly these were very nice, but very strange, comments. But you also received some unsolicited life advice that day. One of your mum's closest friends told you to find a life partner in your university days. Snap them up, she told you, because once university is over the good ones are already taken. You didn't listen to that advice for pretty much the same reason you wouldn't listen now. You're far too stubborn, and you also don't see a great deal of value in marriage. You said then, and you'll say now, that marriage is just a solution for financial stability. You'll be glad to know, younger self, that you've ended up on a life path where you're likely to have a relative measure of financial stability all by yourself.

That afternoon, you and your friends gathered in the front room of your then home. Your parents still live there now, though they talk of downsizing now that they have a four-bedroom home for only two people. As you and your closest friends discuss your results, it doesn't seem to matter how much their absolute value differs. Some of your friends will have much lower scores and be much happier with their results. Some will have about the same score and be as disappointed as you are. The number doesn't really matter.

For most of high school, people talked about the ENTER scores as the key to success. If you get a good score,  you can get into the course you want and that will get you on the career trajectory you want. Your score was pretty high and lots of people admonished you for wasting it on an undergraduate science course. You COULD have done much more with it, and occasionally even now you wonder if there were other pathways you would have enjoyed more. But you did the right thing.

You never did go into veterinary science. Even though you dreamed of doing that course and becoming the zoo's most esteemed vet one day, and travelling the world to save the elephants, you actually gave up on that decade-long dream about six months into your science degree. You realised being a vet involved a lot of work outdoors, getting grubby, and cutting things up. But you know what? That best friend of yours, that person you spent eight years connected hip-to-hip, she made that dream happen to the both of you. In a year, she'll be a fully-qualified animal doctor. And you couldn't be more excited.

You'll probably remember that time someone asked you if you were studying all that science and working so tirelessly for a good ENTER score because you wanted to be a doctor. You told them no. You were pretty serious about that answer. You'll probably remember better than me exactly what you said, but it was something like, "eww gross, I don't think I could ever cope with all of that blood." You'll laugh at that version of yourself in a few years. You thought that same thought even in the early years of medicine, odd, because your favourite part of undergraduate science was the full-body dissection anatomy course you took. Something changed though. You did a term in orthopaedics and fell madly and deeply in love with your career path. You hadn't been too set on medicine even while you were studying it those first two years. You took a serious liking to the blood, gore and brute force of orthopaedics. It lasted a solid four years before drifting towards the idea of trauma surgery and then to urology. It turns out you CAN cope with all that blood pretty well.

You had a lot of dreams in high school. You wanted to travel the world and live in French-speaking nations and learn for your whole life. You've sort of done those things. You have been across a lot of Europe and lived in Paris for a month. You've ended up (somewhat stumbled into) a career that involves constant learning. Sometimes that exhausting but mostly you love it. Very happily, you're finally a blonde. It costs a lot of money and you have (sadly) learnt what split ends are. But you like being blonde much more than you liked being brunette. Your hairdresser will try to convince you to stop bleaching the living daylights out of your hair. Presumably a self older than you are in 2017 will eventually listen. Not yet.

You haven't made all of your dreams happen. You don't own a house yet. You don't even own part of a house. In fact, buying a house is probably one of the less likely things to happen because you don't stay in one place long enough to know where or what to buy. You don't have a fancy car. Sorry, that's probably never happening. You definitely don't have a long term relationship, though I don't know if you actually ever really wanted that. I think you just thought it was something people had to do when they got older. You'll love though, and you'll regret doing that on occasion too. You don't really feel like a grown up, even though plenty of your friends older than you say you're one of the most grown up people they know. And you never did manage to move to America. I promise you that you tried pretty dang hard. But some dreams just don't happen. And now you're not even sure that's something you want. You're only just starting to learn that you can change your mind about these things.

You have a couple of regrets too. People will tell you not to regret things. But you learn from regret. Take better care of your friends. In your rush to get to a destination - to get the grades you need or the courses you have to get done or the multitude of ridiculous goals you set for yourself - you sometimes forget to make time for the people who hold you together in the not-so-good times. Make time for them. Call them. Write them texts or emails or whatever. Because they're pretty great. And the older you all get, the more you all get caught up in everything and forget to actually sit and talk. Your high school friends, the few of whom you have left, are some of the only people with whom you can be properly silly. Be properly silly with them. It's pretty fun. And you spend far too much of your now-grown-up time being very serious. Actually, just make more time for fun. You like dancing and singing (badly) (loudly) at the top of your lungs. Learn to do these things (maybe not loudly) even when people are around. Speak up more. You have things to say that you keep to yourself and you're only just starting to learn that most of the time it's better to say those things. They're often helpful. Saying them rarely gets you in trouble. The other person can always rebut your point anyway. Don't be afraid to show people you care. People you care about die. They die when they're young and they die when their old and all sorts of in between. Some of them you didn't get to know as much as you could have. People are only around so long.

Bad, sad, horrible, hurtful things happen. They just do. They will be bad and sad and horrible and hurtful. And sometimes you'll wonder if you'll ever get through. You will, because you always do. You will learn though, from these things, and sometimes you'll forget how to trust people or how to be happy. That's part of growing up, young thing. But it gets better. It really does.

You've also done plenty of things with your life that you never would have expected. You were a bodybuilder for two years. You were covered in fake tan and skimpy bikinis on stage in front of hundreds of people. Not just once. Quite a few times. And only last weekend you did you first ever powerlifting competition. You'll probably laugh at that because, as we both know, you weren't exactly sporty in high school. But you know what? The gym is absolutely the best place for you. It's good for your mind. It makes you less angry. And you enjoy that you constantly make progress and continually have new goals. You've also met some pretty amazing people through the gym, including some of those friends you should probably learn to call more often. You've travelled all over the world and gone some pretty dangerous places. You learnt a lot about yourself on those trips. And you also learnt how to not be afraid. You're still unreasonably fearful that strangers might turn out to be axe-murderers but for the most part you've learnt that you're capable of managing most really-scary situations. You never quite learnt what your gender-assigned role was in society so have accidentally broken tradition and ended up in quite a few so-called boys' clubs. You will, one day, be talking with some male colleagues and almost have a tantrum when they tell you that you can't come through a certain door with them. It will turn out that that door is the entry to the male changerooms and it would generally be an unwise way for you to transition to the same cafe that you do go to with them only moments later. Not all doors, it seems, can be broken down. You'll climb (very small) mountains and learn to play put-put and occasionally wear ugly clothes outside the house and all manner of other tiny things you didn't know you'd do "when you grow up." You'll sit on federal government committees and attempt to start your own companies and make plenty of efforts to change the world. You'll also move to a country town for a year and leave the centre of the city for quite a number of them. And, much to your surprise, you'll actually quite enjoy it. You'll tell all of your city friends (ad nauseum) about how great it is to live somewhere without traffic.

Because, oh yeah, you move to Sydney on a whim when you get that rather unexpected/unplanned offer for medical school. And you spend three years without a car travelling around that gigantic, busy, poorly-connected city on public transport. And when you do get a car and live in that same city, you'll learn how difficult it is to drive around. And how impossible it can be, when arriving at your destination, to find anywhere to leave your very expensive hunk of metal so that you can get out and enjoy some food with your friends.

You move to Sydney and finally make the effort to use that middle name you like so much more than your first name. And it suits you and no-one ever mistakes you for a boy, which is now somewhat ironic because you spend so much time trying to make yourself fit into a world that is male-dominated. But this decision too you are glad to have made. Choosing what you're called makes you feel a little bit more like you've chosen this life. And this name is really just a water body and you're pretty great at winding your way through life, it seems.

You know what, younger self? You wouldn't have believed it a decade ago. You've turned out okay. You'd be so surprised as to where you turned up and what you turned out to be. But you've turned out much better than you would have hoped. And, strange as it may seem to your stressed, overworked and unfulfilled self, you'll be a very happy, bubbly and dedicated grown up. You've got so much to look forward to.

Good luck,
Your much older (but not so wrinkly) self

P.S. You still use too many commas. Your father will probably remind you of this many times in the next decade.


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