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Letters to our 15 Year Old Selves

Welcome to 'Letters to my 15 year old self.' To celebrate relationships week and our 2021 theme of 'Love Yourself,' we asked people from various walks of life to write a short letter to their younger selves, explaining all the ways they have learned to love themselves or overcome barriers in their relationships. Below you will see four letters from;

  • Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children & Young People
  • Robyn Diamonds, Derry based Drag Queen & Irelands Got Talend 2019 Finalist
  • Dylan Loughlin, Copacetic Business Solutions Director & CIPD Rising Star of the People Profession Finalist
  • Stephanie Barnes, Relate NI Receptionist & Irish Language Speaker (as Gaeilge)
  • Michaela Hollywood, Disability Rights Campaigner & One of BBC's 100 Most Inspirational Women in the World

 

Dear  Koulla,

 

 

Take a breath and relax. I know that you’re not sure which way to turn and feel stuck between different groups of friends. It’s a head (wanting to be popular) and a heart (wanting to be more true to yourself) issue. Don’t be so hard on yourself and stop worrying about being popular you are actually well-liked so follow your heart and your passions a bit more. You can’t be liked by everyone and if you are true to yourself then people who you respect and like will reciprocate (look it up in that little dictionary you brought in primary school – you will have it for the rest of your life).

You don’t need to keep jumping in and stop worrying that someone will say or do something horrible to you or someone else - they won’t. Take a breath and let others have their say or take the lead. Being part of a team is good fun.

Things are strict at home but in time you will experience the freedom you are looking for. And when you do don’t try to aspire for a life that you read about in magazines and/or see on TV programmes because that is not real life - again pause and look around because there are a lot of things going on that will make you happy and fulfilled. You put on a good show but those seeds of doubt can fester – don’t let them. You come alive when you can get your teeth into something so don’t hold your true self back as much.

You decided a while ago that you didn’t mind how you looked physically so the extra bag of crisps was never a problem. You use it to hide yourself in plain sight, but you don’t need to. Maybe a few less potato-based snacks would be good as weight will be something that you struggle with for the rest of your life. You embrace the “overweight and bubbly” label too readily and use it to hide other aspects of your personality. You are loved and respected by your friends, your teachers and your family and that will keep you going throughout life.

Friends talk to you about their worries which you will learn is an honour but you will fall quickly into the “mummy” role. You also need to let others see your vulnerabilities and worries because they will also want to look after you the way you look after them.

Remember you passion for making a difference and your family will fire you up for the rest of your life and you have lots of opportunities to do this but you will wait too long. Start now in 1979.

The other love of your life will not reciprocate, quite so much, so it might be time to cool off a bit on supporting Arsenal – they will break your heart more times than any man ever will.

Take care and keep being kind to others and start being kinder and truer to yourself.

Much love Older you,

Koulla

 

 Dear Aaron,

 Check out Drag Performer Robyn Diamonds video letter to her 15 year old self Aaron in the video below 

 

 

Dear 15 year old Dylan,

 


Look at you go!

I’ve been asked to write a letter to you about how you will learn to love yourself and grow in your self-esteem as you get older. It’s funny because at 15 you are already so full of yourself!

It's great that you are confident, but you shouldn’t use that to make others feel less of themselves. Be humble and remember to always treat others how you want to be treated. As cliché as it may sound, there could not be a more valuable statement to go by. And I don't just mean how you want to be treated today, tomorrow or the next day, but in 10, 20, even 30 years’ time. You will eventually live by this mantra so get used to the idea early.

Sticking to the cliché theme, it's surprising how small Belfast is and if you don't treat people right now, you never know what path you might be led down and how important they may become in your life later on. So do your best not to burn any bridges and maybe even make an effort to put out some of those fires that are already raging. There are no metaphorical fire fighters – it’s all up to you!  

Dylan, I’m pleased to say your drive will pay off and you will reap the rewards. You will have a wonderful career, doing something that you love every day. But remember to stop clambering through your days trying to get so much stuff done, working all the hours possible and thinking of what else you need to do, you are young and you should enjoy it while it lasts – because let me tell you now it won’t last forever! Even if it feels like it is right now and you are excited to get out into the world and experience all life has to offer!

While you wait and work towards this happening, you can continue comparing yourself to others, but you are just wasting your precious time we talked about. It will not change who you are or where you are going. Instead, compare yourself to your previous self; What have you learnt? What would you change? What will you do differently?

The most important things;
1. Education, education, education.... keep on learning kid!
2. Listen
3. Love yourself
4. Love others


Oh and one final note, do the world a favour ditch your glimmering, silver tie, it’s terrible! 

 

  A Chara,

 

*english translation below*

Abair na daoine go raibh saol an mhadaidh bháin agaibh agus agus ar scoil! Níl barúil againn cé chomh deacair agus a bhi siad. Cuirtear brú ó na scrúdaithe, easpa saoirse, fóin póca agus íomhá coirp ort. Na bí buartha, tá tú ag iomlánú mar dhuine agus tar eis an scoil d’fhás tú suas agus bhí d’intinn féin agat. Déan iarracht sult a bhaint as raibshse an tsaoil agus ná buair do ceann faoi ó smacht amach. Abair daoine ar scoil gur shaoithín tú. Feiceann tú rudaí Labhair tú amach go misniúil faoi timpeallacht agus ceap tú má tá tuairmí láidre agat faoi. Ba cheart duit a bheith bródúil asat féin, tuigeann gach duine cé chomh tábhachtach faoi athrú aeráide. Ní tráth suí é ach tráth gnímh. Athrú dhaoine agus athhú na caidreamh, tá se an deachair agus is dúshlánach leat na athrú ach ní le deireadh an domhain é. Is oth liom a rá nach bhuaigh Loch Garmen craobh na hEireann ó bhlian 1996 nuair a bhí tú ag damhsa ar an crossbhóthar le spraoi, beidir seo an an bhlian 2021 againn. Beidh CLG an tabhtacht duit í feadh an saol agus beidh tú í do chonaí í mbeal feirste ag imirt agus ag obair le club aithuilm ná déan dearmad air nuair a bionn tú amach gach oiche ag cleachtadh.

Mar fhocal scoir, ba maith liom a rá - bí cinnealta agus tog go bog é!

Is mise le meas,

Stephanie

 

My friend,

People say that school days are the best times of their lives, they haven’t a clue how hard it is. There is so much pressure put on you in regards to exams, lack of freedoms, mobile phones and body image. Don’t be worrying you are developing as a person now and when you leave school you grew up and become your own person, try to enjoy the richness of life and don’t worry too much about things out of your control. People used to say you were a nerd, because you see injustice, you speak out boldly about the environment and you believe that if you feel strongly about something then you should speak out. Be proud of yourself, people finally realise how important tackling climate change is. Now is not the time to sit, it is time to act. People change, relationships change, it is hard and you find the changes hard but it’s not the end of the world. I regret to say that Wexford still haven't won the all Ireland since the year 1996 when you were dancing at the crossroads with pure joy- maybe 2021 will be our year. Gaa will be so important throughout your life and even when living in Belfast you will be playing and working with the local club, don’t forget that when you’re out every night practicing.

As a final word I would like to say - be kind and take it easy :)

Kind regards,

Stephanie

 

 

So. We are 15 at last,

 

 

I know the last month of being 14 was kind of tough. Martina died 20 days before her 15th birthday and now it feels like we have achieved the unachievable. We’ve broken the glass ceiling. It still feels sad sometimes though. That’s okay, but remember from now on Martina would have wanted you to live life as proud as you could.

In truth though, the last few years have been unrelenting. We are so young but having to talk about things with words we don’t even understand. In a few weeks, you’re going to go through the fastest 3 hours you’ve experienced yet.

We are still living with the impact of an adult who should have been trustworthy and a place of safety betraying that trust. You will live with the physical impact of that split second for a long time. But I promise you, we make it through this. And we will look back and remember the most important lesson that Papa Hollywood taught us - tell the truth and it will always turn out okay in the end, no matter what has happened.

We have not long started back to school after an extended break. We still expect a big wig in a suit to come marching in and tell everyone there’s been a mistake. Then we will be taken home and excluded once more.

I promise it won’t happen. It doesn’t happen. In this school you’ll never feel excluded. You’ll be wrapped in love and support by teachers and pupils alike.

We strive to prove our worth. We keep our head in the books and apply ourselves as much as we can. No matter what has come and gone we are determined to show the people who were wrong about us just how wrong they are. And we want to prove the people who stood by us, especially our family and our home tuition teachers, how right they were to stand by us.

16 years later we still hope we are achieving that.

We have all the pressures of a 15 year old. This year we will begin our GCSEs. As a wheelchair user we have so many added things to work on. And over the next 2 years we will experience more and more barriers. We will quite literally be left out in the rain when you go along to open our first bank account because there’s steps at the front door and staff think we’re just a teen “messing about” when we press the button on the accessible side door. We will constantly be told we can only sit at the very back of our music arena in Belfast, and it will feel like society wants to pretend you don’t exist. In fact society still does a very good job of treating us differently.

But they didn’t bargain on me and you. 

 

 

We will found a young disabled campaigners network. That network changes everything, from airlines carrying wheelchairs to helping disabled people go to university and even finally getting public toilets we can actually use. We will get tickets on the ground floor in the arena in Belfast - but, and I promise this isn’t a lie, we will refuse tickets to see McFLY as part of securing that change. We do actually get tickets though. We don’t miss the epic fun, even with a nasty chest infection on the night.

We learn that we are worth more than forgetting.

We learn that we are worth remembering. And our surname is spelt with two letter L’s. Don’t forget it because people will hear our name again.

 This next year or two will feel so tough. But you will ace your GCSEs. Double Science on Thursday Mornings will excite every Thursday morning, albeit not quite as much as the Thursday morning when we have to trawl through dozens of YouTube videos to find out which David won American Idol. 16 years later, we still love both of them.

We are now known for our campaigns for Disability rights. Another challenge with education - which is still the most difficult system we have ever encountered - is ahead. Transition will mess up the plans and we will find ourselves back in the legal system trying to clean it up. By doing that we open the door for so many others to fight their own Disability discrimination and that is a legacy to be proud of.

We have now accomplished so much. We have carried the London 2012 Olympic Torch, been recognised as one of the worlds most inspiring women according to the BBC, been awarded a Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron. We have sat front row watching Barack Obama - the first African American President - give a speech in Belfast. We visit the US under President Trump as an Emerging Leader.

We even work a paying job. Something we never thought would be possible.

When we were 15 and faced the most unimaginable discrimination and ableism, we swore we would change the world. And we will.

Keep moving forward. Keep your head down and keep finding the joy in the little things. We will make it and we will do it in the style only a Hollywood can.

 

Love, 31 year old you xx

PS. Paul Hollywood stole our name. Look out for him in the future. We also get the worlds best dog, he will change your life.

 



Thank you to our 5 letter writers for taking this walk down memory lane in celebrations of #RelationshipsWeek - have their lessons taught you anything? Why not write a letter to yourself or find out how else you can get involved with Relationships Week 2021

 

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