I love reading features in magazines where famous people reveal what snippets of information they’d confide in their 16-year-old selves – and I was reminded of this earlier today, when reading Louise O’Neill’s excellent column in the Irish Examiner. But these features all seem to assume that we’d have to go back that far to find a version of ourselves that needs our advice when, for me at least, I could go back six months and teach 2015 Rosemary a hell of a lot.
Perhaps it’s because our world is changing so quickly, and so massively. Just five years ago, for example, Snapchat didn’t exist (the first prototype was launched in the summer of 2011). Facebook wasn’t making it quite so difficult for brands to get their marketing for free. Donald Trump was a laughing-stock (okay, that hasn’t changed, but there’s no way anyone in 2011 would have believed what’s going on with Trump today); Amy Winehouse was still alive; Instagram was six months old. Frankly, it’s nuts how much things have evolved since April 2011.
So it’s not all that surprising, then, that I feel like I’ve changed massively in the same time period and, rather than focus on what I’d tell my 16-year-old self (mainly: sleep with more people and stop worrying about being slutty, because nobody cares), I thought it might be more useful for you guys – ie, not-16-year-olds – to know what advice I’d give 26-year-old Rosemary, from my lofty, 31-year-old perch.
Stop fighting with people on Twitter
(You can all stop saying, “I told you so” now, and yes, Kirstie, I’m looking at you.) I used to love nothing more than a heated Twitter argument, wherein I’d get all self-righteous and, quite frankly, rude, about something I saw as unethical / dumb / ill-informed. The result of which being that I’ve spent far too much of my precious time apologising to people for being an enormous dickhead – entirely unnecessarily. Sure, I still enjoy a discussion – and I’ll fight my corner until the cows come home, but there’s a big difference between being principled and being antagonistic, and I feel like my life would have been a whole lot happier if my 26-year-old self knew that.
But happiness is not an unrelated truth; I do believe that a lot of my social media snarking had to do with a lack of happiness with myself (cliché alert). Most of the arguments I had were with women who should have been peers and allies, of whom I was (just maybe) a little bit jealous, and who were giving the impression of being a lot happier than I was. Well, they needed to be taken down a peg or two, obviously! Sigh.
Don’t stress about giving up smoking
This is another massive cliché, but I really believe that I was only able to give up smoking when the time was right for me. In an ideal world, I would have given up far sooner – or, I’d go back in time to when I was 17, and never light up that first cigarette – but, ultimately, I spent far too long stressing about this horrible habit that I was entirely unable to kick.
It’s really about guilt; I feel like a lot of my 20s was spent preoccupied with guilt over doing too much of something, or not quite enough of something else. <Musical interlude> So hey, young me: don’t worry about it. Smoking sucks, but you’ll give up eventually. I promise.
Accept the truth: running is not for you
Around 2011, I decided that running was going to be my thing. Everyone was running back then; The Irish Times, where I worked at the time, had a weekly supplement dedicated to running, and it seemed like, everywhere you turned, you very nearly got ploughed down by a runner. So, I started running.
And, almost immediately, my plans were scuppered by the onset of shin splints – something to do with muscle vs bone size or length. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor; what I do know is that I spent a lot of money trying to sort my shin splints. Orthopaedic insoles; acupuncture; sports massage… You name it, I tried it. And then I gave up, devastated that running was not for me and convinced that the universe did not want me to be thin, or remotely sporty. So, I’d say to my 2011 self: just don’t bother. There’s nothing wrong with being a quitter, and your legs – and your bank balance – will thank you for it. (Interestingly, since I lost weight, my shin splints seem to have cleared up a lot – but I’ve discovered that I hate running. Like, burning passion, would rather pour nail varnish remover into my paper cuts, HATE.)
Don’t throw any more money at weightloss classes
They won’t work for you. Y’know what will work? Eating real food and lifting weights. Y’know when this’ll work? When you’re ready.
Whenever anyone asks me how long I’ve been trying to lose weight for, I answer really honestly: since I was about 14, when I realised that I needed to lose weight, in order to be the same size – and look as good – as the other girls in my class. I’m pretty sure that, had I never embarked on that first diet, I would have stayed on the ever so slightly heavy side of slim, but I fucked up my attitude to food fairly early on, and it’s been a really long and hard road to try to recalibrate that thinking.
Am I there yet? Not by a long shot – just yesterday, I ate half a donut because I needed something to cheer me up out of a really bad mood. (It didn’t work, but it was delicious.) But I know now that counting points or syns, drinking detox juices or supplementing my diet with anything other than nutritious food is never going to work for me. So, y’know, quit while you’re ahead and enjoy boozing and eating fried food while you can.
Forget about taking the Pill
Or, for that matter, any form of hormonal contraception. They make you grumpy, irritable, completely axe your libido and really, condoms are grand. (More on which in a YouTube video that will hopefully be live on my channel tomorrow – why I chose the copper coil! #overshare)
…And some things you can just learn for yourself
- A permanent, full-time, answerable-to-someone-else job is not for you. At least, not right now. Maybe, in 10 years’ time, it’ll be ideal – but you’re too restless and impulsive and, ultimately anti-authority for it to work out. (It’s not them – it’s you.) You’ll figure this out eventually, and every mis-step is an opportunity to learn, right?
- Having a tax and insurance disk holder that says, “Are you well, guard? Cos you’re lookin’ well,” is ill-advised, to say the least. But it’s okay; you’ll just get one penalty point, and you’ll have a good story to tell.
- That guy, you know, the one you almost fell out with your best friend over? He’s gay. He’ll tell you pretty soon, just in the nick of time. Your friendships will all survive, and in a few years’ time, you’ll laugh at it all.
- Your dad is a brilliant, hilarious, intelligent man – but he hasn’t got a medical degree; he didn’t study veterinary science; and he’s never studied the politics of the Middle East. In other words, that arm is definitely broken; the dog should probably get an X-ray; and nuclear war is probably not the way to go. (I still love you, Dad.)