What would you write if you were invited to write a letter to yourself at the sweet age of 16? Would you go for the ‘change your life, make different choices and change history’? Or would you want to reassure and reassure the tentative teenager? Activate supporter Faye Smith was asked by her local Sheffield newspaper to write her thoughts and this is the process she went through –

: “Writing the letter was an amazingly powerful exercise.

“It provoked a lot of soul-searching.

“I thought of preventing tragedies, but as any Dr Who fan will tell you, that irrevocably alters the space time continuum and tumbles us into chaos.

“So there was no standing at the foot of the twin towers or at the gates of Hillsborough.

“In the end I tried to reassure the girl I was that the problems she thought were so monumental, like the bullying I endured at school, would go away.

“Isn’t that what we’d all like – to know that things are going to get better?

“I can now see, though, that all those hard times forged something in my character, brought people into my life and prepared me for my future.

“‘Je ne regrette rien,’ as Piaf said.”

Blessings on you 16-year-old Faye…

Great news! You were right, the last four years of your life have truly been the worst of your life. But the bully who has made your life a misery is leaving…

Everything changes for you now.

Every year after this you will feel more able, more confident, more attractive, happier in your own skin and accept and understand yourself more, gaining a sense of purpose in life.

So stop people-pleasing and comparing right now.

There will always be prettier, sportier, brighter and more popular girls around but it’s so much more attractive to be positively yourself.

Enthusiasm and happiness are contagious.

Persistence will get you further than talent – and black won’t suit you!
Your life will never look like a flat line – that’s cardiac arrest.

It has many valleys as well as peaks, but Faye, lilies grow only in the valleys and make those mountain tops all the more precious.

Faithful friends, who will love, support, celebrate the good and stand with you in the bad, pour into your life from the age of 22.

And remember to keep family close.

There’s nothing coming that you can’t handle: there will be triumphs, joys and some heartbreaking sadness but remember your name means faith and that will sustain you every day of your life, as will your belief that the Almighty turns every circumstance to his good purposes.

At 17 you will weep over your lack of vocation. Relax. You discover both yourself and business at university.

You were designed as a creative communicator, which will bring you several careers to enjoy.

Then you find the strength to step off the wheel for a while to bring up your two precious children. By 30 you finally discover you are a human being, not a human doing.

Give thanks and forgive daily, move on and embrace every opportunity.
You make it to at least 43 with no regrets.

Faye x

PS: You are right, ’80s music will always be the bes

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  • Mandy Catto

    Fiona Walton teaches RE at Birkdale Preparatory School and is a mother of three.

    She was 50 this year and says the letter took her back in time.

    “I found it surprisingly easy – and useful,” says Fiona, of Crookes. “As I thought through my feelings, fears and aspirations at 16 I also remembered how grown up I thought I was.

    “My eldest is about to turn 16 and it put me in his shoes.

    “And it made me wish that, at 16, I had written a letter to myself to read at 50 – how revealing that letter would be…

    Dear Fiona,

    It is great to be in touch with you after 34 years! I have so much to tell you!

    At sixteen it is all hormones, hard work, heartbreak, hair, horses and high hopes. I have to tell you life is still all those things, minus the horses. Also hairstylists have improved (you are so brave to go out in public!)

    You may be surprised to know that you still have friends who knew you at sixteen. Cherish them, it is good to know people who have journeyed through life with you.

    And while you are reticent and shy now, you turn out to be a fairly confident extrovert. Surprised? Yeah, me too!

    Plus you absolutely adore being a mum (of three). Who’d have guessed?

    Life doesn’t turn out to be sex, drugs and rock and roll, more like socks, hugs and knocks and goals – and there are fewer regrets that way.

    There is some hard-to-deal-with-stuff coming your way. A miscarriage, blood transfusions for a baby in the womb who will be born premature and spend time in intensive care, and watching mum die of ovarian cancer. But you cope.

    You think now that you will have life sorted by 50. Sorry to disappoint! You are still a work in progress, learning about who you are and aiming for who you want to be.

    Have I learnt anything?

    That passion and enthusiasm are always attractive and disappointment can be as corrosive as anger.

    Try to practise life with grit and grace – you’ll need both.

    Know your strengths and weaknesses, but don’t be caged by them.

    Remember you have the capacity to surprise even yourself. Nurture qualities that will last, forget the other stuff.

    Chocolate always helps, take it any way you can get it.

    Oh and get a good hairdresser!

    With love
    Fiona x

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