Advice I would give my younger self
HLN’s Rosie Harrison opens up about how lockdown helped her to re-examine her life: from job satisfaction and relationships to body confidence and self-belief
By Rosie Harrison
2020 has definitely been a strange year for all of us. Nobody has escaped the uncertainty, anxiety and doubt that has prevailed as we struggle against this pandemic. Of all the things we thought 2020 might bring, I doubt this was on many (if any) of our lists. While it has been difficult – and confusing – to find a way through this, it has also given many of us time to think.
For me, that came in the guise of three months of furlough. I count myself lucky that I had been in a stable job as the first lockdown hit, and was essentially given three months of mostly-paid time off. While I spent most of this time expecting to be called back to work, it was long enough and empty enough that it gave me a chance to think about my priorities and what is important to me.
This time showed me that happiness could (and should) be sought in all parts of my life, and that I shouldn’t be living for the weekend. It allowed me to get some space from my work which, for the past three years, had all but consumed me. This time to reflect also allowed me to step back and look at myself – how can I make sure that I take all the right steps to allow happiness to bleed into every part of my day, of my life, and of my outlook. Not only my own happiness, but that of those around me too.
In doing so I also found myself looking back at my past, at my childhood and formative years. I suppose in the latter part of my (short) life, time has moved so fast: with moving out, going to university, graduating, finding employment and then trying to be successful in that employment. My time in furlough – although not sought or expected – brought up the question: if I could, what would I say to myself 10 years ago? What advice would I give? What warnings and encouragement?
10 years ago, I was 14. I think I was a young 14; immature and protected by a loving and secure family. My biggest problems were finding my place in a very high-achieving private school, figuring out my siblings, and facing the oncoming developments that teenage life would inevitably bring. I wasn’t interested in boys, makeup, drinking and all those things I saw my peers start to think about. I struggled with serious body confidence issues, but through it all I was a happy and fairly confident young girl. I had loyal friends and a lot of trust and independence from my family.
Looking back, I would have greatly benefited from knowing that, in reality, the most important thing for me was not losing weight and being like my peers, but believing in myself. Now I know that’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. I spent far too much of my time then and, if I’m honest with myself, now too, thinking about what I look like. No matter how many times my mother reminded me that most people really don’t care what size I am – that they have their own things to think about – it was my primary concern. I was too fat; scout leaders had told me, boys at the local swimming pool were kind enough to point it out. I wanted to be skinny and beautiful, like my friends.
Now, nearing the end of 2020, I have found a new job: a job that I love, working with fantastic people in a great industry. I am confident, now more than ever before, in the person I am. Not in how I look – I don’t think I’ll ever be truly happy with that. No, this is much more internal. My personality, my interactions with other people, and the friendships I am able to build. These are the things that can bring about happiness. This is what matters. You are the sum of your experiences, of the challenges and achievements that life has given you.
So, 14-year-old Rosie, take this down: your appearance will fluctuate, weight will come and go, spots will fade, your hair will change styles and your fashion sense will develop. Let all of that happen. Work on it if you want to, but don’t allow it to be everything to you. You are an individual, a unique human that can be whoever she wants to be. Focus on learning about the people around you, on being confident in your decisions and your ability to survive and grow. Learn from (and laugh at) your mistakes and take them in your stride – although it might look like it, there are no perfect people with perfect lives. Work hard, and, to quote my beloved mother, let all the nasty comments and bad thoughts wash off like water off a ducks’ back.
Just be – and love – the person you are.