The Rev’d Greg Loumeau – Rector, The Parish of Hervey Bay
Focus on people – see the people around you for who they are, not just what they can do for you. Genuine relationships will always bring more long-term fulfilment than any short-term successes.
I’ve been called a “perfectionist” more than a few times by some of the closest people in my life. Whilst I wouldn’t totally agree with them, I admit that I do like to do things very well. This has led me to develop the term “gregism”: doing something the way I want it done for no better reason than I want it done that way (perhaps because I believe it to be the best way).
When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I found myself in a team leader position. I can recall a “gregism” incident over a trivial matter between a colleague and me that led to the breakdown in our relationship. Whilst we did later make amends, the trust that had been placed in me was never fully restored and our friendship was never the same again. This is something that I still regret to this day.
So my advice to my younger self is to focus on people: to see them for who they are, to appreciate what they already bring to the table, to acknowledge the difference they make in the world. Lasting relationships will always bring more fulfillment than forgettable short-term successes.
Margaret Thurgood – centenarian parishioner, Southern Region
I was thirteen in 1933. I was always very loved and supported by my parents, so I didn’t have many worries. Because of this, it’s hard to know what I would say to myself. My only worry was getting good enough marks to get into university. There were a few of us at school who were quite clever and so we had a friendly competition between us. I didn’t worry much – I just did my best.
It’s very important for parents to spend time with their children. When I used to sit at the dining table late at night to do my lessons, my father would sit opposite me reading a book just to keep me company. I think he was disappointed when I told him that I wanted to leave school to be a hairdresser. He just said, “Megs, if that’s your decision, you go for it.” He didn’t discourage me, even though he hoped I would go to university.
Years later my mum told me that it had broken his heart, but he didn’t let on. I soon changed my mind and decided over the school holidays to go back to school so I wasn’t lonely for my friends. At 17 years of age I went on to study science at the University of Queensland.
Aaron Vidya Sagar — theology student, St Francis College & parishioner, St Bart’s, Mt Gravatt
I think I would tell my seventeen-year-old myself to lean into myself more. When I was 17 I was looking for who I was trying to be. I was looking at different people, such as the youth ministers I’d had, family members (grandparents, aunties and uncles), and male athletes who had also grown up with a single mum. I was trying to be so many people that I lost who I was.
The older I get, the more I understand that the person I need to be is who I already am. There are things that need pruning and polishing, but I think learning to be me rather than more of someone else has helped a lot. For example, when conversing with someone, I ask myself, “Am I being authentic to my culture in this interaction? And, if not, am I ok with that, or was that appropriate?
I got to a point a few years ago where I was trying to be like so many other people that I felt hollow. I did a lot of self-reflection to get to this stage.
Bishop Cam Venables – Bishop for the Western Region & Diocesan Administrator
There are many things I would say to my teenage self and they include: “You are deeply loved – by God and by others! Your gifts are minor – but, you have a unique contribution to make to bring about good in the world. Be present to the gift of now, and don’t sweat the small stuff! Learn Spanish…or, any second language, because of the broader horizon that will be created by this. Be interested in everything. Be kind to the people you share life with. Be thankful each day. Please, please learn to cook! And, be reassured that the Berlin Wall will come down; Nelson Mandela will be released; whales will not become extinct; and, America and Russia will not detonate nuclear bombs in Europe!”
It’s hard to pick one out of all these! Hard to limit what I would say to that 16-year-old sitting in the boat laughing with his family…so clearly enjoying a moment. If I had to, it might well be the encouragement to learn a second language well…and, go and live for a while in a country where that language is spoken. I suggest this because it can helpfully reframe so much.
The world is always going to be bigger and more extraordinary than we can understand…and there’s such joy in that knowledge.
Rebecca McLean – Wellbeing & Development Officer, Episcopal Office
This was a tougher exercise than I thought. When I said “yes” to contributing to this piece, I was sure something would come to mind that I would love to go back in time and tell my teenage self. I sat and pondered for the longest time…
Should I have studied harder? Well, no, I don’t think so. I balanced great grades with quality time for family, friends, hobbies and a healthy amount of time out in my own company to ponder spirituality, music and, of course, that secret crush.
Should I have been kinder to my parents? No, I think I nailed that as well. I have always had so much appreciation for what my parents did, and continue to do for me, and my now little family. I perhaps verbalise my gratitude to them more often now, but back then I was always silently grateful, and had a strong connection with the oldies.
Should I have led with more confidence? I didn’t seem short of confidence either. I could probably have done without the first half of Grade 9 (notoriously the most difficult year for many teens) as I navigated some bullying and alienation from an old primary school friendship group while I truly bed down my high school tribe. But, otherwise, I was always pretty ok to be me.
I think things were easier for teenagers back then, especially because there was no social media. Given contemporary pressures, I can only hope that my two girls navigate the teen years with as much confidence and certainty as I did.
What began to surface as the most useful advice to my teen self is, “Keep doing what you’re doing”. If anything though, the message I have for my “now” self is, “Do more of what you did when you were a teenager!” Find more time for loved ones, particularly yourself, and get some of that confidence back. Miss 16 sure wasn’t lacking in that department!