In the midst of a relatively uneventful work day, I receive a text message from my sister-in-law which catches me off guard. The message exclaims that she has the most extraordinary thing to give me. You see, she works at Mount Scopus, the school I went to from kinder through to completing, what was then called, HSC. So, a letter I had written to myself in Year 8, in 1982, for a time capsule was recently found when renovating the school. Apparently my letter alone emerged during this renovation. Extraordinary indeed!
When the letter was handed to me, the first thing I noticed was just how yellow, stained and weathered the reinforced A4 folder paper seemed – a reminder of how many years have passed since Year 8. The lines on the paper had faded, but my writing had not. I then notice that the handwriting was barely recognisable as my own – each letter formed so neatly. The date, “2/12/1982” sits on the top right-hand corner of the page. It is almost 37 years to the day since I wrote this letter as a thirteen year old. I could not have imagined then that I would receive a text message that it has been discovered so many years later. I don’t recall writing it and I don’t know when the time capsule was meant to be opened but, I must say, the timing is simply extraordinary as my children are now on either side of the age I was then – my daughter is fourteen and my son is twelve.
I proceed to read the letter, taking a moment to reconnect and become reacquainted with my thirteen year old self. As I start to read, I cringe, and as I read on, I cringe some more. Who is this person who put such shallow thoughts on paper? Who is this person who is so negative about the world around them? Who is the person who poured their heart out about their teenage wants, desires and hates and then gave it to their homeroom teacher? Who are the best friends that I refer to? I barely remember their significance in my life. Who is this person who has a list of desires, yet felt so certain that none of them will ever eventuate? Who is this person that at age thirteen felt such a sense of doom?
If only I could write to my teenage self and explain that it will be okay, that this time will pass and will not even hold considerable significance in years to come. Clearly, this is not possible. However, receiving this letter is a reminder to approach life’s challenges now with lightness and enjoy what this stage has to offer, as this time too will soon pass. Mostly, receiving this letter impacted on me as Mum. At times, I have struggled to understand my teenage daughter’s woes. After reading my letter, I realise that we’re in fact more similar than I thought. While I have not yet read the letter to her, I did summarise some of my teenage sentiments, to which she could so relate. We both had a giggle at the person I was and I could see that by making this connection, her face changed. She looked more relaxed. Hopefully, she felt more understood.
As she is now in Year 8, I suggested that she too write a letter to herself which we will seal until she has a teenage child. Perhaps this could be the start of a new family tradition. She loves the idea and plans to do this. I wonder if it will be a text message that I’ll use to remind her of her letter’s existence. In my letter, I made reference to the news headlines of 1982 – the Lindy Chamberlain case. What would she mention as today’s headlines? Possibly climate change? And I wonder how this will be perceived when she reads her letter as an adult – circa 2056.
Certainly technology progresses, news headlines change but undoubtedly teen challenges remain a constant. I’m sure there are many who have positive memories of these tumultuous years. However, for me receiving this letter, made me reflect that thankfully this stage is short lived and this time, like all others, does pass.