Dear younger Jo

A week ago I had the absolute privilege of being Guest Speaker at Chafyn Grove School at their end of year awards event and I had 5 minutes to give a 'go get 'em' speech. No pressure! Instead of doing the usual 'when I was a child' ditty I wanted to say something a little different but with just as much impact so I decided to write a letter to a younger me and here it is. 

What advice would you give the younger you, now you have your years of experience?

"Dear younger Jo.

Life, as the saying goes, is like a box of chocolates. Some chocolates you want to savour and wish you could eat more often, some you are a little non-plussed about, easy come, easy go and some you just don’t like the taste of and never want to experience again. In order to know which chocolates you like, you need to experience some that you don’t.

I know that you think you have your life all mapped out. Horses, a husband, 2.4 children, dogs, chickens, donkeys, a farm and a life in the outdoors. It really does sound fantastic and will be the first part of your life after school (well, maybe not the husband or children bit but don’t worry about that!) but please don’t be disappointed or think that you are a failure if life takes a different path, as the path you eventually discover may lead you to an even more fulfilling life that the one you have planned.

You have already been through some tough times at school and will go through some more but take a deep breath and weather the storm, there are calmer waters ahead, I promise. If only genetics would have given you smaller calves and longer legs but some things you just can’t change and later in life you will be grateful for your genetics and those sturdy pins as they will take you to great heights and distant places.

Do remember that it’s not what happens in your life, good or bad, that makes you the person you are but what counts is how you choose to deal with it. I encourage you to be the more gracious person as actions speak louder than words. Be a victor and not a victim, for those calling you names have insecurities all of their own, it just seems unfair that they take it out on you. Trust me, this will make you a stronger, more resilient and more understanding person, but I know that it’s just hard to go through right now.

Your life will take many twists and turns. Embrace them rather than running away. Get out of your comfort zone a little more often by saying yes more, as you never know, you may find exciting opportunities in life which you never knew were there.

I know that at the moment, if your school year were to write a list of those least likely to climb any mountain you wouldn’t even feature, but rest assured, your life will take a whole different route to a future more exciting than anyone could have imagined. If I told you now, in your younger years, that 30 or more years later you would be standing on the highest mountain on this planet having survived an earthquake just 12 months before, I know that you would say ‘gosh, not me. I would never be capable of that’ and then you would run in the other direction! Climbing Everest is not for everyone, but everyone has their own Everest to climb.

It’s hard being a youngster, all those hormones flying around, too much school work and big expectations on your young shoulders but during these holidays take time to just sit and be still. Find a happy place and make it your own, cuddle a dog, give a friend a hug, tell your parents that you love them and know that asking for help is a strength and not a weakness.

Life is yours for the taking and the only failure in life is the failure to try. Do not judge yourself against others as life is not a competition and do not judge others unless you know their full story. Be bold, be strong and always be kind. You cannot be the best at everything, I just ask you to simply give everything your best.

With love and hugs, the older Jo x "