When 30 women sat down to write a letter to their 16-year-old selves, they had no idea of the journey they would travel.
The words of Curlewis resident Angela McCormack and former Gunnedah woman Julie Thompson can found among the heartfelt thoughts of these women, which are bound together within a fuschia cover embellished with flowing script, which reads Dear Me.
Published in October, the book was created by Xplore for Success CEO Amanda Webb, who set out to collect letters written by “women I admire” as a gift for her daughter who turned 16 this year.
Ms McCormack said Ms Webb brought up the book when they were chatting over wine in Newtown and she was “chuffed” to be thought of.
“I was really happy that she asked me to be one of the people,” Ms McCormack said.
“I was chuffed that I was one of the women who inspired her.”
The pair met five years ago and developed a friendship over the ensuing years.
“When my girls left home, I felt I had lost my identity,” Ms McCormack said.
“Amanda’s been on that journey and has been a really good support and mentor.”
When Ms McCormack started thinking about what she would write, she said she was at “a bit of a crossroads”.
“I’d taken long service leave from my government job and I was in a bit of a dark place,” she said.
“I sometimes wonder if I would write it the same way now.”
You don't if there is no one to dance with at the school disco; you dance anyway and others can't help but dance with you.Angela McCormack - an extract from Dear Me
Throughout her letter, Ms McCormack repeats the phrase ‘Take time’ seven times, reminding her 16-year-old self to “treasure the unrequited love of your children”, “cherish the unquestioning love and support of your parents”, “enjoy the company of your girlfriends”, “feel love”, “connect with your community” and “enjoy your own company”.
“[The letter] came at a good time in my journey,” Ms McCormack said.
“I was trying to find myself and trying to identify with my passions and pursuits.”
Ms McCormack said she loved “connecting” with fellow letter-writers, including former Gunnedah woman Julie Thompson.
“Julie’s story is an inspiring story on its own as well, and really demonstrates the strength and resilience we know many regional women have,” Ms McCormack said.
Ms Thompson said she had known Amanda for 13 years and their children had been friends at school. After moving away from Gunnedah, Ms Thompson said she reconnected with Ms McCormack through the charity Dress for Success Sydney (DFSS).
"After an upheaval in my personal life and an extended period away from employment due to family commitments, Amanda and the staff and volunteers at DFSS have been instrumental in helping me regain personal and financial independence,” Ms Thompson said.
Life will give you many challenges, but you have the strength of character to rise to anything that is thrown your way.Julie Thompson - an extract from Dear Me
Ms Thompson said she was “surprised, humbled and a little overwhelmed” to be asked to contribute a letter to the book; however, it was a rewarding experience.
“I found the process very challenging but cathartic in the same instance,” she said.
“I believe it is important to rise above adversity and to push your personal boundaries and self-beliefs.
“I have learned I am a resilient person and I am proud of the woman I am and mostly that my two boys are proud of their mum.”
Ms Thompson said she recently gave “some pearls of wisdom” and a copy of the book to her 16-year-old niece Hannah.
“We hadn't seen each other for a number of years and it was wonderful to reconnect, laugh and dance,” she said.
“With all the amazing women in Hannah’s life and fabulous, inspirational role models portrayed in Dear Me, she certainly has a bright future ahead.”
Dear Me is available from Second Edition Book Store in Gunnedah.
Local women pen letters to their 16-year-old selves
“Be sure you always act with integrity. Always be aware of what you say and the impact it has on others.
Be honest and be truthful. Don't forget to be caring and compassionate no matter who you make contact with because everyone has a story.
Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. The only person who’s never made a mistake is someone who hasn’t had a go.
I don’t mean jump in boots and all, but if you believe in something, try your best.”
Afterword: “When I think of my 16-year-old self, I wouldn’t have listened.”
“You are worthy and you can absolutely achieve anything you set your mind to. Nothing is off-limits.
Those people that bully you are traumatised themselves, so forgive and know there isn’t actually anything wrong with you; it is them and their circumstances.
When your journey is interrupted by unexpected events, embrace it and continue on your path. Be kind to yourself and fill your bucket first always.
When you look after you, you are better at being in the moment and giving to others.”
“Believe in yourself.
Never be afraid to tread the path alone.
Know which is your path and follow it wherever it may lead you, knowing that you always have the support of a loving family.”
When my daughters were 16, the world had changed; I encouraged them to believe they could be whatever they wanted to be. I encouraged them to attend university and follow their dreams.
My girls have succeeded wonderfully. They have careers and motherhood, my grand-daughters are brimming with confidence and belief in themselves and I am still encouraging them to believe in themselves.
My mantra is: “Girls can do anything”.
Dear Naine Bird,
Wow, you’re sixteen! Gee whizz kid... just take it all in!
I know everything seems a bit crazy right now but just keep persevering, you are on the right track! Doc says you’re alright!
Please don’t let other people guide your ambitions because you are going to do good things! Just remember to take a breath, assess, get some clarity, take another breath and then jump in with both feet.
Don’t go to Boganville! It lives up to its name. Time is free but spend it wisely. Listen to Fumi and the crew at Banzai – they will teach you things that will hold you in good stead for the rest of your days!
You will meet some incredible people who have great advice! Listen to them! People will take their time with you because they believe in you! Don’t let them down! You are worth it!
Thank Mrs Robinson! Your adult self owes her everything! She genuinely wants the best for you! Actually say thank you more often.
Stop getting piercings! Piercings are not cool! Paint more and spend more time in your own company! Painting will be your solace! You will discover more and have way more fun!
Those who condemn you for the things that make you happy, don’t have your happiness in mind! Those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter!
The time you spend with your friends is magical! They will always love you but you need to give them more of your time and more of your magic!
Remember you are not residual but invincible!
Wear sunscreen and look after your feet! You only have one vessel that has to last you until you get out of here! The best things about exit signs is they are on the way out!