I have written this email to you and I have attached a letter I have given to Lucy as I wish someone had given me some guidance when I was in Grade 12 about how to negotiate all the things that happen in life. If it is appropriate I would be happy for you to share it with the other Grade 12 girls in the hope that it might give them some strategies in addition to studying hard to cope with life after school.The only advice I was given when I was at school was to study hard and have a career. I loved my time at Grammar and I know Lucy is loving her time too. I believe strongly in the value of education and our girls taking advantage of all the opportunities that are given to them. I also feel there is so much pressure on our girls to have a career and extend their education and sometimes life just gets in the way. I would love for the girls to have a little understanding about the unpredictability of life and the value of all kinds of work. I know women who have amazing paid careers but I also know women who’s careers are stay at home mothers,I know women who are caring for disabled children, I know women who have dedicated their lives to caring for a dying partner or aging parents. I believe all these different types of work are very valuable and I would love my daughter to understand that life can lead to all forms of work giving her joy and being fulfilling. Education gives women a wonderful start in life and then life unfolds and it will be up to them to choose how to react to that path. I would love Lucy and her friends to understand that she should be proud of her Grammar education wherever or however that education is used.
I believed I could do everything I wanted when I wanted when I left school. That was what Grammar taught me. I expected that I wouldn’t have to justify the choices I made to anyone. That was what feminism taught me. I don’t think this perspective was realistic. I could do everything I wanted but not when I wanted because sometimes life happens and you have to alter how to contribute to life. I felt I had to justify my choices much more regularly than my friends who were male.
The way I have had to justify my choices is by answering many questions. Some of these questions have included – What are you going to do when you finish school? What are you going to do when you have finished study? What are you going to do next? When are you getting married? Why aren’t you married? When are you having children? Why aren’t having children? Why are you still working? Why haven’t you gone back to work? I can remember being asked all these questions and I am still asked questions about my life. For example – “Now your children are growing up what are you going to do?”Not only do I get asked these questions but also I ask myself these questions.
I do believe you can do anything you want, but life happens around us and our goals have to fit in to what life delivers to us. Some of my life has been governed by fate and has not been a choice and that happens to everyone. I am not special in that regard. I want Lucy to leave school and understand if she doesn’t achieve her goals straight away that she can still love life and be grateful and contribute in a meaningful way and she can always change the world in her own way.
I always wanted to change the world. When I was a little girl I wanted to care for people and become a nurse. I believed that was a good way to make the world a better place and change it for the better. Once I finished school I did follow my passion and did nursing. I trained at the Royal Brisbane Hospital and graduated as the best practical nurse in my graduating year. I then went on to university and graduated from a Bachelor of Nursing with Distinction and then I became a charge nurse of a busy general surgical and vascular unit at Greenslopes Private Hospital. I loved nursing and always felt I was making someone’s life a little more comfortable and bearable. That was my way of making the world a better place. I then got married and had three children. I loved being a charge nurse but gave that up to be a stay at home mum. I struggled with this choice as I thought I should continue to stay in the workforce but my career became being a parent and a wife. Again I thought I was changing the world just a little bit because I was raising three children to be wonderful human beings who hopefully will make a contribution to our community and I had enough energy to love and support my husband. At the same time I was raising my three children I was able to support our community by working as a volunteer. These were the choices I made up until 2015.
In 2015 I had a bicycle accident where I nearly died. This was not a choice I made. I sustained a number of injuries – I lost my left kidney, punctured my lung, broke a number of ribs, broke some bones in my back, tore my spleen, bruised my bowel and broke my arm. My life changed dramatically for a number of months. I now have a much greater appreciation of how to live in the present moment. I understand that life can change in an instant and that the way you expect your life to look can be altered in an instant. I also have a great appreciation of the choices that I have made throughout life and I have no regret about those choices. As Brene Brown has said “ living a happy life is as much about embracing our tenderness and vulnerability as it is about developing knowledge and claiming power”. I want Lucy to understand that life is a mixture – sometimes life gives you choices and sometimes life is decided for you. She can always decide though how to react to those choices. I believe many Grammar girls because of the wonderful opportunities and education that Grammar provided – myself included feel obligated to our families to pursue more knowledge and power through education and paid work. Education contributes to knowledge but it is not life. Life is what happens to you and how you react to it. So my advice to Lucy is not about more education it is about pursuing a life that has meaning and is joyful and learning to make choices that will add to that life when life doesn’t go according to plan.
I have attached my letter to Lucy. I hope Lucy finds it useful once she has have left school and is dealing with everything that life will throw at her.
To my dear Lucy,
I wish you a life that is joyous.
I wish you a life filled with travel and adventures.
I wish you a life filled with wonderful friendships and romantic love.
I wish you a life filled with learning and continued growth.
Before you embark on the next part of the journey of life I would like to share 12 life lessons with you.
What are the qualifications I have to share these lessons with you?
I have never won a gold medal.
I am not the first female prime minister.
I am not a famous opera singer.
I have never won a Nobel Peace Prize.
I am a mother.
I have been a Charge Nurse of a busy general surgical ward responsible for 36 patients and 30 staff.
I have changed my career from nursing to raising my three beautiful children.
I have an incredibly happy marriage.
I have experienced illness and sadness.
I am incredibly grateful and happy for my life so far.
So my lessons are:
1. Exercise. Your life expectancy is now 84.8 years. Sometime during that time you are going to feel depressed. Exercise releases endorphins or feel good chemicals that ease depression and make you feel good. It doesn’t matter what your exercise is – running, walking, swimming, boxing, cycling, yoga…. Just find something and make it a habit and as Michelle Bridges says “ Just freaking do it”.
2. Make spaces in your day. We have so many ways of staying connected – computers, iPads, phones and television. Many of us use all these devices at once. By disconnecting regularly you will allow spaces to have a clearer less cluttered mind.
3. Read. Read for fun. Read to learn. Read for perspective.
4. Travel. As Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.”
5. Forgive often. And then forgive some more. People do the best they can in every situation. You have no idea what is going on in their lives so forgive them for not living up to your expectations.
6. Embrace your vulnerability. You as a woman are vulnerable. You are vulnerable because you have so many choices that you can be criticized for. On average by the time women have reached the end of their fertility (40 – 44) they have had 2.8 children each (from abs.gov.au). Therefore by the time you have reached 44 you will have made choices. Choices about having children or not to have children, choices about staying in the workforce or taking some time off to care for your children. You will be vulnerable if you can’t have children, you will be vulnerable if you have children and you or somebody else thinks they are not perfect, vulnerable if you have children and stay in the workforce, vulnerable if you have children and leave the workforce, vulnerable if you choose not to have children, vulnerable if you lose a child. Be vulnerable enough to consider all the possibilities life has to offer and do not limit yourself just because you might fail or be criticized.
7. Be brave. Be brave enough to make choices based on love not fear. Do not be fearful you are not good enough or may offend someone. Life is short do what you love. Be brave enough to choose a life that strengthens who you are. If you believe in yourself and nurture yourself you will be better equipped to deal with all the things life throws at you. Be brave enough to own your life.
8. Be fierce. Be fierce enough to stand up for what happens to you in your life. Be fierce enough to stand up for what is right even when you feel that you are the only voice who is making a noise.
9. Practice gratitude. Life doesn’t always go to plan. Even if there is only one thing you can find to be grateful about research suggests practicing gratitude can improve your happiness. It is useful to write this down.
10. Have a team. We need people we can laugh with. Laughter fills us up. We also need people we can cry with. Sometimes we can’t manage on our own and we need help. When that is the case get help. There are so many people out there to help you – find a good GP, find a good psychologist, phone a friend or phone many of the help lines that are open 24 hours a day. It is perfectly ok to ask for help.
11. Be connected. Our world is connected more than we have ever been. The Internet and our news cycles have allowed us immediate knowledge of all things going on around us. Because of our connection you should never underestimate your unique ability to make a difference.
12. Think small. “ Everyone on earth should believe that they have something to give the world which cannot otherwise be given” Nicole Cody. If you have made one persons life just a little bit better then you have contributed to our world being a better place. So go out and be the best version of you. You are enough.
All my love
I have sourced this information from a number of people – myself, Brene Brown and Nicole Cody.