Life : Five Things I Wish I’d Known At Fifteen : by Gemma Jones
When I was 15, I was a pale sun-shy sandgroper with an obsession for record collecting, op shopping and fanzines. I was friends with lots of outsiders at school – nerds, punks and rockabillies. In the absence of the internet and Facebook, I had a collection of pen pals whose letters were my saving grace, growing up in the most isolated city in the world (Perth).
Like most teenagers, I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder and didn’t think anyone understood me. I was probably a total pain.
My favourite things were: the telephone (which I hijacked relentlessly), my typewriter, C90 blank tapes (for making mix tapes), stamps and my mod parka. My uniform consisted of white opaque stockings, sixties slingback shoes, homemade mini-skirt and a cardigan.
Shyness is nice but shyness…
I did listen to a bit of (lot of) The Smiths, but I probably should’ve listened a little more carefully and realise that YES, shyness can stop you from doing all the things in life that you’d like to. I was painfully shy about certain things and horribly lacking in self-confidence. I kept a lot of my dreams and hopes very, very private and let lots of opportunities slip by because I was too shy to fully seize them. I wish I realised that silent, secret wishing and sulking doesn’t really work.
Exercise can be fun
I wish that I had realised the full potential of non-competitive exercise. It has taken me decades to have this lightening bolt realisation. Sadly, my teenage solution to perceived body trauma was starvation, denial and eating disorder. Yes, I wish I realised the positivity of exercise a lot sooner. I think I would’ve been happier all round.
Nerds can win
I wish that I could’ve had the secret knowledge that lots of my friends and I would come into our own and have our own successes via our nerdish ways. It is so hard to realise at the time that the cool, trendy, jocks at school often had a short-lived glory ahead of them, and that many of the mean, cocky top-dogs had no real ambition nor heart. It was hard to imagine that nerd would become the new cool come 10 or 15 years time.
Op shops will not always be this good
Le sigh! I wish I could return to the Op Shops of 1987 when they were full of treasures from the 50s and 60s for a dollar here and 20 cents there. I wish I realised that in 20 years time they would be full of crud from the 80s, and to stock up on the good mod vintage stuff while it was a begging. (I also wish that at 15 I had my own storage unit and truck).
Your grandparents are great
At 15 I was lucky enough to have all four of my amazing grandfolk alive and close by. They were all great and I wish that I had taken the opportunity to spend more time with them, eat their food, talk with them and enjoy their company while they were still here.
I wish that I realised: the beauty of summer holidays, that crushes will never become less painful, that sunscreen IS good, that sulking is boring, that your pen pals honestly, really will still be there in 25 years time and that sometimes white opaque stockings aren’t 100% necessary.
What would YOU tell your fifteen year old self?
All images by Gemma Jones