By Janine Norris
“This will be a difficult time, but stay strong and you will begin to thrive within yourself more than you have ever done before.”
Dear 15-year-old me,
It will be around now that you start to really feel different. You’re not one of the ‘cool kids’ and you won’t be for a long time yet (if ever).
You are very laid back and take most things in your stride. At high school you have a really good bunch of friends that you hang out with, but you are already in a different category to them. This is for many reasons. One of the reasons is your musicianship. You attend church every week to sing with the choir and you attend a choir practice each week on a Wednesday too. You really enjoy your church social life; you have friends here that are totally different to your school friends. This experience is already broadening your views on life.
Whilst your school friends are keeping up with all the latest soap operas, you are learning new social skills and expanding your mind. Thankfully, you enjoy this aspect of your life, you are successful and people like you and admire your talent for music. You are humble and modest – keep it this way. Some people tease you about your church attendance, but they are never mean and it doesn’t actually bother you.
You are also starting to have feelings that are impossible to understand. You have had ‘boyfriends’ at primary school and at high school, but they are not happening so much now. Things within you have changed. You try to ‘fancy’ boys, but you actually find yourself paying more attention to anything apart from boys. You don’t understand this yet but you will, eventually.
You know that when you watch TV you enjoy programmes with strong female characters. Juliet Bravo is one of your first ‘crushes’. Again, you don’t know that yet, but when you’re 51 years old and someone posts something on Twitter about ‘first TV crush’, you will immediately respond with Juliet Bravo – not the original, Stephanie Turner; the second, Anna Carteret.
You are in the middle of creating a rock band with 4 of your friends at the moment. You are the singer but you are extremely shy to sing in front of these friends. You all do lots of miming – you base yourselves on your favourite band, Duran Duran. As your band all begin to learn to play instruments and you start playing live, you are dreaming of this as your future. You want to be famous. You want to ‘own’ the huge stage that Duran Duran own when you see them perform on TV. Don’t be disappointed that this doesn’t happen – you and your friends all go your own separate ways in search of new lives. However, enjoy the fun while it lasts.
You will carry on as you are for the next few years. You won’t be as successful as some of your friends when it comes to O Levels but you will get what you need. When it comes to your A Levels everyone will be in for a shock. At this stage you will be less successful in your clarinet playing and you won’t pass your music A Level on your first attempt. Don’t worry about it, you’ll still do well.
“You will also begin to live your life more selfishly. You will have spent far too long putting family before anything.”
You will eventually go off to college. This is where I want you to really chase your desires and your dreams. You will attend a teacher training college, where you will be hoping to get a degree in primary school teaching. You will find the academic side really difficult. The essays, the lesson planning, the lesson evaluations, the teaching practices – they will all be difficult. At one point you will want to give up because you’re struggling so much. You stick with it for your parents’ sake. I want you to change that and stick with it because you will find a particular niche in teaching that you are not taught at university. This will be something you are a natural at; you will have a career teaching pupils with social, emotional, mental health issues.
This will be a challenge. You will step up to each challenge when it arises. You will be kicked, punched, spat at, sworn at, threatened with sharp objects, called names – however, you will react in your calm, relaxed manner and will be extremely successful at what you do. You will not strive to become part of the senior leadership team, because that will take you away from the students and create lots of paperwork – something you will still be struggling with.
It is during the time of COVID 19 (a huge pandemic, which will kill hundreds of thousands of people) that you begin to make your biggest changes. You don’t get involved in the politics of the way the country is being handled, you still only care about your students who, being totally ‘locked down’, initially with no digital access to the outside world due to their social-economic status, have no immediate access to you and your colleagues for support.
Because of this, you will begin to re-evaluate what you want out of life. You know that you and your girlfriend (times will have changed by 2020) are together forever, and you are making plans to buy your first house together after 10 years of renting. You will appreciate ‘lockdown’ rules because it means you can live in joggers, pyjamas and jodhpurs (oh yes, you will have your own pony too).
You will also begin to live your life more selfishly. You will have spent far too long putting family before anything. You will have avoided upsetting your mum to your own detriment, because that’s how you were brought up. However, what you will begin to realise is, you can still have a relationship with members of your family, including your mum, but it will be on your terms.
You will stop contact following an argument about you and your girlfriend. This will have happened before because ultimately your mum wants you to move back home to Leeds (Oh yes, you will move to Suffolk) and be a part of the family properly.
Your mum will never fully accept your relationship with any girlfriend. She will always hope and pray that you eventually realise ‘it was just a phase’ and you will move back to Leeds and get married. In fact, she might not even want you to get married; she might just want you to live back with her. Things will get worse before they get better. Your sister will verbally abuse you, your brother will try to understand but he won’t ever fully understand. Your siblings will both be required to ‘step up’ and look after your mum for a change because you will be starting to sort your own life out.
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You will begin to read again – something you won’t have done for approximately 20 years. These books will be psychology books, which will help you understand why it is that you’ve put yourself last in every decision you’ve made throughout your life. You will be inspired to change for the better. Your relationship with your girlfriend will improve drastically, and you will begin to live a more fulfilled life. You will have a handful of close friends who will be the ‘family’ you want in your life.
You will eventually build relationships with your mum again (I can’t tell you when exactly), but, as I already said, they will be on your terms. You will require acceptance for who you are and who you are with. You will expect your siblings to allow you to move on without them talking about how selfish you’ve been. You will make them aware that, throughout all the years so far, they have been the selfish ones and you have carried them.
This will be a difficult time, but stay strong and you will begin to thrive within yourself more than you have ever done before.
Love from Janine (aged 51) xx
Ps, when you go to college, make the most of the fact that it is a primary teacher training college and there are only 30% male students. There won’t be enough boys to go round the girls, so help them out here, will you?
Janine was born in Leeds in 1970 to working-class parents, the middle of 3 children. She graduated from Teacher Training College in Lincoln in 1993 and has taught in Norfolk and Suffolk ever since. firstname.lastname@example.org
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