Dear Fifteen Year Old Me,

What I’m about to tell you is going to seem as unattainable as the first kiss you dream about.

You are beautiful.

Don’t roll your eyes and scrunch up your face to distract from the compliment. Take it. You are beautiful despite the scaly birthmark you try so hard to hide, the capsicum chin that protrudes when you smile and your hair that resembles a nest of hay. These things won’t change much but your perception of beauty will. Hey? Focus. Are you listening? No, not to the kids at school who call you a frowner. They say you’ll have lines by the time you’re thirty. It makes you sad a little doesn’t it when they talk like that? You don’t admit it of course; you don’t want to risk your chances of being liked, you laugh it off to ease the sting, to smooth out the creases on your forehead that gives away your pain, your joy, your doubts and your fears. Well guess what? That frown doesn’t go away. You know what does? The voice in your head that cheers your failures and laughs at your dreams. The one that doesn’t believe you’re good enough to love and be loved, to make friends, to get good marks. It tells you not to speak up because people will laugh if you stuff up your words. Your Turkish and English vocabularies sometimes merge and you stall, searching for the right expression. English words scare you a little; they are shifty and have silent letters that you mispronounce. This doesn’t make you stupid. Do you hear me? Good. Now smile because soon you are going to find the medium to take on words. And you’re going to win and that voice is going to be your ally.

So is your mum. Oh be nice, it’s not easy being a teen mum with three kids now is it? She fascinates you. And pisses you off too. You don’t know it yet but she is your hero, the one that never understands your need to sleep in on school days, who badgers you about housework when all you want to do is read till dawn. One day you will be inseparable, and when you become a writer, you will be her voice and she will be part of yours.

So relax, okay? Remember what the employee at the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court told you when he asked to talk to you outside. You worked there for your co-op placement and you were so scared that he was going to tell you off for stuffing up the filing. Or maybe it was the stamps? Did you use too many? You stood before him while he smoked and his scarred cheek crinkled with every drag. You thought that’s it, you were going to be sacked because of a stupid mistake. But he inhaled and said “you are so young, too young for so much worry on your face all the time. Smile more, okay? Be happy. Life is short.”

So please be happy.

Embrace your flaws, your quirks, your struggle with language, the pain of not fitting in for this is the fuel that will drive you to succeed and attract real friends who get you. You will learn to trust yourself and the magic of the universe, to let your guard down and love.

And yes, you will get that first kiss.