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A letter to my 16-year-old self

NUS president Toni Pearce, age 23, writes to her teenage self

Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self (Toni Pearce, NUS President – age: 23)

I'm writing to you from London, but probably not for the reason you might expect. You didn't grow up and become a really successful doctor, or even a not very successful doctor. This isn't where you went to university. In fact, you didn't even go to university. I know it's hard to believe. But bear with me. Other people got over it, so can you. But you did alright nevertheless..

There's so much going on in your life, and it's not easy when you’re in and out of hospital. But you will get better. And I know you wish you could spend all your time playing sport and that being disabled was never part of the plan but it'll teach you to be strong; if you can get through the next couple of years you can get through anything.

Quit your job. Seriously. You don't have to work every night after college for less than the minimum wage in a Chinese takeaway, being objectified by your boss. I know it's hard but you will find something else, and you'll love it.

Stop worrying about everything. Where you're going to go to university, how much your boyfriend likes you, being too fat, too thin. Or too much of a nerd. Honestly, someday that'll be cool.

Don't ever stop questioning everyone and everything, and have the courage to tell people what you think, no matter what your teachers say. One day you'll believe in your values so much you'll stand up in front of thousands of people to defend them.

Do what's right for you. When someone tells you to get involved in your students' union, don't worry about what other people will think. Stand up and tell people you're a feminist.

Put just a tiny bit more effort into your exams and then when everyone expects you to go to uni, make the decision you want to make. Don't listen to the careers advice that says that you'll never be successful if you don't go; it's nonsense. Choose to do something different. You won't regret it.