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'Don't hang around too long waiting for the life you want to start' - Dr Ciara Kelly offers advice to her younger self


Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy

Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy

Teens can have a better sense of themselves than thirtysomethings

Teens can have a better sense of themselves than thirtysomethings


Dr Ciara Kelly. Photo: David Conachy

In many ways I'd a better sense of myself in my teens than I did in my twenties or thirties.

When I was in school and life was reasonably simple, I knew who I was. Well in an adolescent kind of way at least. I found my twenties and thirties more challenging somehow. I moved out of home into Dublin. I lived with various friends. I began a serious relationship. I bought a house. I became a mother. Looking back I did quite a lot of it on autopilot - trying to get things right. Don't get me wrong, a huge amount of it was wonderful. In particular, my four beautiful children. But in some ways I was sleep-walking through lots of it. Doing what was expected of me. Doing what I expected of myself.

I wanted to fit in. As a teen I hadn't minded standing out from the crowd - with my black eyeliner and penchant for indie music. But my twenties and thirties were a period of assimilation. I think maybe in my teens I hadn't thought I could fit in - so instead I ploughed my own furrow. My slightly older self realised I wasn't as alternative or odd as my younger self had previously thought and decided I'd go the whole hog and just blend into the wallpaper. I think at that point I tried to make myself more compliant than I naturally was. I tried to please. I ignored and suppressed a lot of my feelings.

Perhaps it was moving to Dublin. The melting pot of college, where it was clear the private school kids of SoCoDu had a confidence that the rest of us poorer, gauche-er eejits lacked. But hadn't really known we lacked until we met them. But whatever the reason I didn't really come back into my own until my late thirties. Now I feel like there's a direct line from that stroppy, gobby teenage girl to the woman I am today.

And I like it.

So I'd like to give some unsolicited advice to my younger self and to any younger selves out there who might struggle a little bit to find themselves in a world where it often seems everyone else knows more than you do. And where sometimes you accept other people's view ahead of your own.

You are not always wrong. You may not always be right - but you're definitely not always wrong - no one is. Nor are you less knowing, cool or interesting than anyone else.

Other people's lives are not necessarily better than yours. The world is full of people acting like they are more comfortable and happy than they actually are.

Everyone has a right to an opinion - even you. There are very few absolute rights and wrongs in this life, most things are shades of grey - so when you disagree with someone even if you can't articulate your position as well as they can that doesn't mean their opinion trumps yours.

Be kinder to yourself. Most people's cruellest and harshest critic is themselves. You don't deserve the abuse. Be kind to other people. It costs nothing. It makes the world a better place. And it makes you feel good too.

I don't know if you really do need to love yourself but certainly it's a help if you like yourself. Ultimately you are the person you will spend most time with. It's a great help if you are at least fond of that person.

There are people who will be rude to you and you'll think it's something you've done. You will blame yourself for them not liking you. Ultimately it will be about them. The best way to respond to someone who's rude to you once is with surprise. The best way to respond to someone who's rude twice is with avoidance. But learning to say "No" and also "Fuck off", when you have to, is liberating.

Anyone who treats you badly, makes you feel lesser or tries to limit your life - is not a friend. Even if they call themselves one. Fear and guilt are mostly pointless.

Try to think occasionally about what you actually want in life. What you want to do. Where you want to go. How you want to live. So many of us have our eyes on the ground just looking at the next step on our path that we never look up and see if we're on the right road.

And lastly remember your time is precious - so don't waste it or hang around too long waiting for the life you want to start - you don't know how long you've got.


Sunday Independent

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