'Stop worrying so much'

Continuing our series, where we asked prominent local citizens to write a letter as if it were to themself at the age of 16, today Burrinjuck MP and Minister for Primary Industries and Small Business, Katrina Hodgkinson, brings us her memories of being a teenager and some simple yet pointed advice.

When The Yass Tribune asked me to write a letter to my 16-year-old self, my first thought was that I really didn't want to go back there!  However on reflection, being a teen is fabulous. It's a period of transition - a time of going from an entirely childish viewpoint to seeing the world from a new perspective, a time where pure selfishness is occasionally succeeded by a more 'worldly' outlook. 

Growing up, I loved being outdoors, climbing trees and studying flora and fauna. Life for me as a young teenager was relatively uncomplicated. I had two parents and two sisters and I had lived on the same farm all my life. There was plenty of room for practicing driving: the one-tonner was the learning vehicle, dad was the instructor. The home paddock served as our athletics training area, and there were many sheep trails along which I enjoyed country walks with mum. 

In addition to the farm's sheep and cattle, we had several pets including a three-legged cat (the fourth leg had met its fate in a rabbit trap) who lived to be 18, a first-cross ewe who started life as a potty lamb and bore three sets of triplets in her similarly incredibly long life, plenty of chooks, a couple of horses and any number of working dogs. Potty calves came and went over the years.

There were three fixed phones in the house and the bushfire radio chattered away incessantly through the summer months. 'Dallas' and 'A Country Practice' influenced our school bus conversations. The damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania, the Falklands War and the widening hole in the ozone layer dominated the headlines. A terrible drought reminded us of the preciousness of every drop of water as showers became scarce and the No 1 toilet was relocated to behind the shrubbery in the backyard.

Along with the second half of my teen years sprung a gamut of emotions.  Friendships treasured and a broken heart, self doubt and the need for reassurance, having too many assignments due at the same time, wanting to do good but somehow always feeling like I'd made a mess of things. A pimple would always jump out of my face just in time for a party. 

At 16, the years ahead were foreboding and I felt as though I would never get anywhere, as though the years would never pass. How would my results fare? What would I do with my future? Was I studying the right subjects? What if nothing worked out? I just wanted to be out and earning my own way and the intervening years of study sometimes seemed impossible.

Teenage depression was as alive then as it is today and when my friend, whose home life was hugely challenging, attempted to take her own life, I rang Lifeline* because I didn't know who else to call. They are a wonderful organisation, and my friend still rings me occasionally to remind me of that time and to let me know she's doing well.

So with a few memories in mind, the letter I write to my 16-year-old self is as follows.

Dear Katrina,

Stop worrying so much.  Everything works out fine.

As I look out the window, it's a beautiful summer's day, and the world is still turning. 

One day, just as you now dream of doing, you'll have your own business and raise your own family complete with two beautiful children. Fortunately you have a good understanding of political life and a good work ethic; in the future these skills will serve you well.

Remember to do as you would be done by, and believe in yourself. 

Don't be afraid to ask for assistance and advice and when you see an opportunity, grab it with both hands. In times of adversity, learn how to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep on going.

Whatever it is, you can achieve it!

Yours,

Katrina.

*To contact Lifeline phone 13 11 14 or go to www.lifeline.org.au.

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