As you’re growing up, you’ll feel like you’re changing into a new person every few years but in actual fact, new facets of yourself are being formed, like a sculpture being revealed from a single stone. It’s all still you. Each of the different stages in your life, though they may seem random and unrelated, are like stepping stones. Across those stones, I can see the path back to you, as clear as day.
In short, you rock. You’re bold, contrary, and hilarious, with a strong conviction of what’s brilliant and what leaves you cold. Your inner dialogue is strong. Listen to it. Your mind is open like a flower, and capable of welcoming broad perspectives into your hive of a mind. Some will be great, some you’ll bristle against. All you’ll carefully consider. This is great. Keep in close dialogue with that inner Andrea: what she thinks is the most important of all.
There’s no one out there quite like you but happily, being the outsider is your comfort zone and conformity scares you witless. You’ll play the outside game your whole life because the things which don’t scare you at all, others find impossible. When you become Australia’s most popular artist model, you’ll inspire a generation of creative thinkers, spend months listening to charcoal scratch parchment and get to know your inner self like the back of your hand. When you take your first trip overseas, you head to China and love it so deeply that you become one of Australia’s eminent Mandarin-speaking China specialists. You’ll even pick up roller skating at age 29, co-found the Sydney Roller Derby League and lead a group of some of Sydney’s most fearless women.
The voice in your head isn’t always a kind one. You question everything in your path, including yourself. This is a powerful tool to have, but I encourage you to interrogate this; is that voice in your head your own? If indeed it is, listen to it and make sure it is a kind voice. Remember, you are not your thoughts. You are what you think of your thoughts. If the voice is not kind, it is simply society trying to let you know it doesn’t often accommodate people like you. In fact, you scare it. Society doesn’t look in the mirror and see a leader like you. You’re a troubling and unfamiliar reflection. This tension is something that you internalise as a problem with you.
And yet, there you are — you’re the misfit in the room — the punk rock girl from regional New South Wales who is hell bent on disrupting the Australia–China relationship for the better. So I gift you one word which makes this all ok: Yet.
Leaders don’t look like you, yet. Leaders don’t sound like you, yet.
Really, Andrea, this letter is a fallacy and I’m glad of it. For in fact, I wouldn’t burden you with a single piece of wisdom from the future. Your boldness is a gift. Unwrap it and go out there and surprise yourself, Tiger.