Friday 28th January 2022

Letter to 20 year old Me. #LifeThisWeek. 40/52. 2017.115.

Letter to 20 year old Me. #LifeThisWeek. 40/52. 2017.115.

Prefacing my letter with this photograph. My eldest granddaughter is the age I am writing about. In fact she will be 21 before year’s end as I was too around this time of year. Thanks J for the inspiration and the LOVE you share with me and many. In fact, by co-incidence, J has posted her Sunday night vid on You Tube about her at 20! Neither of us knew what the other was up to. Love this.


Dear Denyse,

I remember you being 20 so well. It was the last year of teachers’ college. You were acing the pracs at the schools you were sent to and in fact those schools were great but you had something else on your mind. You were ready to flee Sydney weren’t you as your boyfriend of almost 3 years was going to a regional area for his first job after graduating Uni?  No longer a Northern Beaches girl like your friends from school, you were about to go BUSH…in fact to Barraba NSW that January 1970 but wait. There is a little more to remember before you became loaded with class teaching responsibilities and being ‘dropped’ by the long-term boyfriend….and not being sure of what was ahead after that.

Graduation as a teacher aged 20. End of 1969.

Social life aged 20. Uni balls were the best!

Teacher’s College mates and yes, pigtails on me.

So, in 1970 you had some highs and lows. However, you also had one of the best times socially as in the country back then teachers tended to group together and have dinners and parties and it was good. On October 17 1970 something VERY important to you then and now happened. You met the man who would become your life’s partner. He was a young 21 year old in his 3rd year of teaching in a small school beyond the mountains where you were teaching. But once the love grew and GREW, you no longer wanted to be apart. In fact, after becoming engaged just before your 21st birthday something else grew. A wee baby was on her way – we did not know that yet – and even though that was a surprise, we both knew…we are together for life!!

Wedding Day 1971. Dad, Mum, Bro, Gran, B & Me, Poppy, Papa

It was not an ideal beginning to our marriage but you know what, Miss 20, you chose well as did your B. Despite some criticism from your parents, in particular your mother, you shone. Marriage is a hard road and you learned that early. B was and is always a great life partner and you know what? In all the ups and downs, health scares, financial matters, relationship changes with our kids, welcoming grandkids into our lives, having to retire early, and more, we have shown that OUR decision to be together for the rest of our lives was the BEST. Coming up to 47 years since we met this very week!!

So, a little bit of what was ahead for you in some snapshots. Gosh look at you. You have always been self-conscious of your weight. Do you remember in teachers’ college PE class you rated yourself fat? I know, a bit of something wrong there. I think though, that you also thought you were NOT a fashion plate like your Mum and that you actually enjoyed learning and education whereas your mum was the true home-maker mum who never worked once she had kids. Your dad supported you there but both parents often made you feel a little less than OK by veiled and actual comments about your weight. Yep. Always there and even now, as you have been diagnosed with cancer and lost a lot of weight I can tell that you ‘worry’ about putting it back on. Many women, in case you did not know, have similar battles in their hearts and minds, so take comfort and be kind. As your B would say “treat yourself like a friend”. I didn’t know how to do that properly until I was 67 so sorry, Miss 20 and beyond, you have had a rather torrid time with self-talk.

Let’s go with the show!

I would love to add some photos of our children, Miss 20,  but for privacy reasons I cannot.  We had two children in the end. Ironically after falling pregnant with our daughter it took another 7.5 years for our son to come along. I had a lot of medical and then surgical intervention for that to occur. I would add too, that as a young mother about to turn 30 you had another significant challenge in life occur when the severe and chronic illness of your B meant he was medically retired from teaching. The next 4 years, until he steered himself towards better health and recovery, were exhausting and busy to say the least. In fact, your parents stepped in to help out in  ways which supported  you so you are grateful for those times even though it is still hard to let the ‘judgy’ times heal and let go. But this time saw you embark upon more self-education and career path moves and you completed two degrees, B.Ed and M.Ed, along with raising two kids (by now B was at home helping majorly both in a physical sense as he managed the house and started a tutoring business) and going for a 3 work promotions where you eventually became a school principal.

Then came retirement for you. I know. In this day and age retirement is nothing like you saw for your dad. In fact, you retired a few times. Once in 2003 after having a health breakdown at work and not being allowed by your doctor to return, second when you had gone to a teaching role in 2004 and then by age 60 in 2010 had decided enough was enough…and thirdly in 2015 when you surrendered your part-time roles at University teaching pre-service students, closed your business as an education consultant and ceased working for NSW  BOSTES.

I know that at 20 I would have had no idea of what a blog might be or of course social media. But what I did know, into my late 50s is that I am an early adopter. I like technologies that work for me and do not need too much technical prowess from me. I also know that at 20 I loved photography but not nearly as much as I do now.

So, this next and current life stage Miss 20, is getting a little bit easier but also a little bit scarier as I approach 70. OK, not for 2 more years but hey, it happens. Life. And of course, death. You’ve experienced the deaths of 4 of the people who loved you from the photo at your wedding. Dad remains well and in fact praises you now. Yes. He has written you some healing letters and often shows his appreciation for you as his daughter and is proud of you. He tells you that! So, remember it. And in terms of new life…Miss 20 GD above might have been first, but since then you have become Grandma (Miss 20, I love that name!) to 8 children. 6 girls and 2 boys.

Of course, no-one ever wants to get sick, Miss 20 do they? You have always been fearful of that. The past few years saw your anxiety levels skyrocket as you made 3 major life transitions and your well-known IBS decided to return. It all helped you lose weight but that was not the point. Then, knowing your teeth were always trouble some you had gum problems. These were found to be cancer and you had major surgery. I am delighted to say it is highly likely the cancer has gone. But you will continue to need check ups just as you need more surgeries soon.

It is hard to decide where to end this letter so for now, it will be open-ended. I am hopeful that my recollections can soothe my 67 year old self as I recount some of the stand-outs told to my 20 year old self…and that you remember you are LOVED by many so it’s time to add you to that list too.

All my love,

Denyse xx

Joining with Alicia here for Open Slather and here with Kell for Mummy Mondays.

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  1. Lovely – looking back on what appears to be a very full and successful life. That’s all we can hope for.

  2. Such a great reflection Denyse. And thanks for the prompt! It was timely as I wandered around my old uni on the weekend which is where I was at the age of 20. It brought back so many memories which helped me write this post this morning. xo

    • That’s lovely to know Leanne. It was my granddaughter staying with us recently, aged the same as me when I first started teaching who. without her knowing, gave me the prompt. Then look at the co-incidence of her publishing a you tube vid about her at 20! Love synchronicity. Denyse x

  3. Ugh there are so many warnings I’d give in a letter to 20 year old me! I love the photos of you through the ages!

    Di from Max The Unicorn

  4. Why is it that we women always seem to be harder on ourselves especially in regard to our weight. Your B is very wise when he says you should ‘treat yourself like a friend’.


    • Indeed we are more critical of ourselves that we even need to be. I do not know how it stops other than to be-friend yourself with kind words inside and treat people around you kindly. I try each day now that I have greater insight. I married a very wise man who has learned a lot thanks to some very challenging personal issues. Denyse x

  5. A lovely reflection – I would not know where to start. And, to be honest, I don’t think my 20 year old self would stop to read it if I did!

    • Oh really!? That is so interesting but I wonder what you might be thinking now you have a pretty close to 20 year old daughter yourself. Denyse x

  6. What a lovely video, J is so talented! and it’s great that the two of you synced this up unknowingly!
    You’ve got such great memories Denyse! Would Miss 20 have believed that she would achieve all of that back then?
    I found this prompt pretty difficult to write. Mostly because I can’t remember heaps about myself at 20 but also because I feel like it really wasn’t that long ago.

    • Thank you Kat. I never want anyone to feel overly challenged by a prompt but sometimes we need to examine the words and wonder about our reactions. I am not saying this to you personally but when we blog we can open up all kinds of things from the past. I have to say, it actually helps me now to get my previously hidden parts of life (pregnant when wed, judgement from parents) written down and out there. Frees me from old, long-held sources of unhappiness. Denyse x

  7. This was an especially amazing #LTW to be part of, Denyse.

    I can’t watch your video right now but your letter was so beautifully written.


  8. So many memories Denyse, and so much to look forward to for Miss 20. And I love the video! What great timing!!!! And how great that young people can document their lives like that now. I guess generations before us thought that about photographs.

    We have home movies with no sound, but by the time my niece was born (same age as your granddaughter) they had videos and we’ve got reminders of her when she was little and it’s lovely to hear and see my dad again. (And remember the happy joyous person my niece was as a little girl!)

    • It is and was such a cool thing for us to be sharing stories in the different ways we did. Miss J has the chronic and life-time condition called Crohns Disease and had major surgery for it in August/Sept. I am in awe of her courage in managing something that is quite challenging at her age. In fact one of her videos on her channel is about her health and how she has had to come to terms with it.
      As the eldest grandchild and with a Grandma who also had a video camera SHE and her siblings when they came along were videoed to the max. I have so many lovely, lovely memories from these. She has been someone who has enjoyed music and drama all her life and in fact was in top 10% in NSW for Drama at HSC. She played the lead in Mary Poppins in Year 6 and her singing voice is great too. I am, along with her mum and her dad, and her grandparents on both sides, very proud of her. Thanks Deb for sharing about your niece too. They grow up too quickly! Denyse x

  9. Denyse, Like you I had parents who were often critical of my chubbiness and did not support me to follow my dreams. I was forced to take school subjects that did not interest me and was pressured to take a job that had no real interest to me. We’ve just finished school holidays here in Auckland, so i’ve been spending lots of time with the teen who is in his last year at school, talking about his hopes and dreams. With only three weeks left at school before starting his final exams, he is so much calmer than I was and i think that has a lot to do with the fact that he is happy with the path he has chosen and is excited about the plans he is making. Taking some time this morning to reflect on my 20yr old self has confirmed that I have thankfully parented much differently than I was parented and can now let that worry go and get on with following my new exciting path.

    • What progress you have made! I look forward to reading more tomorrow. NSW Year 12 kids started their end of school exams today! I don’t think we started back in 1967 until later in October. My parents never said a great deal to me about my appearance so I suspect it was MY critical voice who was. I was always grateful Dad was ahead of many parents’ time back then and encouraged me to go to Uni/College and train to be a teacher. He valued education highly and if not for the fact that his mother was widowed when Dad was 11 (the depression years) he too might have completed HS. Nevertheless he got an accountancy qualification after a traineeship in clerical duties was completed and he has supported me, our kids and his now great grandkids to get the education they need and want.
      Thanks so much for reflecting on this prompt. Interesting one indeed. Denyse x

  10. Beautiful Denyse! X

  11. This is all kinds of awesome. You’ve achieved so much. I can relate to the weight battles and trying to be kind to yourself. I love all of your photos xo

  12. Michelle (inthegoodbooksblog) says:

    Lovely memories Denyse, and great photos too! Life passes by so quickly; I am now in my late 30’s but 20 seems like yesterday!

    • Thank you Michelle! Yes it does go by in a minute sometimes and when I see my GD aged 20 I really feel it! That was me just a while back wasnt it?!? Denyse xx

  13. Lovely letter Denyse. It’s amazing to look over your life sometimes and see how far you’ve come even with the struggles along the way. I wrote a post like this a while ago {I think it was a letter to my 22 year old self}

    • Thank you so much Sanch. Sometimes when I am ‘stuck’ in the mood of negativity it’s good for me to reflect on a largely rich and fulfilling life! I realised too doing this letter that I have had some influence and effect on some thousands of kids from 1970 to 2010 when I stopped teaching. It’s a bit special to have done that. Denyse xx

  14. I think 20 year old you would be very proud to see the woman she became Denyse. You have done so well with your husband and your career and your blog – a life well lived and with more still to come!

    • Thank you for your kind words. I think 20 year old Denyse thought she was going to be a mum and perhaps teach here and there but with my husband becoming very unwell and having to be medically retired age 30, I literally stepped up and went on to get promotions and complete degrees whilst working full-time. Maybe I needed to be challenged. It seems like that is the case with me! Denyse xx