Dear 16-year-old me: advice from UQ's Dr Anita Heiss
“If you had the opportunity to write a letter to your sixteen year old self, what would you tell her?”
This is the question we posed to Dr Anita Heiss.
Her advice may surprise you.
Dr Anita Heiss is a Professor of Communications in UQ’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
First of all, RELAX!
Of all the mistakes you are going to make throughout your life, school suspension, attending social venues underage, and falling in love with every guy that smiles at you at the school bus stop are the least of your worries. These are experiences that are part of your coming of age, and they will not define the strong, capable, professional woman you will grow to become.
Secondly, don’t think the first year of your undergrad degree will determine what you will be in your 50s. Who knows, you might do 12 months as an arts student, love your political science lectures, fail Chaucer and spend too much time on the library lawn watching bands to really appreciate the opportunities in front of you till much later in life, but enrolling in your BA will be significant to the creative life you will eventually follow.
Thirdly, much of the wisdom you will gather throughout life will be courtesy of your parents and other family members, your school teachers, lecturers, managers. They will offer you advice and constructive criticism that will upset you because, quite frankly, you are too thin-skinned. But know they will nearly always have your best intentions at heart, and they only want to see you shine and be happy.
Fourthly, you will learn the hard way that impostor syndrome will not make you better at what you do, it will only waste precious hours of your life, year after year. It would be much better for your mental health and wellbeing to just have more faith in yourself. The truth is, if someone else thinks you are capable of achieving something, then you probably are!
Finally, trust your instincts, be true to your dreams, have faith in your capacity, seize every opportunity, be shameless in asking for help from those who are there to assist. Most people LOVE to help where they can.
The One Who Should Love You Most
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Multi-award winning writer and Indigenous rights champion Dr Anita Heiss joined UQ as a Professor of Communications in 2019.
A Wiradjuri woman, she is a prolific writer of nonfiction, historical fiction, children’s literature and commercial fiction. She has a joint appointment with UQ's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit (ATSIS) and the School of Communication and Arts.
Dr Heiss has lectured and been published internationally, and her most recent novel Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is the 2020 Book of the Year at the University of Canberra.
In 2020, Dr Heiss is also artist in residence at La Boite Theatre in Brisbane, adapting her novel Tiddas for the stage.
Dr Heiss is a Lifetime Ambassador of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and a Board Member of the State Library of Queensland, University of Queensland Press (UQP) and Circa. When she's not teaching she is writing, public speaking, MCing and being a 'creative disruptor'.
Photos: Ruby Olive