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The Big Apple

26Written by Sabine Conolly – Country To Canberra Teen Blogger

Today I’m going to talk to you about the big apple.

Late one evening I was looking through my emails when I came across an invitation to apply for the United Nations Youth Assembly to be held in New York, February 2017. At first I thought, ‘ That sounds cool… but that’s the sort of thing that only special people get into.’ You know what I mean, the intelligent, worldly, all-knowing people who just seem way out of my league. However the more I thought about it, the more I wondered, ‘perhaps I can do this… maybe one small person can make a difference’. So I found myself taking the first step, writing an application and waiting on tenterhooks for a reply.

The city that never sleeps, the center of the universe, the big apple… All these descriptors encapsulated by three very powerful words… New. York. City.

As a small town girl who has grown up in Atherton since she was 3, I found that one of the biggest cities in the world was entirely overwhelming. This I reminisce fondly, as New York changed my life.

Only weeks ago I embarked on my second step as I bordered the plane for the land of Trump and found to my surprise that he was not the only one there! In fact, I did not find the big Orange anywhere in the Big Apple. You can imagine the little girl from the sticks, traveling 30 hours on a huge airplane, tucked up in her jeans and wondering how on earth it could be cold enough to warrant the coat she was clutching.

I was terrified.

There I was, going to this enormous city, filled with people I don’t know. And then I had to go to the United Nations and try to sound intelligent! Honestly, I was shaking in my boots. However, three long plane rides later I had touched down in JFK, my mind frozen, simply stunned by the view. The world appeared different.

Buildings as tall as the sky rose from all around me. Lights blazed on every street corner, luring me into every shop or café… It was like a drug; once you started you could never go back. This wholly ordinary girl was in the city of dreams. It wasn’t long before I fell into step with the city. It was extremely cold (for me anyway!) and everything was open past 7pm on a weekday. Interesting thought to grasp, I know. I visited the Statute of Liberty, The New York Public Library the Empire State Building… and soon enough the prestigious, the all-exciting (yet bewildering) assembly was starting.

So, on that frosty morning in February, I made my way to the headquarters of the United Nations.

Another giant step in my journey.

I made friends with people from China, England, America, The Philippines, Nigeria, and Germany to name a few. What a mind-blowing experience! To meet and talk to people who are fluent in three languages, who live in countries of extreme poverty or war on their front doorstep. People who have a completely different view of the world, to my own slightly sheltered one. I spent three days in conference rooms and in the general assembly hall, forging relationships with as many people as possible.

However, not long into the assembly I realised that there was much about the world and my fellow human beings that I don’t know.

For example, it was such a shock for me to hear someone say where he or she is from and have to admit I’ve never heard of that place before.

This experience has really made me think. What do I even know about the world? Am I as all knowing or intelligent as I like to think I am? Am I as ignorant as those I mock?

It’s an incredibly frightening thing, as the youth of today are tomorrow’s leaders. But how can we be leaders if we don’t even know what our neighbour’s are dealing with? What kind of nation are we, if we are only thinking about ourselves? This was a major learning curve for me as it took me back a few steps and really made me think. We all hear about countries like Madagascar or South Sudan, some of the poorest countries in the world. Or even places like the Congo, which is war-ridden and terrifying to live in. But do we, first world people, really understand? Put yourself in their shoes… Look into the eyes of the malnourished girl who hasn’t had a drink of water all day, a drink of clean water for months… Do you see her pleading eyes?

We can help. And we should. The youth of today, that’s you and me, we aren’t here to sit around on our social media… We are here to change the world. We are here to stand up for what we believe in and fight for it. It is time to make a difference.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So come on this journey with me, let’s take the first step together.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

IMG_0007 (2)Written by Hannah Worsley – Country To Canberra Teen Blogger

It’s International Women’s Day today!

Whether you’ve been counting down the days until your sneaky feminist-themed t-shirt matches the occasion, or you only discovered that it existed because Facebook made a profile picture filter, we can all agree that today is important.

Last year on ‘International Day of the Girl Child’ I decided to do a bit of a shout-out and find out what days like this mean to people of all ages, genders, nationalities, and political opinions.  I thought today would be a great day to share some of those responses.

“Days like today show girls that they can do anything they want without worrying about being ridiculed because it’s not “feminine” and “unladylike”.” – Female 19yo

“Our future rests on the girls of the world – let them know how important they are.” – Female, 18yo

“To me, today is about advocacy, empowerment, and passion-good for everyone, not just girls, and important for everyone, ESPECIALLY girls.” – Male, 24yo

“Inclusivity of LGBTIQ women in the feminist movement.” – Female, 63yo

“I want to wear my bikini; my friend wants to wear her burkini. Come on people, we both get criticised? #girlpower” – Female, 20yo

“I want my wife and daughters to feel safe everywhere they go, and I want other people to have that too.” – Male, 38yo

“I want my little sister to be able to play rugby!” – Male, 16yo

“In my country, the hijab is compulsory. I like wearing mine, my sister does not. Today is all about letting us decide things for ourselves, because WE ARE PEOPLE TOO! Women are powerful, smart, and strong, and we do not need decisions made for us.” – Female, 21yo

“Celebrating the diverse female excellence which flourishes from equal opportunity and education! Also celebrating freedom of expression of self: art, lit, sexuality, gender and opinion.” – Female 18yo

“It’s important to have International Day of the Girl as separate to International Women’s Day to recognise that while issues of gender inequality such as access to education, opportunity and disproportionate levels of sexual assault are global issues, those who are caught up in these struggles and even crisis are simply girls. Children who fundamentally want to play and be carefree just the same as boys. I think international day of the girl really humanises what the fight for gender equality is about – our kickass younger sisters.” – Female, 18yo

“Today to me is the silent stoicism of girls across the world who stay strong and steadfast in their beliefs, even when the loudest voice seems to be Trump’s sexism. They’re our true future leaders and change makers.” – Female, 18yo

This week I watched as eight boys, and just two girls got elected to my college’s leadership team. We need more female representation.” – Female, 19yo

“The Matildas earning nothing. I like soccer and they like soccer but I would get paid more just because I’m a guy. And put it this way-I wouldn’t want to play a game against them!” – Male, 17yo

“Holding our universities to account over their hopeless handling of sexual assault. Gender-related issues need to be taken seriously, from the ‘boys clubs’ that exist within colleges, to the rapes that occur on campus. Start treating this issue seriously! – Female, 19yo

“Honestly I hadn’t heard of it until it was on facebook today, but I recognise the importance of its aims regarding empowerment.” – Female, 19yo

“Today is important to me because it affirms me that no matter how much discrimination I may face, people are there to support me.” – Female, 19yo

“I know people will disagree with this but the way we treat Kim K for literally everything is not cool. Sex tape, who she marries, her children, her professional life, and even when she’s the victim of a crime. Today is about not dragging women through the mud for decisions they are totally entitled to make??” – Female, 23yo

” I would say today is important because it’s a reminder of how far we still have to go for gender equality! Even though women have made leaps and bounds in the past century, there are still so many girls and women worldwide who don’t have the opportunities I do as a woman in a first-world country.” – Female, 20yo

“Anything that helps to bring gender equality closer, and starts conversations about the issues that women and girls face around the world, has to be a good thing” – Male, 18yo

“I need International Women’s day because as an American woman, it’s my way to empower others to make a change, and to show that we’re stronger and mightier than the comments being made within our political system at present.” – Female, 21yo

Of all the blog posts I’ve written/been a part of writing, this is the one where I’ve written the least, yet been able to say the most. To me, International Women’s Day is exactly what these comments indicate-empowerment of women, encouragement for all those fighting gender inequality, and acknowledgement of the issue of gender discrimination.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

The importance of Gal Pals

image-169x300Written by Louise Miolin – Country To Canberra Teen Blogger

I like to to think that I possess a variety of positive traits.

I can analyse novels really well, roll my tongue into a clover, speak in front of crowds…but I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to coordination and athleticism, I’m severely lacking. Hence why a hike on the Bibbulmun track in our beautiful south west a few weeks ago lead to a fantastic stack and a badly rolled ankle on my part. After laughing, then panicking at my swelling foot, my best friend of twelve years piggybacked me up and down a kilometre’s worth of sand dunes until we reached a campsite. Our mothers watched on with a mix of concern, admiration, and some laughter – it was quite the sight.

A tennis ball sized ankle and a sleepless night ensued, leaving me plenty of time to feel sorry for myself. However, despite mosquito bitten legs, a throbbing ankle and a sad lack of bedding, my mental state was far from sorry. Instead, I was filled with overwhelming appreciation for the woman rustling around in the sleeping bag next to me; in the dark I thought of our twelve years of friendship, and it brought me to reflect on the power and importance of female friendships.

In todays fast paced, often narcissistic and patriarchal society, I believe it is impossible to underestimate the impact that women can have on other women.

Too often in media and popular culture, female friendships are defined as shallow, gossipy and orientated towards the male gaze. Internalised misogyny can lead us to unknowingly treat other women with hostility, as if they are our competition rather than our comrades. This hostility manifests in the sphere of social media, where young women in particular are urged to ‘compete’ for likes and attention, and where jealousy and judgement are all too easy to give in to.

Empowerment comes when we refuse to accept these problematic ways of thinking and feeling.

Really, we should be appreciating our fellow women and celebrating our similarities as well as our differences.

We should build each other  up rather than tear each other down, and we should bask in the empowerment that female friendships can offer.

So this post is just a little shout to all the wonderful women in my life.

To my new college neighbour who made me ginger tea when I woke up sick on my 18th birthday, having just moved out of home.

To the old family friend who gives me clothes and tea wisdom.

To every woman who lends a hair lacky or a kind word.

And of course to my best mate who carries me up literal and metaphorical hills.

So next time you see female relationships represented as bitchy and meaningless in a movie, consider how problematic that representation is. Make an effort to support the women in your life, and to appreciate their support for you.

In a world where we can often feel bombarded by that pesky patriarchy, positive female friendships have an uncanny kind of power. That is certainly something to celebrate.

March into Yellow

Michelle Monaghan PhotoWritten by Michelle Monaghan – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

It’s the month of March already – the year is flying by!

Women have so much to celebrate this month with International Women’s Day, but for some women in particular, March is a chance to spread awareness about something much more serious and quite sad.

March is the month for ‘March Into Yellow’, a month to spread awareness of a common disease and show support for sufferers by wearing the colour yellow.

This disease effects 10 percent of women and can even appear in women as young as teenagers.

It’s called: Endometriosis.

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Unfortunately, Endometriosis has no cure and only various medical treatments to try and make the pain more bearable to live with. Not only that, this disease can cause infertility, making it difficult for women to become pregnant which is often heartbreaking.

It is difficult to believe that we hear so little about Endometriosis and what it does to women.

I myself had never heard of the disease before. Why is it not more well known?

I can’t find the answer to that question, but I’ll tell you why it’s just as important to spread awareness and get involved in ‘March Into Yellow’:

Endometriosis;

  • causes pain and infertility
  • women of all ages can suffer 
  • diagnosis is made through laparoscopy and a biopsy (tissue sample) is taken
  • women can try a variety of medical treatments to alleviate the symptoms

This month, I’m encouraging women and men to wear an item of yellow for March and strike up a conversation about Endometriosis or try these other options:

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  • Go to the ‘March Into Yellow’ website and use their yellow photo filter for your Facebook Profile Picture for March
  • Volunteer as part of the team
  • Donate money towards research
  • Getting people or your workplace together to have a yellow multi day on the 10th March
  • Fundraise money
  • Be supportive and understanding of women who are diagnosed with this disease

Doing just one of these things can make a huge difference towards raising awareness and support for women suffering with Endometriosis.

Let’s make a goal this year to strive to make this disease well-known!

Let us spread the word so women across Australia can know about this very painful disease.

In March, let us band together and ‘March into Yellow’!

For more information, please take the time to check out these websites:

Endometriosis Australia

March Into Yellow

 

Cure for our daughters

blogger picWritten by Areej Hassan – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

The day my mum had to take the last oral assessment for her MBBS degree (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) was also the day she was set to be engaged.

When her male examiner found out about this, he was furious and ready to plaster an F on her results sheet.

You see, during my mum’s times, a woman getting married would mean her professional career or studies would come to a startling halt. She was supposed to settle down and completely take up domestic duties, without having a say in the matter. That examiner told her that her studies were a waste of money and resources that could’ve been used to make a male doctor instead.

“What’s the use of learning to use a stethoscope when all you’re going to do in life now is pop out babies and wander around within the four walls of a kitchen?”

Tears glistening in her eyes, which were already worn out because of an all-nighter study session, she swallowed her pride and took in all of the sharp remarks. After completing that hopeless exam, she returned home and cried buckets on the lap of her mother, just a few hours before she had her wedding make-up appointment. Tragically enough, my Grandma was helpless too. She understood what her daughter was going through too well, but was unable to do anything in the face of family and cultural traditions.

Regardless of her in-law’s slight disapproval of taking up a hospital residency after marriage, my mum persevered. Being the eldest daughter-in-law of the family, she had to shoulder a lot of responsibilities, looking after not only her own immediate family, but other relatives in the household as well. After my siblings were born, my mum completely gave up her job.

My mum’s situation wasn’t one of a kind. Many women who complete a challenging university degree in my home-country, Pakistan, are praised by people for their hard work, but have backs completely turned on them if they dare try to continue a career.

After a few years, my mum was finally able to get back into the world of medicine, but had to start all over again. Her senior doctors praised her for being a diamond in the rough, but were disappointed that she wasn’t able to continue her career earlier.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody work harder than my mum.

She would get up before sunrise, prepare food for us, go to work, come back at night and then study for her exams. She would often envy her girlfriends from medical school who were lucky enough to continue their jobs even after getting married. While she was restarting her profession, they had already established their own clinics.

Half a decade later, after blood, sweat and tears were shed; my mum was now the owner of three degrees from three different countries, becoming a sought-after GP like she had dreamt of. People around her often say that if she hadn’t taken a break, she would’ve been even more successful. While others ask her, how she even managed to come this far.

My mum just replies with: “It’s all part of being a woman.”

While telling her stories, mum remarked how lucky I am, not being born during her generation. Times have changed a lot now. My grandfather wouldn’t even imagine imposing the same values on me that he did on my mum. If that male examiner existed today, there is an 80% chance of him not blaming my mum, but the society that forced her hand.

Not all Pakistani girls are as fortunate as I am today. Toxic societal values are still taking a toll on them. We can’t be satisfied with the how gender roles exist today and need to actively campaign for female empowerment.

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However, it won’t hurt to take a little joy from the fact that less females now have to go through the adversities their mothers did.

 

2016 Power Trip Reflection: “An opportunity not to be missed”

IMG_0667Elise Toyer, 2016 Power Trip winner from Batemans Bay, NSW

The quote ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is especially relevant when it comes to reflecting on the amazing experience that was the 2016 power trip. Because no matter how eloquent (or not. . .) my words are, nothing can explain better how much this trip meant to me, than the enormous grin that never left my face.

I smiled my way through a jam-packed training day of yoga, leadership talks from the defence forces, TEDx speaking training and war memorial tours. I beamed as we met a plethora of influential women over breakfast, visited Canberra’s ABC studio, had lunch with politicians, saw the raucous that is question time and relaxed with a great movie screening. I didn’t stop grinning the whole trip home.

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Behind my smile I was opening my eyes to a side of Australia I’d never seen, the power house where decisions are made. This trip showed me that with dedication and passion the world truly is our oyster. Whilst I don’t think the impact of this trip has fully sunk in yet, I know that without a doubt that I would recommend it to everyone.

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If my smile couldn’t tell you it was worth it, then let my words tell you this.

The Country to Canberra Power Trip is an opportunity not to be missed.

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Women can rule!

Michelle Monaghan PhotoWritten by Michelle Monaghan – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

Today, I write about something extremely inspiring. She became Queen at the age of 25 in 1952 and now in 2017, at the age of 90, Queen Elizabeth is our longest reigning monarch.

Monday the 6th of February marked the day that Queen Elizabeth’s reign started 65 years ago, celebrating her Sapphire Jubilee. This remarkable event not only reminds us of how long she has reigned for, but that she is an incredible woman who continues to show the world just how strong a woman can be.

It all started from the moment her Uncle King Edward VIII abdicated as King in 1936, making her Father become King George VI. Now, the (then) Princess Elizabeth was first in line to the throne. She would be the first Queen since the death of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. This was a wondrous thing in itself as apart from Queen Victoria, there had only been two or three Queens in England’s lifetime.

However, Princess Elizabeth wasn’t to be the royal princess everyone expected.

She became a Girl Guide of the newly created 1st Buckingham Palace Company and was later enrolled as a Sea Ranger. These are not the ‘typical’ involvements for a princess but became a part of setting her course as an independent woman from the beginning. Princess Elizabeth would then go on to do something even more extraordinary! In the last year of WWII, the now 18 year old princess, trained and served as a driver and mechanic in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service.

WWII was an opportunity for women to come out and take jobs that men would normally do to support the ongoing war.  Princess Elizabeth took this opportunity wholeheartedly. It is even said that she spent months convincing her father to let her join up.

See how she wasn’t ‘FORCED’ to do it! She ‘WANTED’ to do it herself! She knew what she wanted to do for her country and she went for it! This highlights to us that if you want to do something badly, you’ll do it! Just as our Queen had done.

Sadly, in 1952 Queen Elizabeth’s Father King George VI passed away due to ill health. Elizabeth away on a tour of Kenya, Australia and New Zealand with her husband Prince Phillip, was now Queen. Queen Elizabeth is to be admired for her how she took on her new role as Queen, in the time of her Father’s death.

She didn’t just retire from public for a few months and grieve her Father’s loss! She went straight into the role that was expected of her, since she became heir to the throne. She wasn’t a weak woman who would leave everything to her councilors of men, or her husband, until she was ready to step out of mourning.  She would be the Queen and that is exactly what she did!

I personally know what the loss of a loved one feels like, as I’m sure many of you out there do too, so I think we can all relate to Queen Elizabeth. Having to be strong at a time where you really struggle to be, is hard. 

I could go on and on about the Queen’s endless achievements and things she has done, but it is as simple as this. She is a woman in a powerful position whose lifetime has been filled with glorious moments and not so glorious moments. We may not see it, but we as women can relate to her in so many ways, we just have to look a bit closer and see. We have our powerful positions, but in a different way and it can be anything! Just like the Queen, we have our good days and bad days. Even in her older age she gets ill from time to time and she continues on.

Congratulations to Queen Elizabeth on the celebration of her Sapphire Jubilee. May she continue to rule and be an inspirational and strong woman for many more years yet.

Powerful, confident and determined.

Mikah PhotoWritten by Mikah Appel – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

It’s not every day you get the privilege to be coached by Olympic gold medalists.

In 2016, after 35 years of providing a camp to boys across Australia, National Rugby Camp offered an overnight package to girls from around the country. It was held in the rural town of Armidale, in country New South Wales, a small town quite like my own. Being brought up in the sport of rugby, I imagined the camp would be a breeze.

However once I had arrived, being one of only thirteen girls surrounded by over 300 boys, was enough to make any girl want to jump in the car and drive twelve hours straight back home!

Having Olympians like Sharni Williams and Chloe Dalton at the camp was just a small step in helping to build the profile of women’s rugby, reducing the negative stigma surrounding women in male-dominated sports.  Their knowledge, presence, and athletic abilities had a major impact, not only on the small group of girls there, but on the 300 boys that attended too.

For many years, the stereotype that women were weak, delicate, and fragile has deterred many women from participating in male-dominated sports for fear of harassment and ridicule. However, the Australian women’s rugby 7’s win at the Olympics in 2016, helped highlight to girls, that anything men can do, women can do too, proving that we are NOT weak, fragile or delicate, but powerful, confident and determined.

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Australian rugby’s introduction of a National University Sevens Series which includes women, helps to fight stigmas like these, lessening the gender gap and providing more opportunities for females to show our power, determination, and confidence.

While the girls’ Olympic rugby seven’s gold medal was a major win for Australia, it was an even bigger victory for women’s sport.

What it means to ‘be yourself’

Our first Country to Canberra guest blogger for 2017 is the amazing Pamela Perre! She has written a terrific post about embracing all the different parts that make us women in today’s world.

Pamela began her full-time working life completing a year-long traineeship at Karlene Maywald’s Chaffey Electorate Office. She’s a born and bred Riverland girl, and studied journalism and literature at the University of South Australia and Deakin University. While studying, she worked as a journalist and the online editor for The Murray Pioneer for six years, before becoming the editor of The Loxton News in August of 2015. Earlier that year Pamela was awarded the SA Country Press Young Journalist of the Year Award.

Pamela PerreWhat it means to ‘be yourself’

Written by Pamela Perre

My favourite writer, Joss Whedon, once said: “Remember to always be yourself. Unless you suck.”

In one of his most inspirational speeches to date, he is also quoted as saying “… you are all going to die.”

Mr Whedon, ever the optimist.

I grew up loving the television show he created, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

It was the first thing I can remember watching where a lady kicked butt, but also cared if she broke a nail.

One of the many things from that show, which stuck with me as I reached my adult years, is that it was okay to be a strong woman, with hard morals, and a boss fly kick – it was okay to be all of that with glitter in your hair.

That it was okay to want to be a princess, with the big, butterfly-embroidered dress – it was okay to want that while pursuing a long, and fulfilling career in journalism.

Which is what I ended up doing, by the way.

My passion for storytelling, in any of its forms, led me to become a newspaper journalist (with secret ambitions to wear a big, chiffon dress, decorated with lace butterflies while I marry a prince – Harry I’m looking at you).

Over my seven-year career, I have won a few awards, helped launch a news website, and was promoted to editor of my newspaper.

To an outsider, reading through my list of achievements, I’ll appear to be a career-driven woman.

Yep, ‘career-driven woman’ – that’s probably the category some people might put me in.

Which isn’t a bad category, but it’s also not the whole truth.

We see thousands of people in passing all the time and, quite regularly (without even thinking about it), place each and every one of them in a category.

Hipster, goth, popular kid, gay girl, lawyer, nervous-wreck, model, straight, smart girl, hot guy, prince.

Why is it that we place everyone else into these little boxes?

I mean, you know that you don’t fit into only one category.

Humans are so much more interesting and have way more shades of grey than that.

Recognising who you are, all of who you are, is the first step to truly ‘being yourself’.  Recognising a power and success in others, is another step towards truly being comfortable with yourself.

Being true to yourself isn’t about being the best journalist in the world.

It’s about being the best journalist, and sister, and mother, and wood worker, and pilot, and princess you can be.

Being the best version of yourself means being best versions of all of yourselves.

The career and the opportunities and the achievements – that all comes after, because people recognise and reward sincerity.

Which brings me back to that second Joss Whedon quote, which is essentially a more grim version of ‘YOLO’.

Its message is not one of reckless abandon, but one of passion and drive.

A message to use your mortality to drive you, and inspire you, and surprise you at every step towards achieving your dreams.

Year Twelve Jitters

Rebecca Pickering

Written by Rebecca Pickering – Country to Canberra Teen Blogger

As the summer holidays drew to a close, I was forced to think about what my senior year would entail.

Year 12 is our final year to prove ourselves both academically and as leaders.  It is our last chance to have a set routine of learning from 9-3, our last chance to see our best friends every day and our last chance to have the stability of school before we enter the real world as adults.

Whilst year twelve will be a year of so many lasts, it will also be a year of so many memories, so many highs and lows, and such a big emotional roller coaster.

We are already a few weeks into the school year and formal dresses, dates, schoolies and after formal parties have been the dominant point of discussion, but not one single mention as to what we will be doing after school. Tensions have already begun to flare amongst fellow students, but as my school principal would say, “stress is good, it shows that you care”.

But how much stress is good?

Is it a level that consumes you to the point where you can’t even think straight without your mind going fuzzy and feeling like it has gone into overdrive?

This is the reality that a majority of my fellow year 12 students will unfortunately experience at some point throughout the year, and hence the reason why we are unable to look to the future for fear of failure.

What if we don’t get a good enough OP?

What if we don’t get into uni?

What if we don’t get a good job?

What if, maybe just once this year instead of fearing failure, we tell ourselves that we can do it?

We can get an amazing OP. We can get into uni and with flying colours. We can get an amazing job that we will love.

Maybe, just maybe, we can look to the future some time in our final year, eyes bright and chins high, and imagine all of the incredible things that this world is waiting for us to go out and do.