Monthly Archives: November 2015

“What advice do you have for us for Schoolies Week?”

Isn’t that a great question? A SMART QUESTION.  Yesterday I was speaking to the Class of 2015 at Somerville House. So it was me and a room of 200 teenage girls and we were talking about life – the importance of resilience, how perfection is over-rated, why it’s a good idea to come up with your own definition of what “success” looks like and the value of giving back to the community.

When I opened it up to questions, one student asked me for advice about Schoolies Week.

I get the appeal of Schoolies Week. I mean, I WENT to Schoolies Week back in 1989 (of course, I left after 3 days because I hated it but that’s not the point …).

AMAThe point is, it’s perfectly understandable that students want to celebrate the formal end of their schooling life. Remember what it felt like to walk out of those gates for the last time?   And the vast majority of students go to Schoolies Week, have a great time and return home  safe and sound.

But … I was asked for some advice, so here is what I said to the students yesterday. Keep in mind, this advice is for both males and females …

Don’t behave like a predator.  Whether you’re male or female – it’s never okay to behave like a predator. Taking advantage of someone in a vulnerable state (whether that’s taking advantage of someone who’s drunk or under the influence or taking photos of someone when they are hammered or passed out) is NEVER OKAY. Consent is key. If someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, if they are asleep (or passed out), if they are in a situation where they feel threatened or there is a power imbalance – then they are unable to give their consent. If you take advantage of someone who is vulnerable you’ll either be breaking the law or behaving like someone who is, you know, MORALLY BANKRUPT.

Trust your instincts.  The world is busy and loud and it can be hard to tune into your gut instinct sometimes. But we’ve all had those moments when we’ve been introduced to someone new and every fibre of our being has been creeped out.  Whether you’re at a crowded party or walking somewhere alone – if your mind starts waving big red flags at you then trust those instincts. If something doesn’t feel right – it probably isn’t. If you get a bad vibe from a person or a situation – get the hell out of there. What if you’re wrong? WHO CARES? It’s always, always better to be safe than sorry.

Understand the impact drugs and alcohol have on your judgement.  Whether you’re male or female, when you’re drunk or under the influence of drugs, your gut instinct is at an all time low. When you’re drunk or high, you trust people you wouldn’t usually trust, you agree to things you wouldn’t usually agree to, you go places you wouldn’t usually go. So stick with your friends, keep an eye on each other and agree that NOBODY gets left behind.


Ask for help.  If at any time you’re feeling overwhelmed, worried or anxious about anything – ask for help. Ring an adult you trust, call the local police station or (depending on where you are) contact a Red Frog or Schoolies Week volunteer.


“I’m ugly. So how will I ever get a boyfriend?” [extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)]

Define ‘ugly’ for me.

Ugly in what way? Because let me tell you what ugly means to me. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is racist or homophobic or sexist. ‘Ugly’ is the person who belittles others to make themselves feel better. ‘Ugly’ is someone who is disloyal and unkind. ‘Ugly’ is the person who is verbally or physically abusive to others.

But I don’t think that’s what you’re talking about.

You’re calling yourself ugly because you have too many moles or sticking-out ears or chubby thighs. You think you’re ugly because you hate your stupid flat hair or your boobs which are too small (or too big).

Darling heart, that’s not ugly. We all have things we dislike about ourselves – even supermodels like Megan Gale and actors like Jennifer Lawrence. ‘Beauty’ is subjective. So often it is our physical flaws which make us unique.

Life is about learning to love what you’ve got. And it’s about putting your best self forward. If you’re feeling like one big hot mess (and everybody does at least once a week!), there’s nothing wrong with reading up on how to dress to suit your body shape or talking to a hairdresser to get a haircut that beautifully frames your face.

AMABut it’s not your face or your cute skirt or your haircut or a thigh-gap that someone falls in love with. It’s your spirit, your personality, your talent. It’s the way you really listen when people talk. It’s your ability to see the good in others. It’s your glass half-full attitude. It’s the way you always nail the art and culture questions when you play Trivial Pursuit. It’s your kindness, your patience, your famous lip-smacking chocolate cake. It’s your joy, your compassion, your empathy. It’s the way other people FEEL when they’re around you. It’s the delight you take in laughing at yourself. It’s your passion for human rights or saving the orangutans or student politics or all of the above. It’s your magnetic confidence when you walk into a room with a smile that says you know who you are.

You’re ugly? No, you are not.

And the boyfriend will come. Give it time. Wait for the person who notices the quirky things about you that make you special. Wait for the person whose eyes light up when they see you. That person who truly loves you will arrive. There is a lid for every jam jar, as my friend’s grandma used to say.

PS You don’t ‘get’ a boyfriend. YOU get to CHOOSE that certain someone. If you wanted a boyfriend (or girlfriend) that badly you could have one by now – you and I both know that. You could just nod your head at the next desperate teenage boy who walks by. But I think you’re talking about someone special.

PPS Maybe you’re not quite ready for a boyfriend yet, anyway? Because if you can’t appreciate how awesome and magical and beautiful YOU are – then how can someone else see it? Fall in love with yourself first, and that will give permission for others to follow your lead and fall in love with you, too.

Extract from Ask Me Anything (heartfelt answers to 65 anonymous questions from teenage girls)” by Rebecca Sparrow, University of Queensland Press.