The things I wish I knew in high school: my first talk

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It was my first time to give a talk to high school kids. This was probably one of the few nerve-wracking moments of my life. 

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Goody Philippines to give a talk to freshman students at the Immaculate Concepcion Academy. They wanted me to share my thoughts on self-esteem, personal hygiene and how to talk and act around boys. At first, I thought to myself, this should be fun, talking to a small class shouldn’t be nerve-wracking at all. I was completely fine, until they told me the talk was for the entire freshman batch of 250 students.

I was nervous. This was a huge responsibility. I was about to talk to an entire batch of freshman girls ages 12-14  about the very things I was terrible at when I was their age! I mean, surely no tween can be know it all and exude confidence at that age, but I remember that time to be very, very awkward for me. I kind of felt like a fraud for giving a talk to these kids when they probably knew more than I did at the time when I was their age.

But, of course, as I calmed down after a day or two I realized I was there to talk to these girls as me, at my current age and not Kelly, the tween. This was actually a good thing. I finally found an opportunity to talk to my teen self, but through these kids. So then I began to list down all the things I wanted my high school freshman self to know. Like if the audience were all awkward Kellys ages 12-14, what would I say to them?

I made a Powerpoint presentation, and later on a long and very detailed script. I wrote it a few days before the talk and edited it the entire night before the big day. I didn’t sleep! I took this quite seriously, and I hoped these girls could learn something important from this 90 minute talk I was about to give. Things I didn’t know back then that I wish someone told me.

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Self-esteem. This was one of the topics I discussed at length. I’m not sure if you can teach this, but I recall not having so much of it growing up. During my freshman year I was painfully thin, and really felt very self-conscious of my weight. While my classmates were cute, petite or curvy, I was bone-thin, payatot. I recently came across my old diary from this age and was so surprised and saddened to read how distressed and insecure I was of my body. I had forgotten how awkward and shy I felt back then, and how the littlest things were so big and important to me. If only I could hug the old me and tell her things will get better!

So I shared all this to the freshman girls at the talk. I told them about my trials and tribulations when I was their age—about how body conscious I was and how I let it affect my confidence. I told them about the anxieties I felt at that time, how I dealt with it back then and how I would deal with it right now. And surprisingly, they listened. I’m not sure if I was lucky to get such a well-behaved batch, but the girls listened to my stories. I couldn’t believe it. Since they all listened intently, I felt it wasn’t right to read from a script, so I spoke from the heart instead. It turned out so much better!

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Boys. This is a tricky subject, but it was able to stir the most interest. The girls were excitedly buzzing among themselves when I brought up the topic and when I spoke they listened intently. The school’s guidance councilor specifically requested that I share my two cents worth on how to act around boys. Of course, I was okay with this, but I was no expert. I simply shared what I thought were essential do’s and dont’s, based on my experience. My tips included: being true to yourself, listening, not hating on yourself or other girls to get attention, and being careful not to give off the wrong impression. Giving them scenarios worked, and elicited lots of questions after I was done. Of course, I told them these rules aren’t set in stone or found in books, but were based on my own observations.

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90 minutes went by fast. I was happily surprised with the way these girls treated me. (Haha no one threw paper at me!) They were so respectful, and a lot of them asked very intriguing questions after. Needless to say, it was a fun experience. I am very thankful to Jenna Sy of Goody for inviting me to do this talk. 🙂

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