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Advice to my 22 year old self: Justine Smith

Justine Smith, photo supplied
Justine Smith, photo supplied
Justine Smith, photo supplied
What Jussie doesn’t know about being twenty two isn’t worth knowing


Actually, it’s a dodgy start to this column everybody because frankly the 22 year old Justine I remember really wasn’t that keen on advice from others, especially her future self. Still, here goes.

At 22, I was footloose and fancy free, and by that I mean I had no idea what I was up to. That’s not to say I wasn’t having a great time; I was. I was fresh out of art school, working a part time job in hospo.

My first piece of advice to 22 Jussie? Don’t try to prove you are as good as the boys by lifting 50kg kegs of beer. They are stronger than you are, and I think my lower back is still paying for my feisty feminism in the chiller of the Globe Hotel.

For my second piece of advice, I looked at an old photo of me around that time to jog my memory. Jussie, do not wear so much Shiseido foundation that you look like a ghost in photos. YOUR SKIN IS AMAZING. It’s ironic that back then I used to pile it on when I didn’t need to. Now I’m in my late 30s ( 49) I just put my face back on every morning so I won’t scare kids at the mall.

I know it’s 1990 and that’s pretty exciting but you look ridiculous.

At 22 I was also in love for the first time. Uh oh.

Nothing compares to the first time your heart is broken and my third piece of advice would be to do exactly what I did when dumped by a tattooed dickhead: go and live in Japan. That’s what I did, and after a year of much sake and fun, I returned to Auckland triumphant in my moving on. Turns out actually I’d given myself some pretty good advice there. Probably a one off at 22 tbh.

At 22,though, I had been living in Auckland for about 4 years and was doing my best to shrug off what I then thought of as my boring and conservative upbringing in Christchurch.

I look back now, at almost 50, and I’m so grateful for the happy secure and pretty idyllic childhood I had there. But at 22, I was loving myself in the big smoke. Maybe I was a little too excited, and here is my next advice to me.

Don’t wear tie dye flares, blue lipstick and also don’t let your beautiful long hair grow into one kind of lumpy dreadlock. I know it’s 1990 and that’s pretty exciting but you look ridiculous. And are those dream catcher earrings? Get out.

There’s one more piece of advice for myself. In between having an absolute ball - the working in pubs, the great mates I made for life, the house parties, the concerts, the travelling, the boyfriends (nice and otherwise), the cats, the flats, the crazy hats - through all of it, I had a doubt. What was I up to? What was I good at? Where the hell was I heading?

The answer, 22 year old Justine, is that in about 4 years time, you will take a dare, go out on a cold winter’s evening and do a spot at Kitty O’Brian’s Comedy Night, and your life will change. You will realise that you can - in fact - make a living out of showing off. Well, you can show off: the making a living part comes way later.

But you will find your thing, your passion and your tribe. So chin up Jussie at 22. You won’t be drifting forever. The comedy ship is about to come and give you the ride of your life. And - just as life is now at 22 -  it’s going to be FUN.

Justine Smith performs as part of Toi Wāhine festival, running (mostly) at the Meteor Theatre, Hamilton, Aug 1 - 11.

Toi wahine extrordinaire Jussie picks up the mic at 8pm, Thursday, August 2nd.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

31 Jul 2018

The Big Idea Editor