The things I learned from 13 year olds

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by St. Mary’s College, Derry to come to their school during Global Entrepreneurship week and talk to year 9 students about myself. As you can imagine, I was feeling a mixture of emotions which included genuine shock and horror of what they would think of me, and why would they want to hear me ramble on for an hour?

I think that’s what our problem is, many of us are so over whelmed with self-doubt that we don’t enjoy things that push us out of our comfort zone. I pondered over the e-mail for around an hour before just impulsively replying saying ‘yes, ill do it!’. At the time I didn’t know if my impulse answer was a blessing or a curse.

The entire journey up to Derry I felt ill. I wanted to e-mail the school and tell them I’d accidently ditched my car, or fell off the face of a cliff through no fault of my own, but I’m too scared of karma/ going to hell so I thought, ‘better not’.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I survived the journey, and arrived at the school – which by the way is stunning! And wandered on in introducing myself to the receptionist, who pretended to know who I was, but actually had no idea what I was doing there. I was met by Claire who had been emailing me throughout the weeks previous to this day and she guided me to an assembly hall closed off by two solid doors. She opened the door and 100 odd tiny faces turned to look at me.

I handed over my USB to the technician guy and the teacher at the time introduced me as ‘young entrepreneur Olivia McVeigh’. At the sound of my own name I was near sick all over their tired looking heads, but you’ll be glad to know I wasn’t.

I began my talk and I chatted to them about how, I was only a makeup artist, I didn’t start an app or invent a machine that washes your ma’s windows. But I make a living for myself using my own two hands. I proceeded through my talk, telling them about my school life, chatting about how terrible UCAS is and how scary it was starting university on your own. I told them about how I promoted my business through social media, like every other john, dick and harry online and the dangers of our social media lives today. I finally got to the part where I had inserted an ‘activity’ as a contingency plan in the case I forgot all my words and would have time to gather my thoughts.

I walked off the stage and went down to chat to the girls sitting in front of me, they told me they were only 13 and they all wanted to be makeup artists like me. I told them that I was nervous to come and talk to them this morning and they said “why? Sure its only us?” which I had a good laugh at. I found it hilarious that they put me at ease just like that, and this whole time I had nothing to worry about. I asked them did I bore them too much and their reply was “we get out of class for an hour to listen to you talking about makeup, we’re loving life” which I also had a good laugh at. Their ideas were so simple, that I wished I could go back to their age.

At the end of my talk I asked them did they have any questions for me, I was shocked at how creative their little minds were, and how brave they were to ask out in a big crowd. I answered questions about how I dealt with stress, hate and people judging what  do. A young girl also asked did I know her cousin as he also lived in Tyrone, which I also thought was funny.

However, what shocked me the most about these young girls was when asked would any of them want to start their own business, the whole room of students put up their hands. I was amazed at how far we’ve come from when I was back in year 9, granted it might not be that long ago, but if someone had asked my year group that question, I’m not completely sure how many of us would have answered. These girls were so motivated to learn and better themselves, and it was so inspiring!

When I arrived home later that day I was surprisingly inundated with messages from the students, telling me about their experiences and thanking me for coming to talk to them. I found it shocking (in a good way) that they felt they were able to chat to me and tell me about how they felt online, which I suppose shows one of the advantages to our socially connected online lives in this day and age.

What I learned from these group of girls was that, they are braved than I ever was at that age, and maybe even now, they were brave enough to admit they were scared, yet brave enough to say they would still take the jump and become their own bosses, which I’m all for!

Olivia McVeigh is a Final Year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Instagram – @oliviamcveigh_ ; Linkedin – Olivia McVeigh ; WordPress – ; Twitter – @McveighOlivia