7x21 - Sophie Flavell
7x21 explores life at 21 with 7 young wāhine and irarere. Here's the incredible Sophie Flavell!
Tell us about your childhood.
I didn’t feel beautiful when I was younger. At school I had my small group of friends, I eventually found them and they liked me for me. But, I used to get bullied. I did a lot of sports and people would talk about what I used to wear. The girls used to say they didn’t like that I was a tomboy. I was so dedicated to school and had this mindsight that the only boyfriend I had in my life was education. I used to preach that. I knew what type of job I wanted to do when I was nine.
Have you ended up doing that job?
I’m not there yet. I did go to university after I graduated but I needed to help out to pay for stuff for mum and dad, so I dropped out and went into work and helped support with whatever they needed, food etc. I paid for my sisters 21st.
I went through a tough family situation right before school exams. I had multiple panic attacks and was diagnosed with mild to severe anxiety. Then I picked myself up and got to a point where I felt OK, 18 going into 19. I wanted to put myself out there and be more social. But I got into an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship. It was my first one. It was OK at the beginning, they don’t start to show how they truly are until later. Getting out of that was scary, he wouldn’t take no. Eventually, he left me alone, but my anxiety came back.
How are things now, at 21?
I have my job now. Thinking about it, I really did go through a lot before I got to 21. After that hard year, I worked on myself until I met my partner - at work. My mum thinks of my current boyfriend as my actual first relationship.
You came out at 18, last year of school, is that right?
In my final year, we did a paper on being queer. I was the only queer kid in my class and when we were discussing it, there were all these nasty comments about what they thought. Our teacher said, ‘there might be a queer person in this classroom and they're listening to you right now and all the horrible things you are saying’. He put it into perspective. One queer kid against 15 others. It didn’t help I went to a Catholic school. That one essay, it changed everybody’s perspective. They seemed to accept it. My teacher was setting me up so that when I did come out, I had more support.
You moved to the outback of Australia as a teen, how was that at such an impressionable age?
I was angry at my mum. I would swear and get into trouble. My mum was like, ‘you’re doing sports’. There was hockey, Australian football league and netball. I decided to do all three. That’s what absolutely helped me. I started learning about discipline. I realised the anger was not getting me anywhere, and I needed to find better and healthy ways to deal with it.
Do you have sports in your life now?
Not at the moment. My job is so laborious, we start 1.30am and finish at 10am. It’s starting to take a toll on me, I need to get into shape again. Being in a relationship where it’s healthy and he respects me, I enjoy everything we do together. My sister said, ‘you’ve put on some happy weight’. I don’t care and he doesn’t care. We have our own place, trying to be adults at 21.
What’s been hard about becoming an adult – or being 21?
When I decided to move out with my partner, finding a house was just ridiculous. As we had never rented a house, nobody wanted first-home renters, we had no references. We were lucky one of my dad’s clients wanted to rent out his house. Even doing the paperwork, you doubt yourself that you’ll fill out the form properly. I wish school taught a bit of that. Learning how to do your IRD. Knowing what tax code you put in and making sure it’s correct. You want to be independent but you don’t have the basic tools to be. You have to learn fast.
If you picture yourself at, say 25, what does that look like?
I’ll be more comfortable with myself, more grounded. When I make choices I’m very indecisive. I think, in my future, I will know what choice to make. I will know what I want and achieve it. I think I’ll feel content with my life.
I hope by then I will have finished my degree and started my career as a physiotherapist. I’ve had a weird obsession with bones and muscles. Even my teachers said I should do something with anatomy. After that, I would like to study more sports science. I really love sports and the endless diversity and how every little bit is all connected. My partner is sick of hearing me talk about how I want to go back to school. So I’m looking at going back this year.
If you could wish for one thing to change in Aotearoa what would it be ?
I have noticed there is a lot of anger and hate and I wish people were more open to others and their ideas. And that we didn’t have labels. We are all human beings. Don’t be mean about colour and gender. It’s plain and simple.
What’s one word or term to sum up how you feel about the future?
It’s not excited. And not hungry. I guess hopeful. I’m hopeful I will do what I plan and feel grounded and content. There’s excitement about where I’m going in life. We all need to give ourselves a little bit of kindness. If you can’t hear it from others, you can take it from yourself.