Teenage Kicks: Finding Your People To Find Your Purpose In Life as a Teen

Maiden shows what a girl can do if just one person believes in her

Has your teenager dropped out of education? And if so, are you worried about their future prospects? I’m hoping that this episode will give you some comfort, and maybe a little bit of inspiration to help your child move forwards.

Tracy Edwards MBE is a sailor, author, motivational speaker, mature student and charity founder. Incredibly, all of these achievements came from a girl who was expelled from school when she was 15.

My conversation with Tracy on the podcast veered frequently towards the subject of finding your tribe, and I felt very strongly that once she found the people who accepted her for who she was, Tracy’s purpose in life became crystal clear to her. I’d like it if that were the same for all girls – and in fact all teeangers – as they make their way in life.

Who is Tracy Edwards MBE?

Tracy won international fame in 1990 as the skipper of the first all-female crew to sail around the world when they raced Maiden in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

She’s since headed up more incredible sailing projects, been through bankruptcy, and recovered to become a philanthropist. After selling Maiden, she found her again in 2017, restored her, and set up the Maiden Factor to promote and fundraise for the education of 130 million girls worldwide who don’t currently have education as a right.

Education isn’t over when you’re 18

As if all that wasn’t enough, Tracy has since done a degree in psychology – proving that you don’t have to follow a typical educational path to get the qualifications you want. She’s also the mum of a young adult, so she’s well versed in parenting a teenager .

We talked about how Tracy was the model child until her dad died when she was 10. Her mother’s remarriage to an alcoholic, abusive stepfather, and her subsequent move to a new home and school catapulted her into a lifestyle which ended with Tracy being expelled.

Finding your tribe and your purpose with Tracy Edwards MBE podcast episode


Tracy on finding your tribe

At the age of 16 Tracy set out backpacking in Europe, where she ended up working on a yacht in Greece. From there a quick succession of jobs led her into navigation, and a lifelong love of sailing.

Tracy emphasises that teenagers and young people are way more impressive than they think they are – watching herself on the Maiden film made her realise that she had been tenacious and strong at the time. Teens – you need to believe in yourselves while you’re still young. Don’t wait to look back on your life before you realise it.

Like so many of my podcast guests, the pivot point for Tracy was “finding her people.” As part of a yacht crew she fitted in, and the team around her believed in her. She says that was crucial to her motivation to change.

I also think that the message in Tracy’s talk is just never to give up on yourself. You’ll hear her say this of her journey from being a teenager headed for a prison sentence, to a world record-breaking team leader:

“I was such a screw-up, and I did Maiden. And that’s the message.”


Advice for teenagers who need direction

  1. Believe in yourself
  2. Don’t be a bystander in your own life – take control and make your life happen for you
  3. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you can’t do something. As Tracy’s mum told her, just make the first change that needs to be made. It will lead to the next change, then the next, until you are achieving your dreams.

On protecting teen mental health

Tracy now talks openly about her nervous breakdown, and how difficult that was because she didn’t ask for help. Her message for young people everywhere is that there is no shame in mental health struggles. We all go through times of emotional stress, and that’s not always manageable on our own. So ASK FOR HELP!

On the importance of girls’ education

Tracy is quoted as saying that ages 15-18 give you your life opportunities, and how important it is that girls in particular stay in education for those years. As well as the lack of access to education in developing countries, the UK and USA have big drop-out rates from schools in this age group, which surprised me.

You will hear when you listen how hugely passionate Tracy is about about girls and young women, their mental health, their education and the effect that has on whole communities and society. She talks about how women work better in a democracy, and for her, female friends are the most important friends women will ever make.

Listen to the podcast:

You can find the episode in your usual podcast app, or if you prefer, you can listen online below, or through the podcast page.

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Why today’s teenagers rock

Tracy and I agreed (quite vehemently, as you’ll hear) about how inspiring teenagers and young people are right now. Tracy mentions the work of Greta Thunberg, Emma González and Vanessa Nakate, all young activists changing the way world leaders think. And we discussed how important it is that our young people debate with us and educate the older generation on the future of our world.

Where to find Tracy


Subscribe to the Teenage Kicks podcast

Thank you so much for listening! Subscribe now to the Teenage Kicks podcast to hear about the new series when it begins. I’ll be talking to some fabulous guests about difficult things that happened to them as teenagers – including losing a parent, being hospitalised with mental health problems, and battling an eating disorder – and how they overcame things to move on with their lives.

I’d love to hear from you if you have any suggestions for future topics on the Teenage Kicks podcast. Contact me here, or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @iamhelenwills. I appreciate every message, and love to hear from my listeners.

I’d love it if you’d rate and review the podcast on iTunes too – it would really help other people to find it.

For information on your data privacy please visit Zencastr. Please note that I am not a medical expert, and nothing in this blog or in the podcast should be taken as medical advice.

Join me in the Teenage Kicks Facebook group!

If you’re a parent of teens it can be difficult to know where to go for advice, to vent, or just to talk. So I’ve made the Teenage Kicks Facebook group, for all parents of teenagers to chat in a safe space. It’s a private group and everyone in there will be a parent of teenagers.

And if you’re stuck for how to engage with your teenager, this list of things for teens to do might be helpful.

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