Dear Me - A letter to my 16 year old self
Hi Dan, it’s me, Dan. That is to say it’s not just me, but also you. Let me start again: I am the 32 year old version of you, writing you a letter from 2010 which you will receive in 1994.
Don’t ask me how it works, just accept the fact that it does, and that as soon as you’ve read this you will instantly forget it anyway, as I wouldn’t want to influence the life that you are going to lead.
Right now you’ll have just picked up your GCSE results. 2 B’s, 5 C’s and 2 D’s – pretty much as expected. Not that GCSEs are that important in the greater run of things. Hell, you can’t even remember which ones you took when you get to 32 (though you normally remember 7 or 8 of the 9).
What you SHOULD do is get yourself to uni. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what you want to do in life, you’ll get older and look back and wonder why you were so against the idea. Especially as all of your mates will go to uni, and – to a man – will end up with better paid jobs, even those who did crap degrees and got crap results.
Seeing as it’s 1994, you’ll have not long ago learnt about something called “the internet” and “electronic mail”. I remember you thinking that the latter sounded fantastic, and you wondered if it would ever catch on. Well, surprisingly, yes it did.
You’ll have your own email address in 3 years time, a few years before most of your mates, but by the early 2000s everyone pretty much has access to the internet, and email is one of the quickest ways to communicate. I could tell you about text messages, but one step at a time.
You’ve not got a mobile phone yet. I know that one-2-one are offering their “free evening and weekend calls” package, but let’s be honest, as much as you wanted one, you’d never have used it to any real extent. Again though, that’ll change. You will get a mobile – just a few months from now – but you’ll rarely use it, and the associated memories of buying the phone with your cousin, Jason, and his subsequent stealing of a fair amount of cash from you will mean that you’ll learn the hard way not to trust everyone so implicitly.
On the plus side, Jason will buy you your first drink in a pub, despite your protestations that you’re not really that interested, and though you won’t like the taste, you’ll get used to it, even going on to enjoy it. Hard to believe that anyone can enjoy it, given the amount of alcohol-induced-aftermath you’ve seen working at the pub.
You’ll try drugs too. Not just yet, but in about three years time. Peer pressure will get you to snort coke, and although you resist the temptation for years, eventually you give it a go, and it’s good. Fuck that, it’s great. So great that you vow not to touch it again. And you never do, at least not up to the point that you sit down to write this.
The people that co-erced you into trying it are no longer in contact with you. This is because they were work colleagues rather than friends, and although you’ll work with lots of different people, you will very rarely keep in contact with people when you stop working with them. You’ll find it hard keeping in contact with the people you do like, let alone those you can normally only tolerate.
Of the friends you know now, you are still in contact with Alan, Leon and Derek to certain extents. Your friendship with Alan has cooled the older you both get. You are very different people and although you get on, sometimes you don’t speak for weeks.
Although that’s fine, and something that seems to suit you both, you’ll end up feeling that although he’d probably do anything to help you, he won’t be a day to day friend. In fact, nothing will prepare you for the loneliness you will feel when everyone scatters to different universities around the country while you sit at home in your bedroom wondering what to do.
Sorry pal, there’s no way to say it other than just to say it straight: You’re a loner. Not always through choice, but you will go through life wanting people you can’t have, not wanting the people that want you and generally throwing up barriers and being difficult to know.
No-one will ever know the real you, not that there is much to tell (I could reveal you are a British spy, but alas it’d just be a lie), but more so because you do your best to keep people at arms length.
As I write this you are currently sat at work, bored out of your head. Your life is slow and dull and you are flirting with a married woman via the internet, even though you know that either nothing will ever happen between you, or if it does it’ll just lead to problems.
You know this because you’ve been there, done it and have the t-shirt. But it’s a lesson you acknowledge yet refuse to learn from. You also have a female best friend. Tasha. Beautiful, smart and is the first person that you’ve ever really connected with (even more so than your ex-wife. Yeah. Sorry about that too).
She’ll never sleep with you, but she’ll also never lead you on, so at least you know where you stand. In fact, you’ll reach the stage where you’re both happy enough to see each other semi naked and not find it strange, and you’ll even reach an apathy over anything sexual happening between you, rightly reasoning that it’d be a bad thing in the long term. That’s not to say you WOULDN’T do anything.
Despite wanting to hold out for someone decent to lose your virginity to, you will eventually get drunk at a party and get pounced on by someone you don’t really find attractive. At the same party you’ll fail to notice the attractive (married – see? Same old, same old) friend sidle up to you and give you the eye, and will instead lose your virginity in the flat of the unattractive girl’s friend. You’ll also fall asleep halfway through.
Sex doesn’t get any better for a while. A few months later you get drunk again, and the same thing happens, thankfully this time without the embarrassment of falling asleep halfway through. You’ve gotten a little classier by this stage, and rather than a dodgy pub in North London, you instead carry this out in a hotel in Blackpool, again with someone you’re not overly attracted to.
That doesn’t stop you having sex a second time in the morning though, so fair play to you. You’ll never quite remember the events that led up to being in bed with this woman, though as you come downstairs for breakfast you’ll get a round of applause for whatever it was you did, which no-one will ever tell you.
Relationships come and go, as do married women, and on one occasion the two will mix and end up leaving you bruised and hurt. You’ll bounce back though, and date two girls that you have been friends with. Neither relationship will end especially well, with accusations in one that you cheated (you didn’t. You never have, in fact.), and the second stuttering away to nothing.
Once the second one ends you will come to the conclusion that the previous year or so was fucked up, and you’ll vow to steer clear of girls and relationships for a while. And you do. For about six months or so.
The Millennium turns out to be a damp squib, and will cement your view that the best night out of that holiday season is always Christmas Eve as opposed to New Years Eve. That said, you’ll meet your future wife in the new Millennium, and your life will never be the same.
It ends with you getting hurt, but even if I could influence you now, my advice would be to go with the flow. You’ll fall in love, you’ll have kids (and all of a sudden, mum’s advice of “you’ll feel differently when you have kids of your own” every time something happens to a kid on the news will make sense) before marrying.
As I say, it ends badly, but not heartbreakingly so. In fact, you speak to your ex wife every day and even if you’re not great mates, you get on well.
Eventually you’ll leave your wife, which is for the best, but you’ll also move out of the house you share with your kids, and that is what breaks your heart. In fact, it sends you dangerously close to slipping back in to depression (I say “back”, yet I’ve conveniently skipped past detailing the first case of that.)
Of all of the people that you have around you, you choose instead to push people away. Everyone except Tasha, who you only met a couple of months before. Despite having spurned your advances (Going through a divorce, 4 kids, huge mortgage and no house of your own – I still can’t see why she didn’t grab you while she could (!) ), you migrate towards her and generally spend your spare time dossing about at hers doing very little. Don’t underestimate this.
The time you spend away from everything familiar – home, kids, family – and with the unfamiliar – Tasha, her town, her house – is time spent healing. You’ll spend a lot of time crying, but never in front of anyone. You’ll get a long overdue promotion at work as they seem completely blind to you falling apart at the seams, but you cope, and you get on with things and you survive. I’d like to say you’re a better person for the whole experience, but you’ll carry bitterness about certain things for a long time.
My advice, with regards to relationships, would be: Listen to your head. Take heed of what people are saying to you (fuck it, you can read this one as “don’t be so bloody trusting”), learn that the phrase “I love you, but I’m not in love with you” should result in action of some kind – you may love her, but it’s not enough. A cynical part of me also thinks you should cheat. If only because you could get away with it. Shame you’re too nice though.
Lastly, you’re not the drop dead gorgeous bloke that you (very occasionally) believe you are. You’re a nice bloke, but your quick wit tends to get you by more than anything else. You’re not unattractive, and you can punch above your weight, but you’re not good looking enough to be completely approachable, especially as you have a very “serious” face.
Embrace your wit – a quick mind will help you out of all kinds of scenarios in the future. Oh, and your hair? You haven’t got the genes that the rest of the males in the family seem to have. That big forehead only gets bigger, unfortunately. And finally, you know you just don’t get body piercing? … Ha!
So, in summary:
- You’ll never really know what you want to do with life. That’s not a bad thing, just a frustrating one.
- You’ll never be able to afford to buy a house, but you still manage it. In fact, you do remarkably well.
- You’ll never be rich. If anyone sums up “spending to their means”, it’s you.
- You’ll always suffer from tiredness. Believe it or not, a healthier diet will help, but won’t eliminate the drunk feeling you get when you’ve not had much sleep – and people will never, ever understand just how tired you get.
- Get out more. Visit museums. Look around you. Things change all the time, and it’s hard to remember how things used to be.
- Don’t avoid things because of embarrassment. You’ll never be the most confident person in the world, but you’ll be amazed how many people don ‘t realise this.
- Learn to talk to people. You’ll end up working in sales (yes, I know that at 16 this seems highly unlikely), and you’ll learn to sell to customers, but by Christ your social skills are crap. This is more due to apathy and laziness, but it used to be down to sheer social awkwardness.
- Learn that you don’t HAVE to eat an entire packet of biscuits just because the packet is open. In fact, stop buying chocolate and you won’t have to suffer it tempting you all the time.
- Get off the computer. Championship Manager is a great game, but will ultimately eat up weeks of your life with no net result.
- Learn an instrument. You get to the age of 32 and STILL wish you could play guitar.
- Remember the name “Google”. Buy shares. Thank me later.
There’s so much more that I could say, and so many more things you experience that I haven;t even mentioned, but I’m going to leave it there for now.
Keep your head up, mate. You have people that love you.
Your 32 year old future self.
Dan(This idea was taken from the book Dear Me - A letter to my 16 year old self - Link below)