If I could give my younger self any advice, it would go something like this:
“Dear Little SJ,
You know all those stories you want to write, and all those words you want to string together into pretty little necklaces of imagination? Yes? Well, I just want to ask one thing. What are you waiting for? Do you think the words are going to spontaneously arrange themselves onto the page, astounding passersby and setting off fireworks to announce their own fabulousness? No. They need you to bring them to life. So, go and do it.
Also, you know all those hours you spend standing in front of the bathroom mirror hating everything you see? Give that up, for a load of reasons, but mainly these: you are so much lovelier than you think you are, and you will meet a man, eventually, who thinks you’re so beautiful that he’ll tell you every day how much he loves you. Yes – every day. Can you imagine it?
Learn how to take compliments.
Now, look around at all your friends. Do you see them, standing around the lockers at school, having a laugh? Treasure these people. Twenty years from now, they will still be in your life, and you will love them just as much as you do now, and they will be just as important to you. You will all have things to go through in life for which you’ll need one another’s support. There are things facing you that you won’t have a hope of getting through without these guys on your side. So, look after your friends.
Find a sport, and start doing it. Seriously. I know you think your P.E. teacher is a demon sent from hell to torment you, and you’d much rather be reading a book, but trust me. Your creaking joints and wobbly bits from the future are imploring you to do some exercise now, when you’re still young enough for it to become a habit and make a difference.
You don’t really need me to tell you to take care of your family, and to try to behave like less of a hormonal Hulkette at home – but I’ll do it anyway. ‘Take care of your family. Stop behaving like a hormonal Hulkette. They love you, you love them – end of story.’
Don’t feel weird for liking to read, enjoying the books and music you enjoy, or watching movies that nobody else watches. Later in your life, your tastes in books, movies and most especially music will help you to make friends, convince people you’re cool, and even (almost) allow you to impress a boy. But don’t hold your breath on that one.
Also, you are cool. Trust me.
Oh, and speaking of boys – that guy you like right now? Forget about it. And the one after him, the one after him, the one after him, and the one after him. After that, you’ll start getting it right. More or less. Here’s a shortcut: go for the boys who are kind, considerate, funny and sweet, and who are brave enough to show you that they like you. Don’t go for the hipster types who pepper their conversation with Neil Young lyrics and whose guitar cases have the Woodstock logo painted on in Tipp-Ex. I know why you keep falling into the same trap, but just trust me, and let me save you from years of heartache. All right?
Spend more time with your grandmother. In fact, go and pay her a visit right this minute. When she goes, the pain of it will be so huge that it will leave a crater in your life. Treasure her now, while you can.
Try to take it easy on yourself. Don’t spend years beating yourself up for mistakes you’re going to make; don’t allow yourself to be spoken to in ways you don’t like; don’t allow anyone to make little of you. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you deserve to be treated like this, because it’ll take years to get out of that mindset. Don’t worry when your life falls apart in the last semester of your last year at university – it’ll suck, but you’ll be fine.
Enjoy your PhD studies. Remind yourself every day that you’re doing a PhD, and how absurdly cool that is. Remind yourself how much of an achievement it is. Be proud of it. It will go by so fast that soon, it’ll feel like you didn’t do it at all. And that’ll be a shame.
There are people who’ll come, and people who’ll go, and it will hurt. But your life will carry on and things will work out better than you could have dreamed. Don’t get too attached to things and places; there are people, too, who you’d be better off not getting too emotionally dependent on. You will lose more friends than you will gain over the course of your life, and you will feel like it’s the end of the world every time someone walks out of your circle. It’s not. The ones who are important will always find their way back.
You are a slightly socially awkward person, and you have no balance, and you’re never sure what to say in any given moment. This isn’t going to change. Learn to embrace it. Eventually, people will start thinking it’s endearing instead of ridiculous.
And, overall? You’re okay, little S.J. You’re okay.
With all my love (because, did you realise, it’s not big-headed or weird to show yourself some love once in a while. Did you know that?)
That is so lovely I have shining eyes.
Happy weekend, babes. 🙂 xx
Great post, Sinéad. By the end of that letter, I’d started to well up. It makes me wonder what I’d tell my younger self? Hmmm…
Dear Little Kate,
You are in control of your life. It’s in your power to change it.
That’s a good message to tell yourself, too. If only we could know all this stuff when we’re going through our teenage years, eh?
I love this blog entry, it’s so evocative. I wonder could you make some sort of short story out of it? I have written a few flash pieces about regrets and looking back.
I’d blog my own version but I’m just procrastinating writing…back to The File…
I hope you’re remembering to take some relaxation time, too? I don’t want you to be writing a ‘regrets’ blog about how you forgot how to live and enjoy your life during the writing of your first novel…
Thanks for the comment, and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. As for a short story – there’s an idea. *ponders*
Life? Life? Can you remind me what that is again? 🙂
(You have a point. I guess for me there is only room for a few things. My job, my personal life, the novel. And no. 1 of that list takes up by far the most room.)
Well, it should (ideally) be the bit that takes up the least room! You’re not going to get to the end of your life wishing you’d worked more, etc., etc…
But I know how hard it is to remember that. Good luck with everything. 🙂
If you don’t mind a little cheek…one teeney little correction: you signed your name wrong; you forgot the suffix -er on your first name. (That is, Old-er, not Old) As a regular reader of your blog I can observe that this time is, for you, not just a period in which you practice your craft but is also a time in which you are exploring the boundaries of it. The doctorate, for example was not an endpoint for professional growth, but another among many significant milestones that lie before you. Me–I’m looking forward to what Old-er-yet SJ will have to say about now twenty years hence :>)
Oh, and make no mistake, I, too was moved by this entry.
Thanks, Maurice! Let’s hope, twenty years hence, I’ll still have things to learn and crafts to hone. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Old-er S.J. 😉
Oh, I want to cry. This is wonderful.
*shy* Thank you, Janet. That means a lot, coming from you! 🙂
Love the post, it speaks to what we all feel about growing up when looking back.
I have been having quite a few conversations with little Rand. I try and make them two way conversations, some are of the “what the heck were you thinking?” variety and others are of “what WERE you thinking and why the heck didn’t you write it down?”. The one thing I would tell the lost Rand was to start writing and don’t stop ever.
It is really impossible to do anything with the regrets but I would like to be able to get in touch with the feelings and thoughts at the various points in my life. I think some of which have been repressed as a way of coping and maybe to open the pandoras box might not be a good thing but I really am curious about what was on my mind. I sometimes think also that there was nothing on my mind, I could not form the thoughts to put into words what I was feeling. I think that is were the writing would have been a great help and I could have grew a lot more and at a faster rate.
Wouldn’t it be great if we really could have a conversation with ourselves at those pivotal moments? I kept a diary for a lot of my adolescence, so that helps me to remember what I felt like at certain points, but it’s a shame to think how much of myself has been lost along the way. Then, as you say, maybe it’s not all bad – perhaps opening up Pandora’s box, as you call it, could do more harm than good. It’s just a pity we all waste so much time and energy on things that don’t matter, and we don’t realise it until it’s too late.
But we never listen, do we. But in the end, at some point, we turn out okay.
Well, hopefully. 🙂
I really do wish I could go back and give the teenage me a talking-to, but I know I wouldn’t listen to myself.
Well done SJ. Wish we all had the courage to write to our younger selves. Will never happen in my case even though I am now not “older” as your earlier blogger mentioned, but am now “old”. Far too many regrets to dig up now and scold myself about – better let sleeping dogs lie.
Well, I wasn’t trying to scold myself, really, just save myself a bit of heartache. If only it were possible. But then our ‘mistakes’, which lead to our regrets, make us the people we are. So perhaps it’s best not to dwell on them too much.
Thanks for your comment. Hope you’re having a good day. x