A while ago I wrote Dear Jemm: A letter to my future self and put it up on the blog for all to see. It proved a popular post and still, to this day, I have people messaging me on Twitter/Facebook about it.
I read back over the post while I was doing some maintenance on the blog which got me to thinking (always dangerous) of the vast differences between the content and tone of what I’ve said to my future self and what I would I say to my past self. When I wrote the letter to my future self the tone was quite serious as I really didn’t want to p*ss fate off by being too flippant. However a letter to my past self, that’s a whole different story…
Dear Thirteen Year Old Me,
Let’s start off on a positive note. You won’t always feel so awkward. Or maybe you will, but you’ll just stop giving a shit. Either way in ten years time one or the other has happened.
I can tell you now that spending the next decade worrying about not fitting in will be a complete waste of your time. Stop fretting about not being into what your friends are into, not having the same interests, hobbies, because it means nothing. Being different doesn’t make you wrong, it makes you unique and you better start getting used to it coz at twenty-three you’re tee total, hate clubbing and nights out in town and far from the stereotypical ‘twenty something.’ Fitting in is for ordinary people. And who wants to be ordinary?
I’m going to say this now while I’ve got your attention. DON’T CUT YOUR HAIR. In a years time at the age of 14 you’re going to think its incredibly grown up to cut off all your long hair. Nine years later and your still growing it back. And FYI those blonde streaks your thinking about? Soooo not a good look. While on the topic, that phase you went through of paying £100 to have your hair cut at Toni&Guy’s? Didn’t do you or your bank balance any favours. You still leave the salon with a haircut you don’t want. Think on.
Also the pain in your knee that you go to the doctors about when you are fourteen actually turns out to be something really serious. A twisted femur in fact. At the age of twenty-two you’ll have to undergo a major operation and endure seven months in a leg cage. So when the doctor brushes you off and tells you it’s ‘growing pains’ go get a second opinion.
So far you’ve been lucky. But I’m sorry to say that during the next ten years you will loose three people (well two people and a pet!) that mean the world to you. It hurts like hell but it gets better. Promise. The next ten years won’t always be easy, in fact, sometimes they will be really hard, there will be obstacles but the silver lining is that you’ll always overcome them. Bet you feel better knowing that don’t ya?
For example, confidence. I’m pretty sure that this will be an ongoing battle throughout your life but I can assure you that your side is doing better at twenty-three than you are at thirteen. Now I know it’s easier said than done because believe it or not I’ve been you. But girl you seriously need a little more self belief. Don’t get to my age and wish you’d been more outgoing at school. Stop being so nice and quiet all the damn time! I know that you have opinions so voice them. Leave an impression. Make people remember you. Half the people in your year group don’t even know who you are and the other half only know you because you’re the twin sister of the gob-shite of the year! (In the nicest possible way.) You can change that now. Once school is over so is your chance. So go forth and make waves.
While we’re discussing school for the love of god stop stressing about maths. You ain’t never gonna be Einstein at it. Don’t let your teachers bully you into believing that you will need to know the value of x or how to work out the surface area of some random shape. A decade later you a) still don’t have a friggin clue and b) don’t actually need to.
It’s at about this age that you decide you want to be a journalist. Let me let you into a secret. You made it. (However since I’m still trying to find a paid job maybe I should be encouraging you down a different path?! Lets just gloss right over that part.) While other people your age can’t decide what the hell they want to do with their lives you’ve figured it out. And you stick it out.
So please, please stop believing that you’re not clever enough to become somebody. Stop believing that you’re not intelligent enough to go to university. Because you are, and you do. I’d say that a 2:1 journalism degree isn’t bad going for the thirteen year old that looks upon her GCSE’s and A-levels as insurmountable hurdles.
In a couple of years time at fifteen, your English teacher will sit opposite you and Mamma Smith at your last ever parents evening and tell you that you are talented enough to be a writer. You’re good enough to be recognised, and clever enough to go to university. Listen carefully to that penny dropping, because that will be the first time that you believe you can actually do it. Please don’t let it be your last.
So my advice to you? Worry less, believe in yourself more because in ten years time you have earned a degree, lived away from home, acquired a thicker skin, gone to London, worked for magazines and found something that you love and that you’re good at. Not bad for the girl who didn’t believe she was good for anything eh?
Believe me, I hope in ten years time I’m doing as good as you are now.
Love from your, older, wiser self.
P.s. You’re still fighting as badly with your sister at twenty-three as you are at thirteen, but look on the bright side. By the time you get here you’ll have had a further ten years worth of practice.