Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

Dear Hannah

I think if asked, you’d probably say you don’t want to read this letter.  You’d put it in your notebook and every few months get it out, smell it, and think about having a peak.  That notebook I am talking about is the one Ja Ja bought you before one of your piano lessons.  That same notebook you’ve still not written in.  It’s now nearly 15 years old.  Perhaps you should write in it.  Write the name of every boy you’ve ever had a crush on.  You’ll forget their names…

You don’t want to know what’s going to happen, but you do wonder.  That’s why I’m pretty sure you’ll not look at this.  You’re curious about where you’ll be in ten years, but you don’t actually want to know.  Crazy that I know and you don’t.  I’m going to tell you bits now.  Just in case you have a weak moment at 2am smoking a fag – you’ll have a few of these moments.

First thing.  You will smoke until you’re twenty-seven.  Then stop very suddenly.  Think about that now and what it’s doing to your body and your bank account.  You will eventually hate smoking and one day announce, “I will never date a smoker, ever again” – go and say it in the mirror.  You’ll laugh, but it’s true.

You get through school and you make it out alive.  You have GCSEs and A Levels.  You’re about to decide against doing a degree.  One of the reasons for not doing it won’t mean much at the time, but later on you’ll look back and think how unfair it was.  You will go to uni but it will be years later when you’ve found the career for you and you want to specialise in it.  You will love uni.  You will love the course, the deadlines, the exams, the assignments and the people.  You’ll surprise yourself too, especially with your results.  You become very competitive.  Unfortunately I don’t yet know if you’ll get your degree though.  Something comes up half way through the degree, which will mean you have to suspend your studies.  This will break your heart, but it’s the sensible thing to do.  Trust me.

You will unfortunately be crap with money.  You’ll get an overdraft and a credit card.  You’ll forget to save.  I wish someone could sit you down now and explain to you what you really need to do, because no one will do it.  Ja Ja didn’t get a chance.  He tried to prepare you for things but he couldn’t be around forever.  Unfortunately your inheritance falls into the wrong hands.  If I could change one thing it would be this.

You’re rubbish with relationships.  You’re not good with boys.  You let your friends do all the flirting, you just watch from the side-lines.  You’re not comfortable with yourself and you certainly don’t like how you look.  You’ll question your sexuality.  You meet some inappropriate types and seek out a certain type, but you can’t blame yourself – it’s what you know.

You want to know if you’ll fall in love.  I can’t tell you.   I know you’re dying to know.  You talk about it with your best friend a lot.  You even have that notebook which details your ideal man.

The friends you have now won’t necessarily be around in the future.  Some will leave your life for good, and others will return later on.  You’ll meet some wonderful people when you start working and go to unl.  You’ll find a support group that will pick you up when you’re on the floor in a heap.

You know you smoke.  You also start to drink soon – but not excessively.  You’ll experiment slightly with drugs, and hate yourself for it.  You’ll over eat and then starve yourself.  You’ll exercise then not bother.  It’ll take you a long time to find a happy medium, but you’ll learn how you work.  Eventually you appreciate what you have and you will start to look after yourself.  Please stop hurting yourself.

You know how right now you think you’re misunderstood and the whole world is against you? Well, you’re being dramatic, so stop it and chill out.  Age twenty-five you’ll realise how easy you’ve had it, but only because you have to learn the hard way.  A person you love and trust will hurt you beyond belief.  It will shake you to your core.  On more than one occasion you’ll want to walk away, and this will be one of your biggest internal battles.  Blood is thicker than water.  Apparently.

Right now you’re terrified of getting old.  You think it would be awful.  You’re not scared of dying, but getting older yes.  Horrific idea.  Things will change though and one day you’ll pray to be allowed to grow old.  I’ve decided not to tell you anymore about this, because I don’t think it would help if you knew.  Just get on with living, take lots of photos and maybe eat more broccoli.

I don’t want to tell you anymore because you need to just experience it.  I could tell you about it, but really you’d not appreciate it.  You need to be there.

What advice would I give you?  Learn to like yourself; you’re not that bad.  Go out a bit more, and don’t panic about being out late on a Sunday.  Don’t spend all your wages.  Stop hurting yourself.  Ask questions – you have a right to know and you’re allowed to ask – really you are.  When you find the bottle of methadone please ask why it’s there.  Try not to think of mum and dad as super heroes.  They’re only human and they will let you down.  Live your life how you want to, not how you think you should.  You get one go at it.

More than anything though I want you to realise just how much Ja Ja did you for you.  Sadly it’ll take at least another ten years for you to realise what he did and why he did it.  You were really rather lucky.  So very lucky he was looking out for you.

Oh and don’t ever dye your hair black again.





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