For a few days I've avoided looking at the article in the Guardian's Book section that posts several letters from the rich & famous to themselves at the age of 16. They're all from a book called Dear Me. It struck me as poncy and who really cares what a successful person says to their teenaged self anyway?
So I finally gave in to see who'd be in there, and two people stood out- Stephen King and John Waters. What would these guys tell their unsuspecting young selves? And after reading their notes of advice I read the others. Nothing you wouldn't expect, really. Advice about love, about what not to do, about believing in yourself. I'm thinking they held back on particulars because this was going into a book; there are plenty of nitty-gritty things I'd tell myself, but none of that appears in Dear Me.
I'd start by telling myself what Gillian Anderson said; don't be so self-involved. Do more things for other people. Then I'd make a list of all the people who'd be in and out of my life and tell young Laura to invest herself more wisely. I'd caution her about overindulgence in everything; things as well as relationships. To be more circumspect and to follow what she wants and ignore the naysayers. Otherwise it'll take her 35 years to get back to where she started. To be scrupulously honest, especially with herself. To believe in her brains and trust herself that she'll work things out, whatever happens. And to value time with her family more, because many will be gone before she could ever know.
After reading all I'd say, I wonder if it's wise to do it at all. If my 16 year-old self were so warned, would I avoid some things that were invaluable lessons? Would I be the person I am today? Would I even listen to myself?
Well, it's all academic anyway. But it's an interesting exercise in how we perceive our younger selves. And I think the advice we'd give is still relevant. I am, after all, the same person, just older. It still applies.
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