Saturday, 31 October 2009

Letter to my 16 year old self

Inspired (and cajoled) by my friend Stephen, here is a letter to my sixteen-year old self. Fortunately, I do not have a photograph with which to illustrate this piece.

Dear Andrew,

I am writing this from a distance of (very nearly) 19 years, although even just typing that seems strange. While an awful lot of water has passed under any number of bridges, in some ways it does not feel that long. In many regards I am still the same person as you reading this. Inevitably, though, there are many ways in which you've changed and many things I've learnt.

The purpose of this letter is not to tell you what happens, or where you'll end up, but to offer some advice based on what I've learned along the way. I've decided to pare this down to three individual pieces of advice, although there is much more I could share. These aren't necessarily the most important things I could share but they are things I feel you could benefit from hearing sooner rather than later.

Think of this letter as giving you a head start - you'll have to learn the other things I've learnt for yourself. If I do feel you need further help in the future, however, I will be sure to write again.

The first thing which I feel it's important for you to learn is the futility of having regrets. You will inevitably make wrong decisions and your life will, at times, move in directions that you didn't intend. When this happens, you need to rectify it. Do not dwell on what was, and what wasn't. Don't waste time, effort and emotion on regretting the decision made, instead learn from the incident and move on.

The next thing is to try to live within your means. This may seem hard, particularly with so many spending temptations and widely available credit, but will pay dividends if you succeed. Your eventual career may not be something you have considered yet, but it has the potential to pay well and give you a good standard of living - don't let debt get in the way of that.

The final thing, for this letter, is not so much advice as an exhortation - keep reading. While you may not have a TV yet, sooner or later you will. Other things will also invade your life and occupy your time. Try to take some time every day to read - it will help you escape from life's pressures, broaden your horizons and exercise your imagination. Reading has, to now, been a passion - don't let it go! Some authors you may like - and this is just a hunch - are Iain Banks, Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishaguro.

The next 19 years will not always be the easiest, and you have a lot to learn yet. If you take the advice in this letter, however, things may be easier.

Yours, Sincerely,


You can read Stephen's letter to himself here.