A Letter to My Younger Self

But which one?

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

A letter to my younger self. I admit that I thought this would an easy little exercise. But then I sat down to write…

To what age me should I address this letter? Which of the many people I’ve been? On considering the options, a certain song by Frank Sinatra sprang to mind.

When I was 17, it was, if I’m perfectly honest, a so-so kind of a year. There were some small town girls and soft summer nights, but I hadn’t even thought about the things that would come to define me: the guitar, the pen.

When I was 17, it was a year of hanging out with not quite the right people, and being unsure whether working with my parents was the best idea after all. So to that particular me I’d say: this isn’t you. Not yet. But soon enough you’ll discover your tribe – the musicians, the artists, the writers – and then the true course of your life will be seen. When I was 17.

When I was 21, it was a very good year. It was a very good year for city girls, with all that perfumed hair that came undone. Because, when I was 21, I met the woman who would become my wife, who would help me grow as a person, and support me throughout my efforts to become a writer. Efforts that start to bear fruit just around the corner.

I’d also got the guitar and was scooting around the country with a band in the back of a van, listening to John Peel and reading the NME. So to my 21 year-old self I’d say: Drink this in, because this is one of the best years of your life. While you still haven’t found your true creative focus, you have found your companion for the journey. The trip hasn’t even started yet, though, so pack yourself a hamper and settle in. Although the next few years will be great, there are a few flat tyres and breakdowns on the way too. Think Mr Bean’s Holiday rather than Thelma and Louise and you’ll pretty much get along. When I was 21.

When I was 35, it was a very good year. We didn’t ride round in limousines, but we did have two kids, and I was on the verge of becoming a published science fiction novelist. To the 35 year-old me I’d say: Keep an eye on what’s important. Enjoy the days you spend with the family. Don’t be afraid to ease off now and then, and sometimes just take a moment to feel alive. When I was 35.

Now the days are long, and while I’m not quite in the autumn of the year, and don’t drink wine from fine old kegs, when I look back I see that for the most part it has poured sweet and clear. So whichever one of those mes should receive this letter, whichever one of the many people I’ve been, it’s probably a very good year.

Because overall, it was a mess of good years.

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This article first appeared as a Royal Literary Fund podcast.

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