This letter was written as a response to a challenge that one of my Y13 (18 year olds) throw at me last week. It is always clearer to see things looking backwards; this is simply the advice I would offer to my 18 year old self if I could. Sadly I still have to write one to share with my pupils...
Dear nh (aged 17 (nearly 18))
I need to tell you some things; you won’t believe me, but that’s ok eventually you’ll understand.
Those friends you are so keen to see, they don’t matter. They are mostly fair weather friends, they now reside in the pages of the internet. In a few years when life gets a little harder, it won’t be them who’ve got your back covered. It’s the people you would never imagine who will stand with you. The new friends you make, treasure them, because they are worthwhile sticking with. The old friends that are still there, who’ve known you forever will forgive you more than anyone deserves.
Those lies they tell you – that your school years are the best in your life. You are right, they are lies, I would not go back to that time for anything. But don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, everything that you are doing now, learning and experiencing they shape you for what happens next. When you get to your early 20’s enjoy because they are the best times!
Don’t worry so much in the summer if you don’t get the grades in your A levels that you want. Your second choice isn’t what you want, but after a couple of years you’ll find you are on the university course for you. You’ll learn such a lot about the world around you and you’ll find your niche in the world. I love my job (at least 80% of the time) of the time, not many people can say that.
Enjoy yourself – but not so much that you start hurting other people. Remember your parents are entitled to worry about you – it’s in their job description. Talk to them, share your hopes and dreams. It’s only as you get older that you realise that they are also getting older. You watch them change before your eyes and you may regret the things that were never said and things that were said in too much anger.
Give up worrying about your relationship with your sister. You can’t heal it, you are too different and only one person is trying. Be open to her, but you will eventually live your own lives. It doesn’t matter – it’s the way it has to be sometimes.
That male friend of yours, the one who is friends with that bloke you think you love, talk to him, listen to him. He will become your best friend, your rock and your world. That other bloke – so much rubbish, so much water under the bridge, he’ll always be a part of your life but only at the edges. The good one is the one that you’ve never looked at, seriously cling onto him.
The angst over life; so not worth it. Problems will come in the future that you have never dreamt of. Eventually life will throw you a curve ball. Something that you cannot imagine, but that causes too much pain and suffering both to you and your loved ones. I won’t tell you know because it will seem irrelevant and you will not understand. But you will get through it; because you are a stronger person than you can ever imagine.
Love you (aged 31 (nearly 32))
17 hours ago