In recent months, I’ve noticed a number of vloggers and bloggers writing or reading an open ‘Letter/Note to My Younger/Former Self’ (sometimes it’s future self [Captain Kirt, Rahul Singh]) It’s an exercise in writing a letter to your childhood/juvenile self; things you would like to tell the mini-you of a bygone era if you had the chance. Well, I thought I’d like to have a crack at that (plus, it’s a good, if flimsy, excuse to post some old photographs!). The only trouble was, I was somewhat ill-tempered when I wrote it. I’d just accidentally posted a blog that wasn’t even a fraction finished (my phone did it in my back pocket, actually) and had to go around thirty-thousand social media sites where it had also accidentally ‘shared’ to delete the bloody thing. Not to mention all the people that were emailed some piss-poor version of a blog that didn’t even have the decency to have photos in it…or much writing (sorry, if you were one of those people). That blog no longer exists. I may or may not write it again. Anyway, I was in a bloody foul mood – so this letter I penned is a tad on the maudlin side, and perhaps I’m a little harsh with childhood-me. Though, I always claim I write better when I’m angry or in complete rage (which I was). But then, perhaps you ought to be the judge of that.
I’m you. Well, I’m you when you’re forty-five years old. ‘Forty-five?’ I bet you’re saying, ‘that’s ancient!’. Well actually, it isn’t, you irritating little git. Now shut up for a minute and listen. You’re an arrogant sod. Come on, admit it, you are. It’s not your fault; you only ever turned out like that as a coping mechanism to handle your childhood circumstances. You come from meagre beginnings – it’s your way of surviving that; your way of living with the knowledge that there are so many things you will never have. So you bolster yourself up with faked conceit; an ideology that you ‘will be somebody’. And that conceit will come in handy sometimes. But the problem is this; this theory that you’re meant for better things – it won’t really do you a great deal of good. You believe the world owes you something because you’re ‘special’. However, I’m the older version of you, and it turns out that you never really were that special. No more than anybody is special. But right now, you assure yourself you have a God-given right to have ‘great’ things happen to you. And I’m afraid it doesn’t quite pan out that way.
You’re not going to like it when I tell you what you actually end up doing for a living. You might even want to sit down. You become a registered nurse. I know, I know, it just happens. You literally ‘fall into it’. It comes about after the Metropolitan Police turn down your application (their loss). But don’t worry, it turns out to be a good thing. I promise you, being a nurse was good for you. It taught you a lot; it stood you in good stead. Plus, all the greatest people that come into your life come via nursing. So don’t knock it. AND it gets you out of London- that’s what you always wanted. You don’t end up living in ‘the sticks’ like you planned, but I’d say your lifestyle is…semi-rural. Okay, nursing is a far cry from all those heady dreams you had, but if you had the chance to change it, I’d urge you not to. Oh, and as far as your heady dreams go, there are a couple of things you need to know.
First off, you never do become a famous singer. Well, not before you’re forty-five anyway, you’ll have to ask an older version of you if you want information past that date. And after forty-five, it’s not that likely. Not unless you get through to ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ (it’s a TV show a bit like ‘New Faces’…oh, never mind). Now let’s face it, you just weren’t that good at singing. I mean, you were alright, but you were never really one for hard graft – the graft it would take to be successful at it. And (despite what you tell yourself) you’re a little bit too self-conscious. Oh, and you don’t become a famous actress either. You were too self-conscious for that too. Soz.
The good news is you do end up publishing a book. In fact, you publish three (that I know of). Now chill your boots, you don’t get a publishing deal. In my time, anybody can publish a book. It’s called self-publishing. These days, a lot of people bypass agents and publishers and do it all by themselves. You write a book and you upload it to the Internet (a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities, consisting of interconnected networks using standardized communication protocols. I Googled that. Please don’t ask me what Google is. I’ll be here all day. I’m not going to explain ‘uploading’ either). Uploading your book to ‘Amazon’ (an online book seller, amongst other things) takes five minutes. Actually, it takes a bit longer than that. Filling out the tax section and bank details takes forever – you have to ring your bank and everything to get an IBAN and a SWIFT and a BACCS number. I know, it’s really, really boring. Don’t worry, the grown-up you ends up doing all of that. But once all that is sorted, the book-publishing lark is easy-peasy. But you and every other bugger does it. You’re a little fish in a big and over-saturated pond – of books. I’m afraid you’re never terribly successful (as far as this version of you knows), but oddly, people do seem to like what you do. What’s more, once you get past the pretentious teenager phase and find your true voice, YOU like and believe in what you do too. So that’s the important thing. You even end up writing a weekly ‘blog’ (it’s like an online diary that lots of people you know [and don’t know] read). People seem to like this blog as well. Who knew. Never give up. Never be dissuaded or discouraged by other people. Keep on writing. Ultimately – one way or another – it ends up being the thing that defines you.
Now, there is something important I have to tell you. I’m afraid I can only hint at it because there’s only so much one person ought to know about their future. Not long before you turn forty, something really awful happens. There’s nothing you can do to change it, it just happens. Life is crap like that sometimes. But this thing – it changes you. It knocks the last of that arrogance right out of you. It changes your outlook on life; your glass is never quite as full as it was. You’re never quite the same. But you do survive it; you do find a kind of closure. Kind of. The only reason I’m telling you now is – I want you to cherish your family. Cherish your brother and sisters and your mother – try to even cherish your father, if you can (I know you hate him right now, but it’s not all his fault. He doesn’t know any better). Be kind to your loved-ones as you grow up. That’s all I’m allowed to say.
On a brighter note, you marry a very nice man. Don’t say ‘ugh!’. I know you hate boys right now, but one day you won’t and you end up meeting the right one for you when you’re twenty-six. Again, that probably sounds ancient to you, but it isn’t in the scheme of things. Oh, and you have two lovely children. Seriously, they’re lovely. Complete strangers come up to you in restaurants and tell you how polite and well-behaved they are. I know. They obviously don’t inherit that from you. Your family is your greatest achievement in life, that’s something the forty-five-year-old you needs to impress upon you. You’ll never be alone. You’re finally a part of a unit, and not a dysfunctional one this time. Be happy about that. Be proud of that. You’re not the best mother in the whole entire world, but I believe your children will remember you fondly. Oh, by the way, morning sickness is relentless and childbirth is a bitch. Soz. Can’t help you there.
So, little Adele. I’m sorry if you find this letter a little mixed in its optimism for a bright future. From where I’m sitting now, you fair okay. You don’t set the world on fire, but perhaps you create a little spark. I know you’ll just narrow your eyes and shake your curly-haired head and refuse to accept that outcome. And that’s okay. Your self-centredness isn’t an entirely bad thing. It sees you through the rough times. It stops you being trodden on. You don’t take a great deal of crap from anyone – and that’s good. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Just temper that conceit with a little humility, if you can. It’s pretty much one big act anyway – I know, I’m you.
Oh, and by the way, when you write these ‘blog posts’ that I was talking about, always write them in a ‘word document’ before you let them anywhere near ‘Wordpress’. And don’t even think of writing the blog on your ‘iPhone’, then get distracted by a hungry and meowing cat, and stick the ‘live’ phone in your back pocket. I know, I know, you have no bloody clue what I’m talking about. But you will.
Take care and lay off the chocolate (keeping trim is a lifelong struggle for you. Again, soz).
xx Adele (the bigger one)”
What would you say in a letter to your child-self? Would you give yourself a few gentle warnings, or would you be happy to let things play out the way they did?
Oh, and another thing, if you’re the kind of person who likes to read real books, ‘Foreign Affairs’ (the third and final part of the ‘International Relations’ saga) is now out in PAPERBACK! If you would like a copy to prop open a heavy door, just click here.