• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 12
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Letter to my Sixteen Year-Old Self

Remember that fad, a few years back, for writing letters to our younger selves? You know the kind of thing. Dear sixteen year-old Me, here’s some stuff I learned along the way which you might find useful.

There were some funny ones, like the guy who told his younger self not to bother watching Australia, despite the attractions of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, and the Baz Luhrmann screenplay. That, he said, is three hours of your life wasted. Or the one who suggested it wasn’t a good idea to laugh at a drunk squaddie, because that’s a short cut (excuse the pun) to a broken nose.

And there were the sad ones. The woman who was terminally ill, who implored her younger self not to ignore those tell-tale symptoms. The man who realised that the woman he’d just broken up with was really the woman of his dreams, when it was too late to do anything about it. The guy who wrote about the fun of trying fags and alcohol behind the bike sheds, but warned his younger self to stop before it became an addiction.

And then there was that poignant one that started with those tender words: Dearest Absurd Child.

Then some bright spark saw the commercial opportunity, and published an anthology. Which you bought. You read them all. And of course you wrote your own. Well, you had to, didn’t you? We were all doing it.

Yes, me included. Cynical old me, who never fell for that kind of mawkish tripe. I picked up a pen and wrote... Then I folded it up, put it in an envelope and tucked it beneath the pencil tray in my desk.

End of story. Or so you’d think. Scroll on ten or twelve years, and we’re into another fad. Baby Boomers Downsizing. That thing we suddenly realise we need to do, once we’ve had the trauma of clearing our parents’ homes.

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Letter to my Sixteen Year-Old Self

Do we really want our sons and daughters do go through the difficult task of sorting our possessions into bags and boxes labelled Tip or Charity Shop or Auction, depending on financial or – in the case of the one small box labelled KEEP – sentimental value. Of course we don’t.

And that’s when I found it. That letter to my sixteen year-old self. As I cleared out the old roll-top desk (worth sending to auction, by the way) I found the battered envelope.

And inside it, a reply. My sixteen year-old self telling me not to beat myself up about my failings. I’d not done so bad, after all. And by the way, thanks for telling me I’d make it to seventy, it make things a lot easier along the way.

And I hope you enjoyed the pension.

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