This is an open letter to myself at 17 years of age.
It’s you from the future – ten years into the future as a matter of fact. I’m writing to tell you about how our lives panned out and will give you the option of deciding whether you want the same for yourself as I did for me. I hope you appreciate the advice.
First of all you’ll be doing A-Levels now. In Year 13. You have an idea of what you want to do with life but no real idea of how to get there. Well you’ll apply for university but only get one offer – and it is a conditional one from the University of Central Lancashire. You’ll smirk to yourself knowing that it is in Preston. However that offer wants you to get 24 points. You get nowhere near 24 points as you are a lazy sod and don’t really care too much about History or Politics (at the time). You get 18 points (including General Studies) but you pass them all and walk away with four A-Levels. In retrospect that isn’t so bad.
You’ll move in with your dad at the end of VI Form as mum moves on to pastures new and her next parish. Before this happens you’ll go on a lads holiday with Nick, Hillman, Martin, Stu and House. You’ll get a cold – yes a cold in bloody hot Spain and spend most of the holiday with snot pouring out of your nose. It sucks. Kinda sums up your life though kid. I’m not going to lie to you – your life doesn’t exactly go swimmingly on most things so be warned – life might not be fantastic.
You move in with your dad as I said above and you’ll get closer to Baz and Pickle and for your gap-year you three are like the Three Amigos. You experience some shall we say ‘interesting’ scenarios whilst out on your haunts with these two guys but I won’t spoil it for you. In December that year you’ll bump into a guy called Dominic from your History & Politics class. You know the one. He says uni is great and that I’d enjoy it. It is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and you apply. This time you get four offers. Sunderland, Shropshire, Staffordshire and the Surrey Institute of Art & Design. Cardiff and Bournemouth – your two first choices both turn you down. You accept the offer from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design and start in October 2002. You regret this decision.
The course itself is ok but the university is very small and you don’t live on campus due to living too close to the university – apparently the Solent means nothing to these cretins. However you do like where you live and that part is all good. You regret it because you wish you’d gone to a bigger metropolitan university. You also make one of your tutors cry and have a blazing row with another in front of your classmates. You are in the right but if looks could kill several of your classmates would have burned right through you. As for the people you meet – you do make friends but you are certainly not the popular person on the course – in fact a long way from it. One person with whom you do your final radio piece comments that she was gutted when she found out I was in her group for the final piece but actually getting to know me that I’m a decent guy and not like se thought at all. This sums up how it goes for you as most people just don’t give you a chance and believe that my bad first impressions are accurate. You don’t help yourself in this regard. Not going to spoil it for you kiddo but before university you’ll need to take a long hard look at yourself and make some changes.
These changes are with regards to your confidence levels and attitude around women. You come off as creepy and stalkerish. Both have some credence to be fair. This comes from in part your lack of exposure to women during your school years (as you know – most of them dislike you immensely) and general lack of self-confidence and in a way self-awareness. Here comes an important note and advice that you need to know.
Do not keep putting yourself down. There are a tonne of other people in this world that will do that for you. You don’t need to join in yourself. People don’t want to hear how ugly you are all the time because quite frankly people who say that kind of thing all the way wear on you. Grow some cojones and self-worth. You are not as ugly as you think. You may not be the prettiest apple on the tree but you aren’t exactly rotten fruit on the floor with bugs eating you from the inside out either.
One thing that’ll help you overcome this is by going to the dentist. You know those two baby teeth you still have at 17? Well they don’t fall out until 2008 – so what age 24? They are a big part of your low self-esteem. Get them out and get it sorted. Even if it means braces. Just deal with it. Women aren’t going to fancy you anyway (for a while at least) so you won’t be missing out on anything. I haven’t been since I was 13 and whilst those two teeth are now out, my teeth are in general white and pretty straight – they could be better. You subconsciously learn not to smile as to not show off your bad teeth. This is bad Neil. Bad. So go ahead and sort it – trust me you’ll thank me in the long run.
As for your lovelife. Don’t be buying any condoms kid. Your virginity is still very much in place (although you do turn down a handful of offers over the years). You’ve also not even been in a relationship yet. I know this probably alarms you and should you sort out your teeth and self-confidence issues then things may well be different for you than it was for me. There are women in your life though over the next decade but nothing works out. Nine times out of ten they’ll be someone else who is either more assertive, nicer, a better fit or to be quite frank – just isn’t you that the woman will plump for. You’ll only meet three people you seriously connect with, things don’t work out with any of them. For two it came down to a choice of you or another person (in one case two other people) and in the other the timing was just all wrong and you wasn’t residing on the Isle of Wight any more. The first one you accept that she made the right choice however the other one you still don’t know and every few months you whimsically go down the ‘what if…?’ path with her in your head.
After university you go and live with your Mum and Pete up in Harwich in Essex. You’ve had a real shit end to your course although you graduate with a 2:2 (but all your practical work was 2:1 or higher) but you are unsure of the next step. You can’t move home because Bryn is living in your room. In the long run this turns out to be a good thing that you never return to the IoW (well maybe – well I think so anyway). So you are living with your mum, in a place where you know no-one and got no idea where life is going. This may just be your latest ebb kiddo but you get through it. You decide to volunteer in a charity shop to pass the days and you come to quite enjoy it. Your confidence levels shoot up dealing with customers every day. However full-time paid work still doesn’t come about. You move with Mum to her next parish just outside of Southend-on-Sea and here you join Hospital Radio in a move at the time to freshen up your radio skills. It becomes a key cornerstone in your life.
It is not until June 2007 – a full two years after university – that you get a full-time job. After just missing out on a job with The Sun is London – you were the second choice – you get a job launching a new Sports Network of websites ironically in Aldershot in Hampshire. When you get off the train for the interview you can’t believe you are back in that shithole of a town but you are – and promptly live there for the next two and a half years.
You move in with three women (score) into a very small and cosy room only seven mins walk from the office. Whilst one room changes hands a fair bit – the other two girls and you live together for the next couple of years and there is very little friction in the house and everyone pretty much gets on with everyone. You actually quite like living there. At uni you also live with a couple of mates in Year 3 in the ‘House of Trouser’ named after Toadie’s house in Neighbours. That’s quite cool as well.
As for the job. You will learn so much but get so frustrated at the same time. It was the right job but maybe at the wrong time or with the wrong company. It could’ve been very good but you keep banging heads with others and slowly lose the will for the fight. Then in late 2008 a company offers to basically underwrite most of my salary is a sponsorship deal across the blogs. This is agreed to but at the last-minute your bosses will pull out of the deal. You get really pissed off knowing that these websites are losing money but in one swoop they could’ve started to pay for themselves. That day you get a call from that said company asking for you to go and work for them. You sit on it for four months before deciding to take the plunge. You don’t regret it. This is one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken – to move from a staff job to becoming a self-employed contractor but two years later things is going fine and financially you are so much better off. You will wonder just how things may have worked out had you stuck at it but then you remind yourself just how frustrated you were every single day with people not listening to you or giving you the backup you needed.
You move a couple more times and then you end up here – where I’m typing to you from. A wet ugly day outside and I’m just back from doing the food shopping. You live alone in an apartment in a place called Thorpe Bay just outside of Southend. You don’t really ‘belong’ anywhere but can live anywhere as you work from home. Working from home and living alone is quite a lonely existence kiddo but you learn to adapt and most of the time you don’t care too much. You aren’t the most sociable kid around and you don’t become more social as the years go on – in fact quite the opposite – you retreat further into your quiet cosy little world. However this isn’t due to lack of self-confidence – you are in general over those issues – it is just you don’t enjoy the pub/bar/club scene – you never have and you never will. You do Hospital Radio still but not too much else. You always want to write a book but never get around to it. However I have typed nigh on 2,000 words already and it hasn’t been too much of a chore. Shows that it is possible if I set my mind to something to write and write and write…
Your interest in politics will rise and your liberal leanings will always be strong. You still haven’t joined the Lib Dems but you are very much a supporter of the political party. In 2010 they’ll even gain some power entering into a coalition government with the Tories. I know you just choked at that as any notice of such a thing ten years ago was preposterous. Your hate of the Tories has been ground into you from a young age but you learn to form your own opinions. You are very much a Liberal at heart but believe that this coalition was the right thing to do at the time.
You will live through 9/11 – a terror attack on America that involved planes being flown into the Twin Towers in New York – a day that changed the mindset of the western world. This led directly to a second war in Iraq where we installed democracy but led to the beginning of the end for Tony Blair and Labour. You will see Portsmouth win the Championship and get promoted to the Premier League. You will even see them win the FA Cup. However the club will be minutes away from collapse yet again and the club aren’t out of the woods yet. What you won’t see is any hard evidence of extra terrestrial existence as yet.
Some more advice kiddo. Give up the coca-cola. It is not only bad for your teeth but it is also terrible for your overall health. In 2010 you give it up cold turkey and lose a stone within three months solely because of this. Exercise more and try to keep playing cricket. You love cricket and you’ll not play for years. Try and find a team to play for on a Saturday or Sunday. Look after yourself more – don’t grow your hair – it doesn’t look good although it is kept in fantastic condition. Shower every single day and learn that you actually feel better about yourself when you put in an effort with your appearance. Get over yourself on jeans too. You can wear joggers and slacks at home and even just around town but when you are out and about doing things it makes you look like a bum. Someone tells that in 2007 that you’ll never get a girlfriend wearing jogging bottoms and they are right (you could retort that you can’t in jeans either but don’t). Jeans can be comfortable if you get the right ones. Just bite the bullet and do it.
You will meet both some interesting and some ‘interesting’ people over the next ten years. I will say this. Don’t rush to conclusions on people and give them time to open up and the more you speak to, listen to and be with a person the more you’ll know. You’ll learn that in time. It is something everyone learns. No-one is ever as bad as their first impressions give but neither are they ever as good as their first impressions. The truth will lie somewhere in the middle and that is part of the journey of life – to find exactly how far they are from good or bad in your mind.
Lastly you still battle with knowing who you are and you know what I’m talking about. You try to give it up when you go to university but it doesn’t happen. It is a part of your psyche and you battle internally with it. (for those who may read this and aren’t a 17 year-old me – this is nothing illegal we are talking about) – sorry just had to put this as I’m going to put this on my blog as well as sending this to you in the past. A blog is kinda like a personal online diary where people talk about their lives and thoughts. It’s quite a big thing as the 21st Century really gets going. Anyway back to the point in hand – I have no advice for you but choose your own path on that front but keep it closer to your chest than I did. Many people are not as liberal as we are.
So there we have it. 2,500 words of advice and commentary of what your future may look ike if you make all the decisions that I did when I was you. It is up to you what you do with this information but I’d at least follow some of it. Teeth, Coca-Cola, Jeans will all lead you towards having more self-worth and self-confidence. You do grow up to be a very independent person and comfortable with how things worked out for you. They could have easily been different but that is how the cookie crumbles.
One thing though Neil. You grow up to be a genuinely good egg and a very nice, polite young man. That is one thing you need to ensure you do – keep your morals and levels of common courtesy. You never screw a friend over for yourself and you never belittle anyone. People may take advantage of that side of you but you learn how to cope with it and adapt the way you are.
One last thing. Invent Facebook.
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