Looking back now at my 16 year old self I am amused by the idiocy of my beliefs and values and the thing that strikes me as the most ironic is the silly notion I had back then of what it meant to be a hero, a godlike being, a man on a pedestal. It reminds me of Ygritte in Game of Thrones looking at Jon Snow with a mix of pity and wonder and saying “You know nothing, Jon Snow” with such utter certainty.
There was this person who I saw amazing things in at that age; we were close friends, the 16 year old girl in me was convinced that destiny would unite us and to be fair I was bordering on obsessed with the poor guy. I certainly believed that he was ‘different’ from all the other teenage boys and was sure that he felt the same about me as I did about him.
Funny how things turn out.
I was right about some things, he certainly achieved far more in his life than people at the time would have believed possible. But academic or career achievements do not automatically make you a better person and some things, sadly, are inevitable. One of them is particular to men and I have written about it before. It is the inability to maintain friendships with other women when their partners can’t or won’t accept it. Regardless of past history or shared experiences.
The most ironic thing is that many years ago I realised, on reflection, what a bad match we would have been. Once I had actually fallen properly in love with my husband-to-be the trifling affections I had ever had for anyone else seemed quite amusing by comparison and I was able very quickly to see that in reality, as an adult, we really would not have made a good match at all.
So, his current partner, also an old school friend, had/s no reason to be worried. It is kind of amusing to feel threatened based on a well known, anecdotal, crush which never evolved. Surely she too can see and feel that all of us have moved on eons from how we were at 16?! I would be slightly worried if after travelling the world, 8 years of further study and self-reflection, marriage and a myriad of life experiences, I still thought and felt the same things as I did when we left school, right?
Anyway, it made me start contemplating what I might tell my 16 year old self, if I had the chance to go back in time (not that the precocious, over-confident 16 year old me would listen mind you). I came up with these things:
Things I would tell my 16 year old self…
1. Try not to get a taste for beer in the next few years – it will make you pile on the pounds at University and scupper any diets for years to come.
2. Start actually taking care of your face. I know you don’t wear make-up but you still need to moisturise.
3. You may think a certain boy is god, on some kind of pedestal, hero worshipped. You will realise in later life quite how funny this is. Don’t waste your time, move on.
4. Read MORE. Keep reading and listen to Chris Tyler, she is right about the classics and you will ‘discover’ them later in life and wonder why you did not read them now.
5. Look around you at the friends you are close to. Only two of them will still be important in your life at the age of 34. You will, however, still be tenuously linked to many of the others on a hideous platform called ‘Facebook’.
6. Don’t bother doing a Media Studies degree – stick with a subject you know and love. By the way, you haven’t tried Philosophy yet but you will love it.
7. Stop considering yourself to be so hard done by; you may not have a perfect 2.4 family but believe me you will come to value this in later life.
8. Being ‘angst ridden’ is not as cool a look as you think it is.
9. Never, ever, get drunk on pernod. Or tequila. Unless you want your stomach pumped (and believe me, you don’t).
10. When you meet a guy called Stuart at a gig in the next year, pay particular attention to his teeth and NEVER ask him for a piggyback.
11. Sort out your passport; travel is going to play a big part in your life. Bigger than you think.
12. Tattoos are not a good idea in the next 5 years. Do not consider any that are ‘oriental’ you will come to regret them.
13. The level of popularity you have had at school will only continue for the next two years at college – make the most of it.
14. Lambrini is not wine. Neither is it big or clever.
15. Worry less about what other people think. It matters not.
16. The Manic Street Preachers are very cool – but self-harm isn’t.
17. Keep horseriding. Your knee will not improve unless you do.
18. Spend more time with Nana, she is going to become a major friend and confidante in your life.
19. TRY and save. Otherwise you will be paying off debts into your 30s.
20. Never ever say no to anything unless you really have to – be open to new ideas.
Isn’t it funny how at 16 we really do think we know everything when really we are still just kids. This kind of reflection makes me pretty glad I am not a parent because I am certain my folks probably did warn me about most of these things back in the day but of course I did not listen.
Oh and one final note on all this, I recently discovered that one of the oriental tattoos I insisted on getting at age 18/19 and thought said ‘Friendship’ actually says the Chinese surname ‘Zhong’. Karma, as they say, is a bitch.