Letter to my teenage self

Dear 16-year-old me,

This is, eh, me as well. As in you. Except you as you are now, meaning me. Oh, you know what I mean. Or I know what you mean, whichever. Quit confusing me/you, dude.

Quick bit of news: you’re about to get your heart broken. It will feel like a spectacularly painful kick in the crown jewels. But don’t worry: this too will pass (though you’ll find that hard to believe at the time).

Better yet, you’ll actually look back on the whole sorry saga with nostalgic fondness, when you’re a bit older. Okay, much older. You will, though – you’ll see it through the rosy glow of sentimentality. Like watching your own past as if it were a movie; all you need’s the soundtrack.

You’ll even get some artistic inspiration out of it in later years: maybe not directly (you can’t stand those self-flagellating memoirs where writers lay their whole lives bare), but obliquely. This heartbreak will find itself mentioned, in a sideways manner, in a play, a couple of bad poems and song lyrics, and a Young Adult novel. (That one’s still in progress by the way; get a move on, would you?)

In fact, the whole subject of romance will be fertile ground for you as a writer. Oh, I mightn’t have mentioned that bit – you’re a writer now. Journalism and fiction. It’s alright. Better than slopping out kebabs to drunks at three in the morning.

By the way, write a vampire romance novel called Twilight before 2005: I guarantee it’ll sell big.

Anyway, love and romance and sex and women – you’ll find them to be some of the most interesting and productive themes to write about in your adult life. Right now, though, you’re mired in adolescent hell.

Okay, I exaggerate – it’s not really hell. You’re quite happy, in general. (Until the old kick to the goolies comes along, of course.)

Now, if this really was one of those bare-all memoirs, I’d be telling you at this point how girls are a distant mystery to you, and you’d come to know them better as you grew into adulthood, and a whole world would open up to you, and blah blah blah. But that’s not really the case here.

Because you’re going to a co-ed school, girls aren’t a mystery at all. You spend every day with them: in class, at break, on the bus to school. Your best pals – everyone’s best pals – are the same sex, but you know lots of girls too, and have done since primary school.

Which doesn’t mean you’re some kind of babe-magnet – coz you ain’t – but at least girls don’t seem like some weird alien life-form. They’re just people. Who you happen to fancy.

And you know the strangest thing? This won’t change. In a year-and-a-half you’ll begin an Arts degree in UCC. Then you’ll spend some time on the dole, go back to college, live in Japan for a few months, home again, more dole, until finally at about 25 you’ll start working at a proper job, one you’re still doing now.

In all that time, women will be your friends, co-workers, acquaintances. A few will be your enemies. They’ll be bosses, employees, social networking buddies and e-mail acquaintances. Most, though not every single one, of your truly best friends will be women.

All of them will be just people you’ve interacted with. Except, again for that little twist: some of them you’ll fancy.

But this attitude to women – girls, in your case – is a pretty healthy one, and will serve you just fine. You may not be Russell Brand, but at least you won’t be a woman-hating weirdo who can’t hold a conversation with 50% of the human population.

And don’t worry, you’re not a pathetic and lonely schlub who can’t get a date and/or shift either. (‘Shift’: that’s a word from your era. Not sure if kids still use it nowadays. Check it out when you arrive in 2014.)

You’ll have girlfriends, flings, brief encounters, drunken tangles that neither of you remembers and (take a deep breath) serious relationships. By the time you reach 29 you’ll even (take a deeper breath) be married.

Most unexpectedly – though in another sense, it’s not unexpected at all – you’ll assume that, once you’ve fallen in love and committed to another person for life, you could never feel that strongly about someone else.

Then you’ll have a baby and fall in love all over again.

Ooh, one last tip: that thing you do, where you act all super-sensitive and delicate, like an easily bruised flower, to attract girls? Doesn’t work.

They much prefer the confident, slightly cocky you collecting glasses in that hotel summer job. And they like even more the way you smoke your cigarette while working. Don’t ask me why, just remember to do it.

  • First published in U Magazine
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