Saturday, December 19, 2009

Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self

I have been tagged by Paul Burgin and Tom Harris to write a letter to my sixteen year old self. Do read their stories too.

Dear Iain,

This could turn into a 100 page epistle, if I am not careful. As you know, you have had a perfect childhood - brought up by two loving parents in a wonderful rural environment. I know you know how lucky you have been. Life isn't always this perfect, as you are about to find out, as you enter adulthood.

My first bit of advice will not come as a surprise. You need to develop a harder edge. You can't be liked by everyone, no matter how hard you try. There are people out there who will want to do you down and slag you off. You cannot win everyone over and there's no point in trying. You know that throughout your school days you have been bullied by various people and yet you've never stood up to them. Now's the time to start. Do it once and it becomes very easy the next time. You know you give the impression of being an extrovert, the life and soul of the party and willing to speak up in a meeting. Yet you and I both know that you have an inate shyness which you constantly seek to repress. Few people know the real you. Keep it that way. Those who want to dig beneath the surface will do so. Those who are only interested in you for what they can get out of you won't bother. There will come a time when everyone seems to want to know you. To want a bit of you. Beware of those people. They're easy to spot. They're the ones who look over your shoulder at a party to see if there's anyone more important there. What I am saying is that you should be very careful of loving the spotlight a little too much. Fight your natural disposition for your head to get that little bit too big. It's a fight you will probably never win, though!

My second piece of advice is about your future career. You and I both know that you knew you didn't want to be a farmer from about the age of eight, even though everyone in your wider family expects you to take over the farm. We also know how difficult has been to carry on the pretence that you would be going to agricultural college. But getting ungraded in Physics O Level and Grade D in Biology was a pretty good indication to everyone that this was not a direction in which you are headed. You feel you are letting your parents down, but you're not. They want what's best for you and will support you in whatever you do. You know that deep down. At the moment, because you've suddenly found out that German is the only subject you excel at, you intend to be a German teacher. Fine, you think that now, but don't put all your eggs in that basket. Your career is likely to take a very different direction. You recently joined the Liberal Party and have discovered an interest in politics. If I told you now that Margaret Thatcher would have a huge influence on your future life and that you would write books about her, you'd probably laugh. Throughout your career you'll come across people you feel inferior to or that in some way they are better than you. You will envy the self assurance and confidence of those who have been to public school and Oxbridge. Fight it. You know deep down they are no better than you, but it is true that you will always have to fight that bit harder than they do to get where you want to be.

You know as well as I do that you are, and will be, under tremendous pressure to conform - not just to what is expected of you career-wise, but also in your personal life. People will expect you to get a girlfriend - indeed, a succession of them - and get married and live happily ever after. Just like most of your friends and cousins (except most of them end up divorced!). Life ain't like that, as you are already coming to realise. You don't have to pretend to me. I know the inner feelings you've had since the age of eight, and so do you. You know that society in 1978 demands you should feel ashamed. But you don't. And you're right not to. So far so good.

The Britain of 2010 is very different from that of 1978. You won't believe me now, but one day you will somehow summon up the courage to be open about exactly who - and what - you are. The path won't be smooth and one or two people will be hurt along the way, and it may well mean that you don't achieve what you want to in your career, but you will have no regrets. No one you care about will shun you, you just need the courage to say 'accept me for who I am or do the other thing'.

You're scared. That's natural. You won't make the first move. You carry on the pretence for some time, and break a number of female hearts along the way. You're not playing them along - you genuinely care about them, but deep down you know that there's something not quite right, that you need more. So you get to a certain stage and won't go further. One day - and it's some time off, everything will fall into place. I promise you that one day you'll find what you're looking for. And you'll be happy.

You have a wonderful life to look forward to, one which most people would envy. It's not all smooth sailing - it would be boring if it was, wouldn't it? But if it's any consolation, you'd probably settle for it now.

Bonne chance


I now tag Nich Starling, Shane Greer, Phil Hendren, Donal Blaney and Richard Willis.


Andy DM said...

Hi Iain,

You say "it is true that you will always have to fight that bit harder than they do to get where you want to be."

The world's an unfair place and when I realised that I joined the Labour Party and became a union activist to try and make the world a little bit fairer. Why did you join the Conservatives? That's a genuine question, not a point scoring point.

Null said...

Iain, thank you for sharing your letter. It is very moving.

Frank said...

Very pedantic but it's bonne. I'll get me coat.

Unknown said...

I can't work out whether writing letters to your younger self is pitiful maudlin sentimentality or a sign of narcissistic self-regard.

Either way, it's not pretty. Never do it again.

Unknown said...

Exceptional writing.

Brilliant idea.

Your best post of 2009.

Cath said...

a lovely post, Iain

Nich Starling said...

Iain, I wonder if as a PS you should ahve added "And don't apply to be PPC in North Norfolk" ;-)

Have a good Christmas.

I have responded, but in much less literary tones.

binqu said...

”The world's an unfair place and when I realised that I joined the Labour Party and became a union activist to try and make the world a little bit fairer.”

That joke is in poor taste.

Those with an interest in the material lives of ordinary people know that every Labour government in history has left office with unemployment levels higher than when it came into power. Every one – going all the way back to 1924.

Labour's jobs delinquency over the past 40 years may be reviewed at the archives of the International Labour Organization.

Take a look. It will be seen that:

1. In 1997 Britain had the second lowest unemployment of any then EU nation (only the NL had lower).
2. Unemployment rose by 115% under the last Labour govt (1974-79), despite its mass creation of 300,000 non-jobs in the public sector bureaucracy (the Guardian-reading classes always look after their own).

(btw: the ILO site is not happy reading for thatchaphobes. Of particular interest is how relatively well the UK was doing by the end of the 80s - most EU nations had jobless totals higher than us).

True Belle said...

Brill piece of writing ,Iain.

One of my sons is 36yrs old, he has the same story as you.

He told us ten years ago but terrified he would lose us. We had no idea ever, nothing, girls loved him,he was too preoccupied with his work.

Military families like mine are difficult by virtue of strict attitudes, rather like some older Tory attitudes! We have had a huge learning curve.

We know all of his friends and he has a partner of eight years. Both are strong 6' nice gentle men, his family and ours, meet frequently and we all realise that young men like our sons have endured a real hell. No stereotype/ they are not outrageous in dress sense etc.

I do feel fearful for them, society is so cruel.

Osama the Nazarene said...

@DM Andy

The Labour Party a vehicle for self enrichment by utilising the genuine and perceived unfairness in the world.

The 10% tax allowance showed how much they cared for the underprivileged.

Interesting and well written letter Iain.

Alexander Macleod said...

This is quite touching, I must admit. I'm 19, so hopefully life shall take me to many unexpected places.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic bit of writing. I agree that it's one of your best posts of 2009.

It should be shown to 16 year olds as advice to remain open-minded about their futures.

Newmania said...

Everything I like about you and everything that is maddening as well.

Lexander said...

I'm sure you would have made a wonderful farmer. But we would have missed your huge talent. More success for the New Year.