As I am closing in on three decades of existence, I find myself wondering if I would beg myself to do things differently, or simply stay the same trajectory. In school we did the opposite exercise (naturally, what past self would we have written a letter to? Ourselves in diapers? Don’t learn to walk or talk, it’s a trap, you’ll go to school!) We wrote letters to our future selves and buried them in a time capsule, which was probably unearthed by some bulldozer after they tore the school down to make way for a residential compound, but I digress. So what would your letter say?
Love yourself before seeking the love of others. We go through our young lives trying to win the favor of others, be they a posse of friends or a more singular catch, in the end it all boils down to our need for others approval. If we learn to approve of ourselves first, the coming search becomes all the more meaningful and much more simple.
Everything you learn in school will go towards your general knowledge as an adult. High school is the time where we know the most about everything, the humanities, the sciences, art, music etc. as we grow up our focus shifts and narrows substantially, deepening our understanding in only a single subject (up to PhD). Those studies will make for interesting conversations with friends and strangers, so try hard to remember them! You will never be asked to have that much knowledge about everything again past university, so make it count for those few years.
You will do well in your exams, so do not sit and fret and worry when they come around the corner. The real test is not to panic and forget everything. As you advance you will realize that there are a lot scarier things out there than test results i.e. job interviews, lease contract clauses and most scary of all, bank foreclosure letters!
Do not spend all your time behind books! Most parents order their children to neglect the arts in favor of sciences, to put down instruments and pick up books, to discard paint brushes and embrace quadratic equations. Some skills are easier learnt in school than later, such as drawing or playing the guitar. If you do not make the time for it when you are young, you will struggle to find the time when you are older.
Enjoy sports day! Yes, at times sports day seemed a modern-day torture devised by teachers to punish students for their misdeeds, and more often than not the majority of the year would rather be found in the bleachers snacking on pizza rather than on the track running a 1,500M race. Back in the day, this distance seemed most dreaded, nowadays, I kick myself over not having participated in that race, especially after going for 5,000M, 10,000M and 21,100M races.
The past has passed and all that remains are memories, both fond and frightful. Understand that it does get better with the passing of time. In the end, the good memories will outshine the bad ones, you will look back and laugh at what bullies said someday, even if it is a decade and a half from now.
As a young adult the outlook is almost bleak; finish school, go to university, finish university, get a job, start earning, get married, have kids, repeat the process etc. whereas the reality is much more enjoyable. Life is not a rat race, it is not defined by the destination but rather the journey. When you look back, you will remember all that happened in between the “milestones” you were made to mark; the holidays abroad, the joy of spending your first paycheck, the freedom of movement across the globe, your first promotion etc.
At the age of three decades, we look back at our younger selves with pride and recall the aspects of our journey that led us to this day. The world is now full of a new generation, to them we are ancient, but to ourselves, we are immortal.
To the younger me, I say thank you for getting me where I am today, and to the next generations I say, live a life you can look back on and smile about, because in the end, we are only making memories.