I came across this post by Chrys Bader recently. In it he writes a letter to his 23 year-old self. I thought it was great and it’s prompted me to do likewise.
Hello from the future! You’re 23 years old now and this is you in 10 years time writing to yourself. I want to give you some advice and general pointers. Having already been you, I know it’s likely that you’ll read this and then forget about it, but I’m going to do it anyway. For better or worse, I’m still as stubborn as you are now.
First things first: congratulations on making the best decision of your life in marrying Hannah! She’ll turn out to be not only a loving wife but a wonderful mother to your children. There’ll be some rough patches both professionally and personally over the next few years and she’ll be there for you. Go out of your way to be kind, gentle and loving towards her.
The next thing it’s important to highlight to you at 23, Doug, is maintaining relationships. This version of you at 33 sucks at doing that. You’re in a position right now to think about and use the manifold ways you can keep in touch with people. Relationships take effort and don’t thrive on conflict! Try to be agreeable.
There are two books I suggest you buy right now instead of waiting for them to find you:
- Baltasar Gracián – The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence
- Robert Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Do you remember reading Sophie’s World for the first time and having your eyes opened to philosophy? Of course you do, it was only a few years ago. In a similar way, these two books will change the way you view the world and interact with others. Especially the first one. Trust me.
If I’ve got the timing right, then at 23 you’re busy with your PGCE so you can teach Secondary History. I’ll be blunt: you’ll want to drop out of this towards the end of the course. I can’t tell you what will happen if you choose to go ahead with that decision, but if you do then I’d highly recommend learning to code. There’s money in those hills.
Right now, you’ve got the least amount of money you’ll probably ever have. But, you know, this is also one of the happiest times of your life: newly married and living simply. Remember this when life gets more complicated – simplifying your life and reducing your expenditures means you have more contorl over how, when, and where to work.
You should travel. While the two of you have made vague plans to do so after five years of teaching, it’s likely that something (or someone) will come along to turn your world upside down. So do it now! Just go when you can. Remember how awesome backpacking around Italy and Canada was?
Finally, as I don’t want to turn this into an epistle, look after yourself. Learn to recognise how much stress is too much stress and get out of those situations. Money doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. Your health and relationships do. Focus on things that make you and the people around you happy. Exercise (more than you think you need to). Phone your parents, your grandmother, your sister. Keep up contact with friends. At the end of the day, your screens don’t love you back.
“Leap and the net will appear,” they say. Why not try it? What’s the worst that could happen?
Image CC BY-NC-SA il-la-lutz