Open Thinkering


Tag: letter

A letter from the future

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.

Dear Doug,

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:

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?


Future Doug

Image CC BY-NC-SA il-la-lutz

Special Delivery: a letter to my children this Fathers Day.

Wreck This Journal-Doodling Back of Envelope

Dear Ben and Grace,

At four years and five months old, respectively, you’re both too young to be able to read this by yourselves. But I hope one day when you’re a bit older and have a little more understanding of the world that you’ll stumble upon this and reflect upon it.

First of all, I wanted to say how proud I am of you both. Whilst it’s hard to be proud of the actions of a five month-old you, Grace, manage to give me big, beaming smiles just at the right time to help me forget your impressively-piercing crying ability and tendency every now and again to fool us into thinking that you know how to sleep through. I’m also mightily impressed at the way that you’ve managed to surpass even Ben in the putting-on-weight front. Above the 99.6th percentile? Impressive.

With you, Ben, it’s easy to quantify and express the ways in which I’m proud of you. As I keep saying, I’m proud of you because you try so hard. Never stop that. You’re going to come up against challenges in life which are completely unfair and which, in the main, will seem to be the result of ‘the system’ rather than the individuals comprising it. Don’t let that put you off. You can change that system. Your Daddy spent his first thirty years on this earth believing the half-truths people told him about qualifications and job titles mattering. They don’t. Carry on doing what you do now: focus on relationships, focus on happiness (your own and other people’s), and try your best to be as good as you can be at the things you enjoy doing. Everything important flows from these things.

I can’t predict the future, but what I can predict is my enduring love for you both and for your Mummy. I don’t know where we’ll be living next year never mind by the time you come to read this, but I do know that how we live is a lot more important than where we live. So I’m sorry for the times when I’ve neglected you both due to work, a selfish mood or an undue fascination with technology. You’re both so important to me in ways I only realise when you’re not there.

Much as sometimes I feel I’d like to, I can’t be around to protect you all of the time: not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. Both of you are going to come across narrow-minded and shallow people. You’re going to struggle to understand people who trade authenticity for material possessions and their hopes and dreams for status. Don’t be tempted by that road. Strive instead to follow the path less travelled, the path where your first response to “What do you do?” isn’t simply repeating your job title. Although it will scare Mummy (especially)and Daddy to death, I implore you to go travelling at as young an age as you can. It really does broaden your outlook on life. And although this isn’t a “avoid what I regret” letter, never stop being creative: draw, paint, play musical instruments, speak foreign languages. Cultivate as many different ways of understanding the world as you can.

Most of all, my message to you this Fathers Day is that life can be whatever you want it to be: take risks! Ben, I’m trying to do that as much as possible with you now, which means you get into some scrapes; Grace, I know that I’m going to find this so much more difficult with you. Forgive me. Parenting really is the hardest job in the world sometimes (but I wouldn’t have it any other way).


Your Daddy, xx

Image CC BY-NC Deborah Leigh (Migraine Chick)