Writing hand-written letters might seem a bit outdated in the age of technology where a message can be sent instantaneously rather than waiting days for the postman. But this letter is never intended to be sent.
Writing a letter to yourself is a way of transporting your thoughts and feelings from your heart to paper. In the run up to the new year, I have decided to take a look back on my life and write a letter to myself, of all the things I wish I knew years ago. Turns out it can be a very cathartic experience.
There’s so much I want to tell you! Would you believe that we graduated from university with a Bachelors and a Masters degree?! Or that we’ve not only just found ‘the one’ but live together?! Now we just need a cat or a dog to complete our home. But I have some other things to tell you, advice of sorts that I wish I knew when I was your age.
It’s okay to admit when you’re struggling. You grew up believing that being open to others, whether that be talking through my issues or turning down an invitation to go out was a burden to them. That since they didn’t ask, you’re forcing your feelings onto them. While you still ask others if it’s okay to talk about difficult things, the channel of communication is definitely a lot more open than it used to be. And that is a positive.
Don’t give away too much of yourself. You go out of your way to make others happy. You’d stay up late at night to comfort others while losing sleep yourself before your 9am lectures, you’ve lent people large sums of money you don’t have to spare, you’ve put your own mental health on hold to be there for others. I’m not saying stop being there for people you love, it’s good to be there for people. But you love too deeply for those who won’t lend an ear for even a second.
Remember trying to fit in in school? Waking up before your alarm to straighten your hair, adding songs you hated to your playlist because they were popular? Looking back, I know those efforts were fruitless. There’s not much point trying to fit in just to fit in. When I was in school, I spent years trying to fit in with my peers in fear of being bullied for liking different things or doing things differently. I tried so hard to fit into a bubble that changed daily – it became mentally and physically exhausting. I had a desire to be liked by everyone around me. I now know that no matter whether you appease the masses or yourself, there will always be people who don’t like the way you are so it’s better to please yourself and find those who will accept you. I recommend adding Please Yourself by Emma Reed Turrell to your reading list, it helps in the long run. At the end of the day, you can’t please everyone around you so you might as well please yourself and surround yourself with those who accept you. Putting extra emotional weight on your day to day activities definitely took a toll.
Moving away from home was the best thing we’ve ever done. After moving home at a young age, I was determined to carve this new town my mother hand-picked as my home too. But while this city had a new name, I couldn’t call it home. It was slightly easy when I decided to go to university – the hassle of rushing to find a house was covered by university halls while I became familiar with the new city first. Reasons to move: first of all, the freedom it gives you. Second, I know if I hadn’t jump-started the move, I would have stayed in my parent’s home longer than I wanted to. It’s not always a bad thing to stay at home, it saves a hell of a lot of money – but personally it was too restrictive. I wasn’t given room to grow into myself. You can have a house but it isn’t easily called a home. I’m glad I found my home, eventually.
I wish I knew that time did not equal value. I’ve held onto many friendships in the past because we’ve known each other the longest without realising the negative impact they were having. One of my friendships with a childhood friend was more up and down than a romantic relationship on a soap opera! Instead of breaking yourself trying to fix something, it’s best to let go. Yes it hurts but it hurts a lot less to let go than hold onto something damaging. I’ve had to reluctantly let go of many friendships and relationships throughout the years – sometimes we’ve outgrown one another and sometimes holding onto them was polluting me. It’s okay to put an end to things rather than dragging it out.
Having said that, the opposite is also true – that goodbye doesn’t have to mean forever. Remember our friend who spent English class turning the dictionaries into dominoes and who moved away after GCSEs ended? We recently got back in touch with one another after seven – yes seven – whole years without contact! And it’s as if they never left. We met up recently and it was as if nothing had changed yet everything had changed and we still picked up where we left off. You don’t have to outgrow your friendships from your teenage years.
Don’t give up on your passion. Our form tutor tried to deter us from choosing our degree subject, and he almost won. Almost. I’m glad we chose to listen to ourselves instead. Our university experience has shaped aspects of our adult life, the friends we made and lost on the way, the university lecturers that supported our creative endeavours. We still haven’t given up on our passion and hopefully this year, we’ll get a little closer to our goal.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone more. I know, very cliche; you’ve probably heard this a hundred times. But would you expect it to lead us to planning a trip a day before to the Lake District over the summer? Or that we’ll be spending New Year in London? Yes, we planned a last minute lake district trip with our closest friends over video call the night before. The saying of, if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you too? Switch it up, I wish I had followed my friends when they suggested something scary but exciting. I know I wouldn’t be braving the busy capital all alone. There are so many things I missed out on like concerts and day trips because I felt nervous to go. Now I’m planning spontaneous trips with friends and saying yes to a lot more new things. But there are still times when I look back wishing I’d done something different or said yes to going to places.
Just because it was a bad experience doesn’t mean that it’s all bad. I used to look back at my bad experiences with anger – the housemates who trashed the kitchen before moving out, the people who instilled fear instead of providing love. Experiences like these I can now look back and see how they’ve made me grow, what standards I’ll set for myself when entering something new. Or sometimes what they had led to, while I wouldn’t have chosen to be with my manipulative ex again, he did introduce me to friends that I wouldn’t trade for the world. Anger is an easy reaction to something negative and sometimes it’s the right reaction but looking back I don’t feel anger or regret because of where they’ve led me to today.
I can’t say if knowing these earlier in life would have helped. If they would have changed my life completely. Life is all about our individual lived experiences, the good and the bad.
P.S: Oh and keep on reading, you meet some amazing people through your love of the same books.