Dear Young David,
I’ve pondered long and hard about how I would start writing a letter to you, my younger self, and what I would say to you. And after mulling over all the grand openings and introductions I finally settled on this:
Hey little fella, welcome to the world!
It’s the best I could come up with. You don’t need formality and all that junk because I know you’d prefer to keep things straight and to the point. What use is bullshit when talking to yourself? And that’s another thing I thought about, cursing to my young self. Is that wrong? Probably but what the hell, you’ll hear far worse soon enough!
So what should I say to you? Would you prefer to read a list of clichéd regrets or something from the heart? Yeah, I thought so too. Regrets are weights around the soul you don’t need, trust me. So I’ll make you a deal, young fella, this is all heart, straight from my core just for you because that’s what you’d expect right? You don’t need the frills, the wishy-washy, the vague. You want it told just like it is, or in your case how it will be. You got it. But don’t think for a moment I’m going to give you any lottery numbers or details about when you lost your virginity, some things are best left as a surprise!
I don’t really know where to begin, maybe the start is the best place. My first top tip is never be afraid to ask. Even if you think you’re going to look dumb. Just ask. You missed out on a lot things because you didn’t ask. You were bright at school, inquisitive and a decent learner, but what held you back was not asking because you feared looking stupid.
You kept quiet. Don’t do it. Speak out.
Say it loud and be proud to ask what the other kids wanted to as well but never did. Ignore the sniggers. You want to know so bloody well raise your hand and direct your question straight to the teacher.
Be bold. Ask.
Okay, the weight thing. Yeah, I know, a tricky subject to talk about. But here it is, buddy, you’re going to pile on the pounds and by the time you hit 10 or 11 you’re going to become very self-conscious. Hindsight sucks. I know. In fact I’m 99% certain that I can pick out the exact point when the weight started piling up. Primary School. You were about 9. You used to be a good runner, not skinny, but always active. One day your school chums asked if you were going to play a game. You said no. You and someone I don’t remember laid down on the grass and watched the clouds.
Don’t do that. Keep moving. Keep running. Never stop.
That being said, it’s likely that one letter ain’t going to change time for either of us. The weight will come. You’ll hate it. You’ll be different to your friends. It will change your life more than anything else, ever. If you let it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve wished I was like my friends, easy and comfortable with their bodies, not trapped inside the chubby. If there’s one thing I hate about myself it’s the weight.
But you know what?
I’m happy with myself now. I wish that transition had come earlier because I think changing that one defining aspect would have changed the course of our lives. I’m not the worried self-conscious person you will become for a time. You have that to look forward to at least. Best tip here, stop scoffing crap at school lunch times, sneaking food when you think no one is looking. Food may seem like it’s comforting you but it isn’t.
It won’t make the pain go away.
And speaking of pain, you will eventually let go of the pain of seeing your mother leave you. It will hurt like nothing ever has or will. I doubt I will be able to persuade you not to carry around so much hate. You’ll think you have to work through that yourself but you don’t. Like I said before, just ask, talk to someone. Let people know you’re in pain. And not that shrink you went to see. That scared you to the point where it didn’t do you any good. One teacher, Mr Bickley, remember that name because I implore you to speak to him more than you did. He will help you.
Remember that pain is okay. Take away pain and we lose something that makes us human. But it must never be stored up and pushed deep down. Never ignore it. It’s there for a reason. It’s funny talking to you now, the shivers are back all over my skin just like when I wrote that piece about our Grandad. A good man. I feel helpless yet optimistic that the future can be a good one. Don’t change too much though because I’m in a good place right now.
I have balance and that’s what you need more than anything.
Emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically.
On the wall in the dining room you’ll find a poem called Desiderata. You’re going to pay a lot of attention to it. The calligraphy will draw you in at first, and the strange words will baffle you for years but eventually it will make sense and you’ll adopt many of the passages as part of your moral philosophy.
One thing I want you to do is do better in High School. Way better. Apply yourself like your life depends on it. That’s another life changing path you need to take. You’re not stupid but you run the risk of playing the fool a little too much instead of concentrating. Stop thinking about the moment and consider the future. Yeah, I know, it’s not easy at that age but play to your strengths. Think about college more and playing football with your mates less.
You can have a very bright future if you put your mind to it.
This ain’t a regret, good buddy, but one path I advise you to think about.
Let’s talk bullies. I don’t want to scare you but I figure it’s better you’re armed with the knowledge than be scared to walk home from school every day. You’re going to be bullied in High School. Not by many but a few older kids are going to make your life hell. You have two choices – stand up to them early on or tell someone, anyone, everyone the moment it happens. I hate bullies. I’m talking with serious hatred here.
Don’t let them hurt you.
I eventually got revenge, well, sort of. I stood up to them some years after school. Outside the supermarket in the village. One of them, a weedy little chap who still thought school rules applied. He forgot for a moment that I had grown much bigger than him and took a swing at me. It didn’t hurt. My jaw ached a little after for sure, but the look of utter shock on his face when I didn’t cry out, flinch or back off…well worth it.
But do that earlier, young David, give them a taste of their own medicine and they’ll leave you alone. Take out the leader. Go nuts if you have to. Then they’ll leave you alone. Don’t live in fear.
After school things get weird.
Pay close attention here because it’s important. GO TO COLLEGE. Don’t think about anything else but that. Bend your entire will to that one thing. If you don’t you’re going to wander, aimless and lost for years. I want to say you’ll be wasting your life, and to a degree you will, but there are always good and bad times to come regardless of the choices you make.
Don’t stay out late all the time. Try and dump the teenage bullshit attitude. Your teenage years don’t need to be all about you, think of the bigger picture and not act like such a selfish idiot.
Girlfriends come and go. They’re not the be all and end all. No one person is worth throwing your life away for. Soon enough you’ll come to terms with who is important and who isn’t, and yes love can blind you. So when someone tries to give you advice, bloody well listen to them!
There have been many times where you should have turned left instead of right. You lacked focus and dedication. I have it now but it’s taken a long time to get there. Please get there quicker than that. You can enjoy so much if you think about the future more. It’s good to live in the moment and despite everything I’ve said you will have some amazing moments that will stick with you forever.
Memories can bring joy as well as tears.
You’re never going to forgive your mother for leaving you, and that’s your choice, but the pain of her death will be almost unbearable. At the risk of being clichéd, it will shatter your world and suck away everything that has colour and joy. For the second time in your life you will experience pure negativity, a gaping black hole that will want to drag you down into it and keep you there.
Your friends will be the key to showing you the path away from anger, loss and despair.
A few weeks after our mother died you’ll find yourself out with friends for the evening. You’ll go to the pub and have a few drinks. But everything will seem pale and flat. You will all drive out in to the country, and on the way to another pub one of the cars will get a flat tyre. You pull into a park and while your friends change the wheel you’ll walk off, alone. There are benches nearby and you lay on one and stare at the stares. You’ll feel flat and empty. But you aren’t the only one who is sad. A couple of your friends have broken up with their girlfriends and are feeling pretty shitty too.
You’ll want to be anywhere but there.
You’ll want to be anyone but you.
One friend, Tim, will come over to you. He knows you’re in pain but won’t really know what to say.
“What’s going on man?”
And he won’t be asking about the flat tyre. He’s referring to the general mood. Your little group is down. No smiles. No banter. It’s a dark time and Tim is talking about how everyone has managed to keep their pain hidden instead of sharing it. You will realise that you shouldn’t be alone together. You have friends and you need to be there for each other.
I don’t remember how that one thing Tim said changed the mood but it did. And in a years time you will repay him. Big time.
You’ll feel numb at your mothers funeral. Numb, lost and angry. It’ll be one big show for that bastard who took her away from you when you were a kid. Yeah I still carry that pain with me and so what? Everyone has pain. That day was a joke and be thankful your sister is just as eager to leave as you are.
One suggestion, don’t be afraid to speak your mind. I’ve spent most of my life not doing that but now I say exactly what I think. I don’t see the point in holding back. If people don’t like, well, tough shit. On that day you go up to that idiot surrounded by faceless fucks and tell him what you think. Don’t keep anything back.
Shout. Rant. Rave.
Let everyone see and hear you. Let them know who you are.
I’m not religious so I doubt you will be either.
But there will be one moment where an emotion so strong will touch you, and for that tiny slither of time you’ll be in tune with another person, something beyond words and gestures will reach into you and open your eyes.
Tim will take an overdose.
You’ll find him collapsed in your living room. Pills all around him. He will be breathing, just about. You’ll call an ambulance and he’ll be rushed to hospital. He’ll make it and come back to stay with you. His family lives up north, several hours away. His dad is a Vicar and he’ll rush down the moment he hears the news. He’ll collect his son and take him home to recuperate.
On the doorstep you tell Tim you’ll record his favourite shows and look forward to seeing him again. He gets in the car. His dad will turn to you and hold out his hand. You shake it, expecting a perfunctory hand shake but he holds on for a moment longer.
It’s that moment you must remember. Remember the look in his eyes, the expression on his face, the sound of his voice. Take it all in. I’m not saying you’re going to be touched by God. You don’t believe in that stuff. I still have my doubts. But in that moment you’ll question whether there is something more than just atoms and causality. I don’t know how to describe it other than one soul/spirit/light/core, whatever word you want to use, connecting with another.
It will change you.
Moving on now. Your Grandad will die. I know it’s only a matter of time. This will hit you harder than when your mother died. You’ll cry. Alone. Funerals don’t bring out emotion in you, and that’s okay. You don’t have to cry. Everyone grieves in their own way and working through things on your own is how you cope. You’ll remember your Grandad fondly. And years later you’ll write about him on your blog – My Grandad – A Rare Breed.
And then we come to writing.
Take this more seriously in school. You have talent kid, no doubt about that, just don’t take so long to realise it. You’re going to be fascinated by stories. My advice to you is work on your craft more than I did. Learn everything you can. Harness your memories like I have and use them as the driving force behind every single word you lay down. You won’t always show your emotion because I suspect you’ll have some of that knocked out of you when your mother leaves, but please let it pour out of you in your writing.
And when you discover The Zone…well, shivers are running up my spine and over my scalp as I write this, so I won’t give too much away except this. WOW!
As for the rest.
Life is a strange and confusing place. I know you’ll find your way through it just as I have. There’s so much I want to tell you, so much I want to write so I can relive every moment again.
Enjoy every single moment. Plan wisely. Understand your decisions before you make them. Learn how every choice you make has a consequence. Never let anger rule an argument. Avoid violence wherever you can, the winner in any confrontation is the one who walks away before things can get ugly.
Take pleasure in the smallest of things – a sunrise on the beach in Rhodes, cheering and dancing with your friends on New Years Eve, making love with your girlfriend and everything in between.
This has been something of a roller coaster ride for me. When I tapped the words: “Dear Young David” I didn’t expect so much to pour out. It’s been painful and a joy to write to you, young buddy, and I’m glad I did. Writing for us is nothing less than pure harmony, a time when emotions and inner most thoughts merge and flow.
Show your emotions more. Let them out once in a while, you’ll be a better person for it.
I’m a smiler so I know you will be too. Always strive for balance in your life. Above all be happy.
I know I am.
Thank you for being you.