Where you are, it’s 2012. The world you’re in is only marginally different from the world I’m in, save for four years’ worth of human life and death, of climate change and social change, of technological advance and economic ebbing and flowing. There are different terrorists on the news and the same crooked politicians in parliament. Some things don’t change.
In world terms, four years is a fairly insignificant length of time. In our world, four years has seen the total upheaval of everything you knew. Every aspect of your life in 2012 is about to get picked up, jumbled around and reassembled again with different pieces. Right now you are nearing the end of your A-Levels. You’re looking forward to going to uni in September. You’re also wasting a lot of time and effort on a person who ultimately won’t be worth it. They’ll teach you some valuable lessons, but try not to make the mistake I did of not knowing when enough is enough, of not having the guts to cut ties when they most definitely need cutting. You will be a lot better off for it.
Some of your toughest times are ahead in the near future. Some of your best and most cherished memories are also ahead in the near future. Not a lot will turn out as you were expecting or hoping, but the version of events that does pan out is ultimately far better than the one you are imagining currently. The process might be less comfortable than you were hoping for, but it will turn out all right in the end. Promise.
University will be one of the best times of your life. You will learn so much about yourself and about life and about things which you never even knew existed. And the people you’ll meet! You couldn’t imagine friends like these if you tried. I wish I could be you again, to experience it all for the first time once again. Cherish every moment of it; it all ends far quicker than you are prepared for.
The jolt from the busy whirlwind of achievements and fulfilment and community of university into the uncertain, harsh, brutal world of applying to countless faceless grey jobs and scrolling bleakly through jobsites with nothing to offer you is a horrible and startling one. I don’t mean to be bleak, but you need to be prepared for it. Get ahead.
I should probably tell you not to leave all your uni work right until the last minute, but I won’t. Some of your best and fondest memories and deepest friendships will come from those delirious nights spent running around the library at 4am in search of a shit cup of coffee and some will to carry on writing an essay you don’t care enough about. Damn I was knackered after those, but I don’t regret any part of the camaraderie and the laughter and the lying under the table threatening to give up and the bold encouragements to each other. Yes, you need to experience those nights. You should definitely read more, though. And follow your instincts more. Things might be different now if we had listened to our gut. I still wonder about that one sometimes.
Do be more careful with your money and your health. Also with your friends, and with who you choose as housemates. You don’t need the additional stress in your final year. Learn feminism and love and respect for yourself earlier. Learn to say ‘no’ when you need to, don’t spread yourself too thin. Hold your friends closer. Prioritise your family more – it was a mistake to lose sight of them in the way that you did.
Do not be afraid to claim your space in the world, to speak out when you don’t agree, to not censor yourself for the sake of others. Be bold. Be strong. Know that your value as a person is not defined by the way you look, dress, walk, talk.
I am so thankful for the experiences I have had and the life I have lived since I was you. I am content with where I am and how I got here. But I do slightly envy you. I slightly wish that I was where you are once more, on the brink of a whirlwind adventure, ready to jump in and let it absorb you. At 22 I should be right around the corner from another one, but it sure doesn’t feel like it right now. Right now I am in limbo, in stasis, in some strange purgatory between an intense period of change and excitement and where I want to be. I have blinked and suddenly I have lost a year mindlessly drifting through day to day life devoid of variety and creativity. I have struggled to restructure myself and redefine myself. I feel that this period of walking through treacle is drawing to an end, that soon I will step out and flourish. It feels different, though, to where you are now. Good different, I hope.
My biggest piece of advice to you is to live more in the moment; to cherish those moments; to be more present and live your experiences fully. Redirect the energy you’re spending on the wrong people towards the right people. Use all of your senses. Hang up your hang-ups and live.
Where I am now, it’s 2016. I have a degree, I have a job, I have just moved into a new flat with my partner. I have great friends and an amazing, supportive family. I’m working on two plays; one mine own, one someone else’s. I’m working on a glorious blog with my two best friends. I’m about to celebrate my two-year veggieversary. I have travel plans. I have very few complaints about where I am now.
I am content, but waiting for the next big adventure.