This year marks 5 years since I turned 16. Admittedly it has taken my until 6 months after my 21st birthday to figure that out, but you know, better late than never right?
A lot has changed since then. I’m definitely not where I thought I was going to be, doing anything remotely close to what I’d consider my initial career path. I’ve also noticed that at 16, I was an absolute idiot. And I’m probably going to turn around at 26 and be saying the same exact thing.
Below is a letter to my 16 year old self. A little window in to my past. I’m going to let the letter explain itself. But hindsight is a powerful thing and I wish I’d have been armed with what I know now, back then. But then again, where is the fun in that?
Firstly let me point something out to you. That bright orange vest, starred shorts and dirty yellow pumps combination you’re wearing? Yeah, that’s not fashionable. No matter how you spin it. Take it off.
I’m writing to you now from 2013, so that makes me the 21 year old you. I just thought I’d clarify because our grasp of maths runs out when we can’t count on fingers or toes any longer. The world is a little bit different now, and you’re definitely not where you imagined yourself in 5 years.
Right this minute you’re sat at a kitchen table at a house in Burbank, California. You’re teaching a sport you currently ‘hate’, doing something you didn’t ever want to do (travel), pursuing a career in something you never even thought of (writing) and you’ve finally learned how to dress yourself.
Now, I’m not sending you this letter to give away the story and tell you all that happens next – that’s for you to find out. I just want to help you avoid some mistakes along the way.
Never lose your ability to be nice. It may not pay off well for you when it comes to dating or meeting women, but in a world where people only want to work with people they trust – it will pay off ten folds. You might be the only person in the world who punched someone who was bullying them, and asked if they were okay afterwards.
There is a world outside of your Xbox. Call of Duty 4 was a fantastic creation, but it isn’t worth 6 hours of your life each and every day. It certainly isn’t worth missing Rugby Training or homework for. The time you spent on there, with people who you now haven’t spoken to since you turned the thing off, could have been better applied. Yes even if you’re on a 42 kill streak with a pistol.
Think before you speak. In the words of your maths teacher, ‘You’ve got it all going on in your mouth, but your brains only just waking up’. Most of the jokes you make aren’t funny (even to this day), the class will not laugh and your geography teacher will hate you. The latter is probably the only real plus side.
Don’t lend so much of your time to making people like you. Being a pleaser will take up a lot of your time and energy, when no matter what you do – they probably wont like you anyway. People are going to think what they want, and most have made up their mind on you within 2 minutes of your first meeting. That doesn’t mean you should stop being nice to people, just if someone doesn’t care for you, move on. You don’t need them in your life.
Be more open to the thought of travel. If you take one thing from this letter, let it be this. There are opportunities that will arise for you that you need to jump at. I don’t believe in regrets, but there are certain places I wish I’d taken the opportunity to go. Don’t worry about your Royal Air Force interviews; go jump on the plane instead. And definitely don’t fly home that day early from Amsterdam. You missed out on an awesome floating Chinese restaurant for nothing.
Finally, you do not know more than your parents and grandparents. You’ll be in a constant battle of who is right about what. 9 times out of 10, it’ll be them. Be gracious, listen to what they have to say and use every anecdote from your Granddad as a window in to the past. He’s done national service in Kenya, and you’ve sat behind a desk in Salford. I know the two are almost as dangerous as each other – but he’s got the upper hand.
You’re a good kid, and you’re destined for something bigger than you realise. Even I don’t know the answer to that one yet. I hope the 26 year old me sends a letter my way soon so I can have an idea.
For now, be strong, play nice and go buy your mum some flowers.
All the best,
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