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Letter to my Teenage Self

Catherine Evans

Dear Teenage Me,

Why, oh why won’t you keep a diary? Your memory never gets any better, you know. Who cares if anyone reads it? At the very least you could keep a record of all the books you’ve ever read, but you’re just too plumb lazy.

Well done for never getting into drugs. But put that fag out right NOW, you unbelievably daft little skank. Taking that first drag was the worst decision of your life.  Every time you light up, the thought that maybe it’ll be this one that tips you into cancer will plague you. It makes you reek like an old ashtray and gives you dragon breath. You’ll be eaten up by disappointment and self-loathing every time you try and fail (yet again) to give up. You are literally setting a vast pile of money on fire. Oh well. Doubtless you’d spend it on something equally as silly. You’ll be delighted to know you do quit eventually, and now, the only time you’d ever be tempted to light up is if Putin presses the red button, and even then, you’ll be too busy applying Factor 2000 and gulping down red wine.

Don’t worry so much about how you look. Yes, you’re spottier than a Dalmatian, but that’ll change. You’re beautiful, even though you wear terrible clothes, and as for your hair … well. The less said about that the better.

Stop slathering yourself in baby oil and baking yourself in the African sun. It makes your older self shudder with horror.

Please desist from imagining that boys talk to you because you’re witty, clever and a good conversationalist. They’re talking to your boobs. Yes, the ones you used to waste so much time worrying about. Now, you really don’t want new boobs. You just want those old ones back.

You will have a few romantic disappointments. That’s an understatement. Don’t believe a word that blokes tell you. Don’t spend so much time and energy on them. You end up with a lovely husband, who often reminds you how lucky you are.

Keep reading that vast pile of books, even the trashy ones. Especially the trashy ones. The time spent reading is the happiest you’ll ever be, and there’s no better way to live multiple lives short of waiting for reincarnation. Fiction will teach you all you’ll ever need to know about relationships. As for the non-fiction, do you really have to be quite so addicted to Erich von Däniken? The guy’s a total fraudster.

When Claire and Jessie fall out, don’t let them force you to choose between them.

Say thank you to the people who make a difference in your life before it’s too late. David Kosoff will be dead by the time you think about writing to him, and all your efforts, including harnessing the combined power of the internet and social media, have failed to reveal the current whereabouts of Shirley van Zyl. Mrs van Zyl, if you ever read this: THANK YOU!

You’re a terrible student, lazy as all hell and a shocking procrastinator. But don’t worry too much. You do all right. Although I wish you’d pay more attention to science. It really is fascinating, and you could make a career of it. Stop laughing.

You may not believe it, but you can do anything you set your mind to.

You never get over your chronic disorganisation, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Stay away from Pernod and Black. And from Peach Schnapps and lemonade. (Shudder.)

I beg you to listen more carefully to the stories of your older family members and write them all down in minute detail. Some of them are incredibly funny and moving, and there’s no one alive now who remembers them. It makes me want to weep.

I should tell you to steer clear of Monkswell Road. The place was an utter den of iniquity, but it’s given you fabulous material to work from. I bet it’s all gentrified now.

I will never understand how you could possibly think that publicly humiliating X was ever a good idea. You know who I’m talking about. I hope they have finally repressed the trauma. It’s been over thirty-five years, and you still feel bad about it.

Two wrongs really, really, really, really, really don’t make a right.

As soon as you have a bit of cash, buy some Apple shares.

Being kind is more important than being right. You’ll struggle with this for the rest of your life.

Be nicer to your sister. She’s not that bad, and later on, she becomes a good mate. Why not make friends with her a bit earlier? Sorry? Oh. Ok. I’d forgotten how unbelievably annoying she was.

There are plenty of other things I should admonish you for, but luckily for you, I’ve forgotten them. And the ones I remember? Don’t worry. I’ll only spill the beans about those when every single person I’ve ever known is dead.

From your considerably older and slightly wiser self (who knows full well that you won’t pay the slightest bit of attention to this excellent advice)

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