Have you ever thought about what advice you would give yourself if you could travel back in time? Would you try and right any wrongs? Maybe you would influence a few dodgy decisions? Just think … you could change history and reengineer your first kiss, your failed driving test or education choices.
OK, so we can’t travel through time just yet, but those of us of a ‘certain age’ will remember with fondness a film in the 1980’s called ‘Back to the Future’. It introduced us to a relatable teenage boy (and my friend Nicky to her first crush) played by Michael J. Fox – Nicky was clearly a late developer as my first crush was the charming and handsome Danny Zuko played by a 23 year old John Travolta in the 1970s.
Michael’s character, Marty McFly accidentally travels back in time from the 1980’s to the 1950’s and the film takes us on a rollercoaster ride as he struggles to get back to his present day. We were able to enjoy his time travelling adventures over 3 films, and although I’m never sure if film franchises are a good thing, the second film gives us the perfect example of someone who uses the opportunity to travel back in time and visit his teenage self.
Marty’s nemesis in the film is a school bully called Biff. Biff manages to steal the time machine which, thinking about it, was the world’s first eco car as we see it run on household waste, so clearly ahead of the curve way before electric cars became ‘a thing’. I digress. Biff travels back in time to find his teenage self, but instead of offering advice and words of wisdom, he is consumed with greed and changes the future for himself and everyone around him with dreadful consequences.
But what if you could influence your teenage self? If you were able to write yourself a letter to the person you used to be, what would it say? I thought I’d have a go, so here it is …
Yes, you read that correctly. This letter is written by you in 2021. And yes, before you ask, that is after where Marty McFly goes forward to in the second Back to the Future film and no, we do not have hover boards and flying cars. They did try 3D TV for a bit recently, but that didn’t take off.
Anyway, that’s not why I’m writing to you. I’m not going to tell you about your actual life now, because I’m pretty much happy with it. If I stopped you from making some of your bad decisions, they wouldn’t lead you to making the good ones that result in being where I am now.
Some things are going to happen that will break your heart and make you miserable, but life will also bring you lots of fun, love and laughter. But I will tell you that you can stop worrying about the Cold War, four-minute warnings and a nuclear winter. Throw these concerns aside and enjoy your teenage years – nobody will drop the bomb of your nightmares before 2021 (we still can’t travel into the future so I can’t tell you if they ever will).
I’m writing this letter because I know you worry and I wanted to offer you some advice for life, so here goes:
Be yourself – lots of people around you are mean to you because they are jealous – their behaviour tells you all you need to know about them. You are tall, you have a fabulous figure and amazing hair (apart from the dodgy perm … stop letting Mum do that to your hair!). Stop trying to fit in and just be you – if you make any changes to the way you look or behave, do them for you and nobody else. Ever.
Friends will come and go – you already know deep down that your two besties are back-stabbing bitches. You won’t end up sharing a flat with Louise as you live the dream in London. Instead enjoy the time you have with them now. Ignore their comments – they don’t mean to hurt you. Eventually neither of them will feature in your life. You will all take different paths and live separate lives. You’ll make lots of friends and continue to make new ones – you’ll lose touch with some older ones. And a dear friend from infants school will come back into your life unexpectantly. Just watch out for the snakes and be wary of who you tell your secrets to. It’s just life – learn from them all.
Invest in experiences and not things – you aren’t too good with money right now and never have much available, but you’ll get a Saturday job soon as well as earn a few quid from babysitting. Don’t waste your hard-earned cash on things – that’s just stuff that you end up losing, breaking or put away and never use again as it gathers dust. Spend your money on making memories. Experience music, theatre, places, food and meeting lots of different people (you’ll have to get over your shyness young lady). You’ll treasure those memories long after you sit down and write this letter.
Rise to the occasion – as much as you enjoy praise and pleasing people when you are with them, you will also be judged on the actions you take and decisions you make when you are alone. Make wise decisions and think things through.
Look after your health – at the moment you are strong and healthy. Keep up the cycling and swimming you enjoy so much. You’ll learn to enjoy other new sports. You’ll also discover smoking and being able to spend your own money on food. Ditch the fags – you never really enjoyed them and only started smoking because of those 2 stupid friends of yours. You do give up eventually but you should have done it sooner. You’ll put a bit of weight on and my advice is always tackle it when you only have 2 or 3 stone to lose – when you get to my age losing weight is fucking hard and getting this big is my biggest regret.
There’s always tomorrow – people will piss you off, things will go wrong and sometimes you’ll hate the world and everyone in it. But tomorrow is another day – a clean slate where you can start again. We all have bad days, but shit happens. Get up when you fall down, dust yourself off and try again.
Sleep – you’ve got sleep nailed now because you are a teenager. Learn to love sleep and reward yourself with it. You’ll go to some all night parties, you’ll watch a sunrise with someone you love and you’ll work hard. You need to recharge your batteries. If you don’t get enough sleep, the ‘tomorrow’ you need will not be the successful one it should be. Sleep replenishes your mind and your body.
Remember your manners – as you grow older, you will sadly meet and also work with people who have lost theirs. Never stoop to their level – they are not walking over you because you can hold your tongue and show respect. Spend time with people who behave like the person you want to be and treat everyone with kindness, show empathy and be self-aware. Lead by example and treat people with respect, even if you sometimes think they don’t deserve it.
Open your mind – try and look at everything you do from different points of view. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You’ll have some interesting hobbies throughout your life and will never stop learning as you teach yourself new things. Remember to sit back and reflect on what you have done and never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Be kind – you are going to meet some unpleasant people in your life. Some of them will be close to you and their comments and behaviour are going to hurt you a lot. You will learn that people are cruel, they’ll gossip (don’t join in) and they’ll make you cry. You can’t control the uncontrollable so don’t even try. Focus on the positives around you and don’t get absorbed by the negative energy. You are a lovely person right now and you will continue to be.
Smile – smile at yourself and smile at other people. Everyone will continue to tell you that you have a lovely smile. You have a warm and kind nature and that opens lots of doors for you.
Love the little things – it’s easy to be consumed by the bad things, but ignore them and look at the good. Sit outside, watch butterflies, catch snowflakes on your tongue and feel the rain on your skin.
I’m afraid fame and fortune are not going to come knocking, but you don’t really want that anyway. You don’t win the lottery before you write this letter, so save the money, but you will be very happy. Keep on being you … and try not to cringe when you find out what I did with this letter!
Love always, from Me xxx
We’ve all got regrets – some big and some small. But we have to live life in order to shape who we are, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes. What advice would you share with your teenage self? Why don’t you share some words of wisdom in the comments with us? We’d love to read them.