Letter to my teenage self…

I was reading another blog (wavey davey) and he talked about writing a letter to a younger version of himself. Through some nexus of time and space, this letter would be received by a 14 year old Davey Wavey. What would you write to yourself? What guidance would you give? There is so much to say – so much wisdom to impart. I once performed in a show called Lifegame. (Based on an improvisation game by Keith Johnstone) Lifegame is essentially theatrical biography. The show takes the bare bones of a life story by interviewing a guest onstage and then transforming that information, there and then, into a magical piece of theatre. Each show has a different “subject” each night, because each show has a different guest each night. By transforming someone’s memories into theatrical language, it triggers details within those memories as well as new memories. The spectacle of someone discovering and remembering feelings from their past makes for electrifying theatre. In this lifegame I had to perform a scene where I visited myself (the me I was visiting was performed by one of the actors). In the scene I played my guardian angel. I stepped in through the window and woke myself up and said “It’s ok. Don’t be afraid” And during the conversation I was told to offer myself advice but not reveal the future to myself. So I then said “I’m not an angel bringing tidings of great joy but an angel bringing tidings of gentle survival. You’ll be ok… there are times when you’ll be convinced that it won’t and you’ll want to give up but you’ll get through. I’ll only let things happen to you that you can cope with.”. It was incredibly moving and made me look at my teenage years in a new light. But here’s my letter.

— Dear Ben, You like being called Ben at the moment but there are times coming when you’ll be Benjamin (and it won’t be Mum who calls you that but someone who loves you and will be able to whisper you to bed with that word), there are still times when you’ll be Bunny, times when you’ll be Benji (both on and off the train), times you’ll be Sir or just Mr Whitehouse and other times when you’ll be called other things I’m not allowed to tell you.

You like getting letters in the post and I know you’ll wait till you’re walking to school to pull this letter out, read it and quietly ponder what’s written here.

There’s a bit of a shocking confession to make: I am you, writing to you from the future. I am 28 years old right now and you are 14. 28 seems impossibly old to you right now and you might want to ignore what I write to you but you’ll finish the letter out of fascination and then you’ll file it away with your poetry. The years gap between your life and mine is both massive and infinitely small. I remember being 14 like it was yesterday. At the same time, it feels like a lifetime ago.

Sadly I’m not allowed to warn you about what’s coming; the pain, the fear and the changes in your life are needed to turn you into me-it’s a strange kind of alchemy; something that’s nothing like straw being turned into something nothing like gold. I can’t give you a life plan or words of caution because you need to make every step without fearing it or worrying about the outcome. Also any plan has a habit of falling down in flight. You’ll (I’ll? I’m not sure how to adress you/me) make mistakes but you’ll also have some unique triumphs that you’ll smirk about.

Cherish the people around you who build you up and recognise that the people with whom you struggle the most will be recognized as your greatest teachers. Be careful what you say, your words and your mouth with get you into trouble (both kinds) and there’ll be times you wish you could call back the arrows sent from your mouth. Don’t ever compromise who you are; unless of course you have to, then you’re allowed to sacrifice everything and everyone to hold your universe in shape.

So, young man, sweet sensitive Ben, there are no screeching birds to help create prophecies with. Read the past. Everything swings round and round anyway… and some of the relationships you have now you’ll spend time and effort trying to recreate in the future. People you’re so close to now, people you couldn’t possibly even imagine losing, that when they’re gone they’ll leave a yawning hole in your life- like a lost tooth torn out. But that sounds far scarier and portentous that it should be. You’ll be ok. You survive to 28, that’s like having your whole life over again. 

See you soon, Benjamin.

PS I love you more than you possibly know or understand.

— I adore how beautiful and easy it was to write that letter. So simple… so overwhelmingly beautiful. It’s helpful to remember that every event that’s led us here enables us to be perfect and whole. We may not feel it but we’re totally complete. There’s no search for the interior self, no vast improvements needed (sure you can trim down and not grump on a Monday morning) but you’re awesome as you are! So, give it a go. Try writing to your teenage self. Be gentle with yourself. Don’t try and shock yourself into new action. And don’t try and prevent things happening. That’s not in the spirit of the exercise.

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