Sometime back the Telegraph asked their writers to write a letter of advice to their 16-year-old selves. This seemed like a good idea, and thus this letter, although then forgotten, and only now finished.
To be perfectly honest, the details of being 16 are pretty fuzzy memories; high school is remembered more or less as an era. Don’t worry so much about being a geek; you end up in a profession where almost everyone was a geek at that age, except maybe for Paula. Most of the people you think have it made at 16 pretty much peak out in high school, and you’ll keep getting better for a long time. So don’t worry about these people; you won’t be coming back here, you won’t see hardly any of them ever again. But you’ll get a whole cadre of professional colleagues to hang out with who are ever so much more interesting and fun. Sadly you are going to be a bit slow to mature, to develop coordination, and to get comfortable with being yourself, so success at sports is pretty much not going to happen. You will find out something you sort of knew; smart girls are more interesting than pretty girls, and pretty girls who are also smart girls are fabulous. You think you’re not very good at anything, but actually you have some as yet undeveloped talents, some physical, some intellectual, but it’s still true that you have no aptitude for foreign language. Sixteen was not a particularly good time in your life, but you have a lot to look forward to, and in particular you are quite right in thinking that you can literally hit the reset button and remake yourself in college into someone you like much better than your high school self who was too much a creature of other people’s making. It’s funny but a basic fascination with growing plants becomes a successful career even if you only sort of stumble into it, finding out, finally, that you can make a living doing what you like.
Best regards from your future,
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