A letter to my teenage self
I am taking part in Bloganuary. Yesterday I got off to a rocky start, posting my blog directly into the Bloganuary interface. I should have posted here first, then pasted a link into Bloganuary. Anyway, this was yesterday’s offering. Today I am taking up the prompt provided for yesterday.
In the weeks before your twentieth birthday you are going to meet a young woman about whom you will one day discover an astonishing truth: imagining a life without her in it is as impossible as imagining life without a major organ or limb.
By now you will be beginning to enjoy your Engineering apprenticeship. Earlier in the year you were placed in the drawing office where you found that your love of analysing problems can be put to use developing creative solutions to technical difficulties. But you still think that when you finish your apprenticeship you want to follow a different direction. If your attachment to that young woman means marriage and family responsibilities, you fear you will have to abandon those ambitions.
I must tell you that no-one can predict the future. It is up to you and your contemporaries to shape the future. Those people who told you that journalism was a risky profession had no idea how flimsy weekend newspapers, dominated by sport and crime, would evolve to include separate weighty sections devoted to arts and culture, finance and business, fashion and home furnishing, motoring and technology. They can’t have known how the number of television channels and radio stations would increase exponentially to provide seemingly endless opportunities for writers.
They would laugh at the suggestion that ‘media studies’ would one day become a legitimate academic course offered by every university, or that the number and size of universities will expand so that more than 4 out of 10 school levers can take a full-time degree course if they so wish. That is 8 times as many as did so in your generation.
From the perspective of 60 years, I can tell you these things will come true. I can point out a couple of men of your generation who did what you wanted to do: left school at sixteen to join the staff of their local newspapers and went on to build extraordinarily successful careers in radio and television. So, despite the nay-sayers, there is no reason I can see that you will not succeed if you choose that path.
What if you choose the ‘safe’ course? Stick with Engineering and marry young, against further advice from your elders? Again, with the perspective of sixty years, I can tell you that you will travel, though not, perhaps, to the same extent as you might as a writer. You will spend several years in Coventry, more in Cleethorpes, with a delightful year and a half in South Africa in between. You will work on projects in industries as varied as food, fibre and pharmaceutical production, air conditioning and aircraft manufacture, oil refining and power generation.
And there will be opportunities for writing, not to make money, but in a voluntary capacity. In Coventry you will help establish a talking newspaper for visually impaired people and a video magazine to be distributed to nursing homes and day centres. In Cleethorpes you will again help set up and run a talking newspaper. It is there that you will become involved in local politics, compiling election literature and writing speeches.
You will have articles published in political journals. You will be elected to two local councils. Once your son is old enough to leave home and pursue his own career you will feel able to take the risk of leaving Engineering in the hope of following a new path in politics and writing full time. You will supplement your council allowances by writing business profiles for a regional magazine. But, when you are voted off the council, you will be grateful for the advice of those who told you to acquire a marketable skill and you will re-enter the field of Engineering.
A decision you will take, at 33, to stop smoking, will be of great significance in ensuring your financial and physical health in future years, so that you will be able to enjoy a long and comfortable retirement. You will use those years to take advantage of the opportunities which will then be available to write and publish without the intervention of traditional gate keepers.
Throughout it all, that woman will be alongside, supporting and encouraging you, taking the knocks when your decisions don’t quite work out the way you had hoped.
Your son will make you proud with his successes in the field of mental health services and your grand daughter will achieve a degree in Bio-medical Engineering which will enable her to develop medical devices capable of replacing, or supporting, organs: devices that could not be imagined in your youth.
As I said at the beginning, no-one can predict the future. If, by some magic, I could be with you now, I could show you what the future might hold. But that is not possible. It all depends on the choices you make. I hope you make the right ones.