No, not really.
I hate those things. They always sound quite pretentious to me – as well as (quite, clearly) pointless. You can’t change the past. I don’t think you should want to. Not that I don’t have regrets.
There’s also the fact that I’m pretty sure, had a received a letter from my future self when I was about 16 saying ‘Don’t do this’, ‘Give this a go’, ‘Old English won’t be fun’, I really think I’d have missed out. I mean, obviously, some of this advice could have been very pertinent, very useful, saved me a lot of heartache – but then that’s not really the point of life, is it? I am the sum of all those things, as cheesy as that is/sounds, so to warn myself away from them would change me beyond recognition.
And although I know that these Letters are supposed to help rather than hinder – if I haven’t done something, how could I safely know to tell my little self to do them without causing her an abundance of equal problems in a different direction?
All of which stems from what could have been two separate posts: A List of Regrets and Things I Miss About University.
A List of Regrets
- Not keeping in contact with someone I had promised to always be friends with
- Losing my best friend before we even got to university
- Not dealing with my feelings in a sensible, adult way last year
- Not having the ability to admit that enough was enough
- Not taking that gap year after uni (although I guess that’s kind of a small regret, and it’s something I can always work on later)
- Never trying to be in the RH fashion show – as tiny as I am I can walk in heels!
- Confusing things in first year just because I was so excited by meeting the people I had met
- Not admitting how I felt about many things – the course, old friends, new friends, etc
- Getting intimidated by others on my course
- Not going to absinthe night in first year
- Giving up drama-type stuff
- Going home on Christine’s 21st (not that I wish I hadn’t, I just wish I hadn’t had to)
A List of Things I Miss about University (ie. A list of the best)
- Spring Avenue and almost everything that went with it – masking tape on the kitchen floor, the garden, the squirrel, everything!
- The freedom to go into London whenever we liked – in the middle of the day just for lunch – why not?
- Staying up until 5am just because we could – although that has the added regret of being useless the next day!
- The fire escape in first year (although that’s almost a regret because it added to the confusion)
- Drinking whiskey
- Alex’s surprise birthday party
- Taking hot desserts to IFIS in first year
- Being able to walk everywhere – and with no deadlines
- Homemade cakes on my 20th birthday 🙂 (Still the best birthday so far)
- Feeling at home with what I wanted to do – in writing, and with people
- The raisin-cake game
- Drawing on all the doors, hiding in suitcases, duct-taping up bedrooms
- The room next door in second year
Some of those are just memories, I guess. But ones that I wouldn’t have otherwise. You can’t tell your younger self to on an impulse hide in a suitcase… Which I think means I’m having a hard time coming up with these Best Things – and I don’t think that’s because it’s easier to come up with regrets. I think it’s because the main thing I miss about uni is the freedom, and that’s basically what all of these things point towards. Perhaps that’s why I could never write a Letter – the best thing about the past four years was the freedom to do exactly as we pleased, and even if that meant doing stupid things like climbing into the attic, the Just Because We Could thing is something I really needed and really enjoyed – and if my future self had influenced me in any way, then it just would not have been as good. I would have been nervous, I would have been looking for the opportunities and I think the most beautiful part of all this nostalgia crap is the stuff that you never planned.
The point of these lists was for me to see what I’ve learned or gained or lost. Which is an equally pretentious thing to writing a Letter, I know, but at least I don’t claim to have all of the answers now. I learned from those regrets and those chances that I took and while some of them I don’t wish to repeat, or won’t, most of them I’m glad I did as I learned something from each of them.
So, in my opinion, we shouldn’t wish for magical, time-travelling advice. I think we should be able to trust ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them – or at least learn never to do them again! It’s the not planning that makes it all enjoyable. I saw my life as something very different four years ago, and I didn’t ever think I’d be where I am now back then. I’m not with the same person (“romantically”), I’m not in a city, I don’t live on my own, I’m not studying – and gods know I never thought I’d become a librarian! – but I don’t mind any of these things. It’s the things I learned in the middle that shaped that, and although I kind of want to plan, I know that I can’t because I just like the way things go too much!
Having said all that, I’m curious, what do you wish you’d learned before something went wrong, or wish you’d known how good something would be before it took you so long to try it? How did you see your life going when you were younger? Audience participation – go!