This seems like a perfectly fitting time to write this. Right now, I’m scouring the internet for a hint, a clue, a point in the right direction as to what I’m going to do with life after uni. This all very reminiscent of me five years ago, crying in the career guidance office, genuinely positive that my life would come to an abrupt stop after high school, feeling like instead of being a very small fish in a very big pond, I was just going to be used as bait. However, (a saying that seems to have gained its own meaning this year): hindsight is 2020 and the next five years of your life will teach you more than the first seventeen ever did. Despite the fact that the pond has grown to the size of the ocean, at least now, you’ve learnt how to swim.
I don’t want to make this letter to my younger self completely boy-centric, yet I feel that not mentioning them would be a disservice to fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen-year-old (and beyond) Hannah- whose entire world back then, seemed to gravitate around them.
As every woman eventually does, I have turned into my mother so I will repeat one thing that I know you’ve heard before (perhaps it will make a difference coming from your future self- I have a nipple piercing now and live with a boy so I’m ultimately cooler and know best ): stop caring about boys that don’t care about you. Oh, and stop holding on to relationships you know aren’t going to work. Chew them off like a frost-bitten finger and spit them across the ice. You can live without a finger or two and the quicker you get rid of it, the less of you it will poison. That’s the last I’ll say on boys (see, leading by example- stop dragging things on).
Always love love. You always have. Never give up that shiny idea of perfect love but remember that you get that with your friends too. Although it will be strange not seeing them every day, it means that you’re all growing, albeit in different directions, but all from the same roots.
The love you have with them is unlike anything else. Don’t let it go. You all need to squeeze each other tightly with your nail bitten fingers to stop you falling apart through the bad times.
But things will never really be that bad. They will feel it. God, it will feel like all the air has been sucked from your body and like you’re being forced to carry around the weight of the sky around your neck. But you have always been fine. Don’t let go of your friends and you always will be. And remember that you can sometimes be a little dramatic.
For God sake, start being nicer to your parents. I know it’s oh-so hard being a teenager and that no one understands you and that the entirety of the world is against you blah, blah, blah and I know if you met me today, you’d probably roll your eyes and reply with something cutting. But it’s not cool to fill the stereotype of ‘stroppy teenager’- as much as you want to believe it you are not the main character in a 2000’s chick flick where teenagers slam doors and sneak out of their bedroom windows to go to concerts in the middle of the night. You are not Lindsay Lohan in ‘Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen’. You just look like a brat who wears too much under-eye liner. Believe me, it’s just easier when everyone gets on.
There’s a lot of times you won’t feel pretty. You struggle a lot with Trichotillomania, although at this point you won’t know what it is yet. I know this has a massive impact on your self-confidence which in turn only makes it worse. But don’t stress- seriously try not to stress because the more you stress the worse it becomes. You’ll grow out of it, or at least learn how to manage it. You won’t feel the need to get up before he does just to draw on your eyebrows anymore, to hide your face whenever someone makes a joke, to make up excuses as to why you have no eyelashes, no eyebrows. You will feel pretty again.
I wish I was writing this from a place of absolute clarity, as if turning the grand-old-age of twenty-two was an enlightening experience. It’s not. Although I am a different person I was when I was seventeen, it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t make the same mistakes for a second (or third?) time. And even looking back I would encourage you to make as many mistakes as you can. Mistakes make for good stories and as a writer you’ll need lots of those.
All I know for certain is you need to stop looking at doing business degrees, or law degrees or degrees in public relations. Stop crying about how you only got 17% in the higher maths exam (despite what mum and dad say, you actually don’t need a maths qualification to get into university). Start viewing writing as a viable career goal and start believing that you can actually achieve it.
Although this is a post for my teenage self, there’s a lot that my last week, yesterday, ten minutes ago self can take out of it as well. Belief in yourself comes in peaks and troughs so
the point I’m trying to make is that things are never as bad as they seem. You’re tough and things will be okay. Just keep your head above the water.
Hannah is currently studying a Masters in Creative Writing in Glasgow. She struggles calling herself a writer but hopes to publish book or two someday.