Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Letter to myself at 16

Having been tagged by Shane Greer, your humble Devil thought that it might be quite amusing to indulge—and I do mean "indulge"—in this particular meme. I turned 16 in the summer of 1993 and, a few weeks later, started my penultimate year at Eton...
Dear Mega*,

Well, it's 16 years on, and here I am—dispensing advice to you about the course of your life. Naturally, one can look back on the last few years and indulge in any amount of counterfactuals, so I'll just give you a few tasters of what is to come.

First off, don't get your heart too set on medical school: you and I both know that your inability to grasp the fundamentals of organic chemistry is going to lead to a choppy ride in that exam.

However, if it's any consolation, the city in which you get completely plastered—having learned of the results—will be the one in which you live, very happily, for ten years.

Second, we both know—don't we?—that you aren't great at structured academic learning. As such, when you get to university, I do suggest that you look around you at all of the things that you could do and find what best suits you. It's probably not going to be a degree course on which, in your first term, your tutor advises you to "regurgitate what your lecturers tell you and you'll pass." After all, two years of A Levels is, I think you'll find, quite enough.

You want a clue? OK. Look, you're good at art, right? Might I suggest that you go and have a squint at Dave McKean's stuff? He will be something of an inspiration to you: not only because you love his stuff, but also the methods by which he creates his works.

Eh? Oh, with computers. Yes, yes: I know that you know nothing whatsoever about computers—it simply not being necessary at present—but, believe me, you will know a lot by my age. It will take a couple of years for computers—and specifically Macs—to get to the point where you can use them for your purposes.

But, seriously, when you discover what you can do with these machines, it will be the best time of your life.

Oh, and I know that no one really knows about it yet but, in a couple of years, you are going to come across something called "the internet". I really suggest that you take a closer look at that, as its going to make a big impact on your life. Hunt around and see if you can find out about something called "blogging".

Oh and, when it comes to swearing, take the attitude of Bill Hicks (he's a comedian: you'll like him) rather than pater.

What else is there? Ah, clubbing. I know that you weren't immensely impressed when you went to Ministry of Sound in London recently: don't worry—in about eight years you'll discover drugs (specifically Ecstasy) and this "clubbing" lark will all make sense. I'd leave it until then.

Now, the thorny subject of women, and sex. I know you're pretty untutored at the moment but your general "wait and see" attitude is the right one to take. Although, I'd shut up about not wanting to lose your virginity at a drunken party, 'cos you're just going to look an idiot in a wee bit.

No, I'm not going to tell you when it is. You'll see. Just take my word for it that, after that first not entirely excellent encounter, your general confidence will see you through. And no, I'm not going to warn you off the Gothy-looking lasses: they're generally great fun.

In terms of career choices... well, it's going to be seat-of-your-pants stuff. You'll make the best of whatever comes along, naturally, but it'll be something of a chequered career. As I said, do keep track of the internet—print is a dying trade. There's a chap called John, who will persuade you to invest in his company: this is, financially, a spectacularly bad decision—a decision the repercussions of which will affect you for several years.

However, joining that company will lead you to discover Cascading Style Sheets, which you will absolutely love. Yes, they're to do with this internet thing again, and this whole episode will set the scene for the next stage of your career.

If I were going to advise against doing one thing, when the company goes bust just walk away. Do not take the clients and some of the employees and set up on your own: you don't know either the market or how to do business well enough. It'll be two years of insanely hard graft and more financial fuck-ups. Oh, and wrangles with the tax man.

However, if you decide to ignore me then, I have to say, even that decision has plus points. You'll find yourself in London and invited to all sorts of think-tank piss-ups.

What? Oh, political think-tanks. Yes, it's all down to this blogging thing. Yes, just splurging your thoughts onto the internet—like a daily diary of rage. You'll get quite well known in certain circles and make some good friends.

So, your general interest in politics will become something a bit more. And you'll learn a lot. The big thing that you'll learn is a vocabulary for what you believe: you and I both know that you aren't really a Tory—don't worry, you'll find out what you really believe soon enough.

Hmmm, I think that I may have revealed too much. So, I'll sign off with a few words of personal advice. You are starting to understand yourself: you have a calm sense of confidence in who you are and your attitude to life in general—stay on that path. You have always had a sense of "wait and see what happens" and, generally speaking, that's a good way to go: planning ahead's over-rated because life, frankly, tends not to go to plan.

Besides, the ladies love a confident man. And you're going to marry one of them, and the timing of that isn't going to be planned either, but it'll be good nonetheless. Yes, it's all the fault of that blogging thing again.

Anyway, stay cool and enjoy yourself. Life's a rollercoaster, as Bill Hicks said, and the best thing that you can do is to enjoy the ride.



P.S. That pact you have with Dom about giving up smoking when Marlboro Reds get to £3 a pack? Don't delude yourself, big man...

P.P.S. Yes, The Cure are one of the best bands in the world but, as you are starting to realise, The Waterboys also rock. Oh, and you're going to love James. Yes, you do: that "sit down" song. No, really.

* Yes, you'll continue to live your life under pseudonyms.

Prolix as ever. Perhaps I should have made do with a Post-it note...

Never mind. I shall tag The Nameless Libertarian, Bella Gerens, Tim Worstall and the peripatetic poor little Greek boy.


Prodicus said...

The bit about org chem & med school resonates. Highly forgettable nomenclature simply would not stick to me. People said, 'But, ah, the elegance of the molecules!' Er, ye-es.

The Nameless Libertarian said...


Devil's Kitchen said...

Ahem. I was very into Transformers as a kid—indeed, I used to build my own out of Lego. So, "Mega" was short for Megatron.

It followed me to Eton...


peter whale said...

Devil since you have gone mainstream you have become a bourgeois, such a cunt. Maybe its marriage and love but you are now turning into my dad, wake back up and become what you were a revolutionary.

Anonymous said...

What a wank fest!

I think you have hit your peak and its all downhill from here!!

The moment you start looking back, its the start of the end!!

fewqwer said...

Besides, the ladies love a confident man. And you're going to marry one of them ...

Care to rephrase that? :)

Anonymous said...

It seems like an interesting and potentially cathartic excercise..I've had a go too.

'You will be shocked to hear (despite the evidence that is and has been pilling up around you for about the last 6 years) that your early 30s self has many regrets that I would need several sides of A4 just to list them, never mind try and make you understand why such regret is necessary. You probably won’t understand anyway right now - life is about immediate pleasure, isn’t it? That may sound smug and patronising (in a way that you will be very familiar with from the many bollockings that you receive from all and sundry) but I do say it as a one who continues to think that way. Even in your early 30s you will still find yourself throwing caution to the wind just so that you can have a evening of pleasure, be it rock n’ roll style pleasure, or just plain ‘Doing Nothing’ pleasure – you will retain that absurd ability to make clear and logical arguments in your head to disconnect the potential consequences from your actions. But, you will learn – the hard way I am afraid – that every action has a reaction. That you do not exist in an impenetrable bubble. That failure comes easy to you and you learn to accept it and live with it but in time it will eat you from within. You will rage inside that you are not what you should be, or that you are not regarded by other as you feel you ought to be…but then one day you will realise that success comes from hard work. Right now you believe that failure is what happens to other people, that success is some sort of birth right. It will take you some years to realise that, unfortunately, you are like everyone else.

Choices, decisions, forks in the road – call them what you will – ahead of you are many, and you will call most of them wrong. Chance may well be on your side however. Sometimes, just occasionally you will be able to pull it out of the bag. You will continue to live by the principle of doing ‘just enough, just in time’ – but the ‘just enough’ is only what you are prepared to live with, and often you will be surprised, looking book, quite what you were prepared to live with. Do join the Army, but once in do not make a fool out of yourself believing it to be the best way to be accepted. Commit to it, and be as professional as you have the potential to be – but do leave at some point around your 30th birthday. As a consequence you might meet the love of your life. And, if do leave, do seek further action and adventure in foreign fields, but don’t screw up the interview with the one organisation you really want to work for, by getting drunk the night before, turning up late and not being prepared. You’ll end up working for someone else – and spend the rest of your life trying to forget it.

By now you may be depressed – is the future really that bad? No, but you could make life a little easier for yourself by growing up and applying yourself. Time wasted now will narrow you choices later. Will you like your life when you 33? Yes, you will, you will feel very lucky. But by the grace of God go you.'

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