Dear Me (aged seventeen-and-a-half),
You’ll never guess what, but you’re 35 years old today. Yep, that’s halfway to seventy and – more alarmingly perhaps – five years to forty. I’m not one to get maudlin around birthdays (at least not yet). But it occurred to me that, although I might still feel like the eternal sixth former in many ways, it’s been seventeen and a half years since I was seventeen and a half (one of the very happiest times in my life). So I thought I’d drop you a line and let you in on what happens next. The story so far, if you like. Don’t worry; I’ll keep it brief so you can get back to poring over the NME, planning your trip to the Reading Festival or ‘revising’.
First things first: you’re still alive! You’d probably guessed that but I thought I should point it out, for the avoidance of doubt. And there’s your first clue. What right-minded individual uses a phrase like ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ in normal speech? A lawyer, that’s what. After dabbling with the idea of becoming a vet or Damon Albarn’s personal wardrobe mistress, it might come as a surprise to discover that you’re actually a fully qualified lawyer.
Don’t worry, you work in the music industry for a few years first, hanging out with famous bands, collecting backstage passes and even getting your own gold disc for the wall. It’s fun while it lasts, but after a while you decide to do something that’s a bit better for your brain (and bank balance – cool careers don’t pay). Doing a law conversion is about as fun as hitting your own head repeatedly with a large hammer for nine months, but it’s worth it in the end. At law school you make brilliant friends – to add to the others you’ve made at university – and meet the man who becomes your husband.
Yes, you’re married too. I know you and Z made a pact over a bottle of Blue Nun one night that you’d both be married with two children by the time you were thirty, but life doesn’t quite work out like that (and, in hindsight, thank goodness for that). During your twenties you were too busy working and playing hard to worry about walking down the aisle.
You moved to London and fell in love with it, in spite of the effort and expense it entailed. The plays, exhibitions, memorable meals and magical walks more than made up for it. You also lived in Paris for a bit (pay attention in French!), found out what it felt like to work right through the night in a busy City law firm (horrendous) and trained for and ran a marathon. You read that right: you, who once faked an asthma attack (despite never having had asthma) in a games lesson to avoid having to run 1500 metres, ran a marathon. Very slowly, but you did it. Never again.
And then one blustery late summer’s day, the man you love proposed. You were walking together along the beach you used to visit with your grandparents and there was no-one else around (except, you hope, for them, whispering their blessings in the wind). You said yes, of course. A year later you were married and two years later you welcomed your little boy into the world. Now he is three and his sister – your little girl – is nearing her first birthday. They’re a joy and you can’t believe the love you have for them. Your not-so-little brother had his first baby yesterday, too, a little boy. You’re looking forward to seeing the cousins grow up together.
A lot has changed in the last year. London’s fun when you’re carefree, but with children it’s difficult. We needed more space and time, neither of which we were ever going to get if we stayed where we were. So we moved back north to be closer to family and old friends, and we haven’t looked back.
As for friends, you’ll be pleased to know that the best friends you have now are still your best friends. Some of them have also been to London and come back, others are further away, but you’re all in touch and are there for each other. Older, a bit wiser, and still as silly when you get together. You still have the same in-jokes (you know the ones) and dread the day that anyone finds out the ridiculous names you used to call yourselves. And between you you have ten babies. Ten! Can you imagine?
I might be old in your eyes, but I’d like to think you might like to hang out with me. You still love to read, see friends, go out drinking (when babysitters allow) and the last gig you went to – a long time ago, I’ll admit – was Blur at Hyde Park. It was amazing, and I’m sure you approve.
There are some signs of middle age creeping in though. I hope you can forgive the fact that you’re now a member of the National Trust. All those years being dragged, sulking, around country houses by the parents, and now you’ve gone over to the dark side. Your Radio One years are behind you too; until the children are old enough to argue, it’s BBC Radios Two and Four. In your defence, Chris Evans and Zoe Ball have defected to Radio Two, too. We’re all in this ageing thing together.
So life is good, and life has been good. My advice for you? Enjoy yourself and don’t worry too much. Spend time with your grandparents and send them cards (I know you will); they won’t be around forever. Use anti-ageing cream before you think you need it. Try to resist buying your first home at the very height of the market. And relax: all will be well. Oh, and don’t worry about that Millenium Bug thing – it never really takes off.
Lots of love,