in five years time we could be walking round a zoo

Lessons for a Younger Me, or Little J

Write. Remember the days when you were much younger, and you had folders and folders of about 35 half-written manuscripts? There were book series, standalone novels, poems, and ambitious Word documents headed Chapter One that you password protected so no one else could access them on the family desktop. Keep writing, little J. You’re going to grow up in a world where pretty much anyone can get published and considering you have so many ideas, have a decent grasp of grammar and punctuation, and can spell words like manoeuvre, you shouldn’t stop. Write.

Be happy with your weight. Considering you’re tall and not pole-thin, people are always going to make comments on your weight whether you like it or not. What’s important is that you’re okay with that, and you don’t obsess about it without fundamentally trying to do something to change it. I’m not going to say things like “why don’t you exercise” because I know that sets you off, little J, but just be happy and everything else takes care of itself in the process.

Trust instinct over heart. Bad relationships are okay. Later people might smirk and say things like wow, how could you man, but it really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes you’ll know perfectly well that you’re in something rather shitty, and that you can do so much better, but you’ll still keep on because your heart will tell you that you’re in love, and that you think you can fix it. Trust instinct over heart. Perhaps more importantly, trust pride and ego. If you ever feel like you’re sacrificing your pride, then step back. You aren’t pompous and you don’t have a puffed-up opinion of yourself, so your pride is pretty stable. Therefore, your pride is pretty smart.

Don’t smoke. When you’re about 19, you’re going to be one of those girls who hate people smoking, and sanctimoniously takes it upon herself to lecture smokers about why it’s bad for them, and why they should stop. As unpalatable as the thought may seem, it’s far better than the alternative. Smoking for you will start as a laughing “oh, I only smoke when I drink” to a ghastly crutch which is very difficult to shake off. Sure, you’ll quit for a couple of weeks but the realisation that you can will drive you back into clouds of ash and blackening lungs, because you will tell yourself that it’s easy enough, and you will quit eventually. At one point, you will tell people (without them even bringing it up) that you will quit when you’re pregnant. It’s one of those banteresque things you do, and people will laughingly tell you that you’ll have to quit then anyway, but you’re only saying it because you know that you won’t quit until that gun is held to your head. So don’t smoke. You hate it half the time, but you still won’t be able to stop.

Stop being so emotional. You might think you wear the mask well, little J, but the truth is that you’re incredibly emotional and weepy. You can’t help it because it’s apparently in your genes, but it also stops you from being happy when there is nothing else in the world standing in your way. Your head will conjure up scenarios that send you into a spiral of gloom; there will however be absolutely no possibility of aforementioned scenarios coming to pass. My V told me that he thinks that since I have a kind, soft heart, I am as emotional as I am. Obviously my fickle mind cannot accept that, but I think it’s a lovely thing to be told.

Know your friends. Bad relationships (as covered before) might wrap you up to the extent that you alienate the closest friends that you have. You know when it’s happening, so that’s another sign that this is a relationship to leave. Sometimes friends may approve of the relationship; that’s when you look to your instinct. The point is, know who your friends are. They’re the little shortcut icons on your phone, to text and to call, and more importantly, they’re the ones that you know will not judge you, and will not laugh about you behind your back. Be nice to them, and hold them close, because they’re the ones who will get you through everything.

Speaking of friends, you will lose some. Sadly, little J, the people you thought you will always be closest to are going to change. Sometimes, it will be your fault. And it will be your fault for the stupidest reasons, and that’s something you should be embarrassed and ashamed about because by the time you realise the loss, the friends have moved on and things will never be the same. That being said, don’t mope about it forever. Yes, it’s a terrible thing but life is like that. You are not a bad person. Just a rather silly one.

Taking the friends topic further, recognise the ones you shouldn’t have. Yes, you will have friends whom you are mighty close to, but there is always that sense of unease because it’s one of those passive-aggressive relationships that require too much work to sustain. Those are signs, little J, signs that these are not healthy relationships to have. When it reaches a stage where you feel miserable and stressed out, don’t feel bad to cut it off. Life does not look kindly on the pushovers, and you don’t want to be one too.

Do random acts of niceness, as weird as they seem. The one example I have of that was getting in touch with someone from school who asked you out in twelfth grade. You didn’t react too well (you reacted horrendously) and later proceeded to lose touch. Your random weird act here, little J, was to get his number and text him years later, simply to apologise without requiring any response or forgiveness. A lot of people think that’s a weird, unnecessary thing to do, but it went down well and he was mystified but happy to hear from you. Do random acts now and again, as long as they aren’t creepy (check with your friends in case the lines blur). It’s good to say sorry, when you’re wrong and when bringing it up doesn’t hurt the other person. It’s not about karma. It’s just good manners.

Do not procrastinate. You will dislike this advice because parents, adults, and other people will give it to you your entire life but I know you better than them. It’s very easy to slip into complacency because you know you’re very good at working under pressure. Unfortunately, sometimes you will have projects that simply cannot be finished that way, so try to snap out of it. It isn’t easy I know, in this world of Buzzfeed, but you can reward yourself with Buzzfeed and gin at the end of it.

Finally, since I am getting sleepy, be careful of guilt. Your soft-hearted, emotional, angsty character sadly implies that you are the type who will feel guilty at the drop of a hat. You will think of random things that might make your parents sad and automatically dissolve into tears at the prospect of making them unhappy. A lot of the time, this is in your head. Even if it isn’t, when you know that you’re doing the right thing, the need for guilt will automatically vanish. Try not to work yourself into that stage too much. Use V (whom you will meet in due course and who will change everything), your friends, and that battered instinct of yours. Also cut alcohol out when you are in the throes of a guilt fest. It makes things worse.

I will add to this list as I think of more things, little J. Until then, be safe.

title source: 5 years time by noah and the whale


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