If I had my time again, if I could say some things to my younger self, and if I thought for a second that she would actually listen, then I would say it.
Knowing what you want to do is one of the worst things about being a teenager. One of the best, as well, because some days you think you could do anything, and some days, perhaps, you’re right. But there are so many things to think about. What you’re good at, what you enjoy, what you’re driven to do, what choices are sensible, what ideas are realistic. These are all very different angles on the problem. What if you’re good at a lot of things and you enjoy a lot of things and a lot of those things are eminently sensible things you could feasibly do for the rest of your life, have a comfortable income, an enjoyable career, 2.4 kids and a Volvo?
What if, very early on in life, you subconsciously made the decision that a certain path wasn’t right for you. That the risks were too great, that by taking that path you’d come to hate the thing you simply couldn’t bear not to love? That you’d hate the inevitable downsides so much that, soul-destroyingly, those disadvantages would destroy, for you, any possible joy you might have got from doing this thing with your life? It’s very easy to convince yourself, without even trying, that you’d hate a certain thing, and that’s reason enough not to take a certain choice, when at the back of your mind you know, really, that you wouldn’t hate it.
I was always told as a child in Careers classes and so on that you shouldn’t pick subjects just because you were good at them, or avoid things you enjoyed because you knew you’d probably get a better mark in a different subject or because whatever university you wanted to apply to would be more likely to pick you with a more ‘academic’ A-level. We were always told, no, you should choose the subjects you want to do, and take it from there. And stupidly, I thought I had. I chose things I enjoyed and was good at, never let myself feel swayed by the pressure to take this route or that route – after all, I didn’t want GCSE Art or Drama or PE, I wanted to do the sensible choices. Except that somewhere in the back of my mind, long before I was made to take any of those choices, I ruled out the one thing I do best, simply because it wasn’t sensible. I shut that thought out at the age of about 14, and I never looked at it again, and I fooled myself into thinking that everything since has been a labour of love. And it has – but it has also been a labour of second-best. If I’d jumped the other way at the age of 14, who knows where we’d be now.