Every so often there's a meme that goes around inviting bloggers and diarists to pen a letter to themselves as a child or a teenager, telling themselves all the things they now wish they had known at that age. Some are well written and poignant, like Stephen Fry’s contribution to the genre, but most I’ve read boil down to “Cheer up, it’s not nearly as bad as you think, avoid [some big mistake] and learn a musical instrument.”
I've always balked at writing such a letter myself because, after stumbling through my borderline depressive self-loathing 20’s, I've managed to turn against all odds into somebody I'm quite happy being. There are all sorts of things I could have done better, mistakes I could have avoided and different directions I could have taken, but all the things I've done wrong contributed as much to who I am today as the things I did right. If I changed them I'd be somebody else, and I don't want to be somebody else any more.
Sure, I could go back and tell my teenage self not to give up playing the piano, but would that just leave me in my 30’s dreading another gig in the bar of some hotel waiting for the inevitable tooth-grinding moment some drunk tourist requests ‘Piano Man’ for the sixty thousandth time? Would I hunch over the keys, bang out those first chords and wish to my core I could go back in time and advise my teenage self to teach himself Perl?
So I pondered. And I thought. And I finally came up with the one important, nay vital bit of advice I would give myself if I had the chance.
This is your future self. I'm 33 now and I've been given the opportunity to reach back in time and give you one piece of advice. You won't understand it today but if you hold it close to your heart you will one day thank me for it.
Whatever you do, prefer composition over inheritance.
See you in 17 years,