(22) Letter to Katrina
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
My beautiful girl, You are a teenager now. It will seem a long time, forever, in fact, but it will come faster than you realise. You will be wishing to be sixteen at fourteen, twenty-one at seventeen. At twenty-one you will have settled into your hormones and know how it is, know how everything is. You will frown at old people over forty, feeling they have lost their way, if ever they had found it. You will be adamant, militant, fighting against dogma and stamping your own ideas on the world. You will have all the answers.
At twenty-nine you will realise that it is not forty but fifty that is old. Hopefully you will question some of your answers. Somewhere along the line, you will realise that black is never just black. White can be whiter, but that is not a good way to be. And Fifty Shades of Grey is debatable literature on so many levels. But you should read it to make up your own mind.
And then with fifty around the corner, any actual figure denoting 'old' will seem unimportant. Some people will be old at seventy, others nearer eighty, some will never have grown up at all. The United Nations has suggested that sixty-five is the beginning of old. Some say that old is when you stop wanting to learn new things. Others suggest it is when you stop being open to changing your mind about something (which makes many people old at thirty-seven).
Some wishes and some words of advice (beyond suggesting not plastering on too much foundation and counselling the use of more full stops). Do your best with it, kick yourself every now and then as a reminder, but know there is no such thing as perfect: I hope, my darling girl, that when you arrive at nearly fifty, you will have had so much love in your life already that it shows in everything you do. Fall deeply, love strongly. Never forget how loved you are. I would like to remind you of Tim Minchin's advice to 'Define yourself by what you love.' It is easy to slip into a train of 'don't like'. Don't like Rap. Don't like Improvised Jazz. Don't like Macdonalds.... (This is me, obviously) There are so many important and BIG things not to like - racisim, sexism, misogyny, prejudice -against one religious belief or another, against disability, age and accent - be passionate about stopping them. Stand up for the underdog. And proclaim with the small things, what it is you DO like, what you DO love, rather than the opposite. Because when you ride that train you pull everyone else around you onto it.
I hope, when you are approaching fifty, that you will not hate my generation's parents for screwing up the environment and my generation for sitting back and allowing it to continue. I can't explain the apathy and lack of any big stand to alter or halt the course we are on. Will there be Monarch Butterflies when you are fifty? Or will our chemicals have wiped them out? Will you be be living in high rise flats because our mountains of waste kept growing? Will we have stopped overfishing? Overbuilding? Over populating? Will you remember what forests were?
I hope when you are fifty, that the dodgy state of our current world politics will be lampooned and lambasted as a one off, off-the-rails experimental period in time, where tosspots and tits could govern. Fascists, dictators. Liars and haters. I hope we wake up to ourselves soon.
I am sorry, this was supposed to be a more upbeat letter.
I am aware that I send you out into to this digital world with no understanding of how you can possibly cope with what is technologically to come. Listen, please, to Simon Sinek's Inside Quest talk about Millennials. That's not you. You are a Noughty (I still find this funny to say), and when you are a twenty something you will be facing problems that aren't even thought of yet. Mr Sinek and I implore you to leave it behind sometimes, the appendage that is sometimes attached to your arm, sometimes balanced in your back jean pocket, sometimes on the bathroom floor and always sitting on the kitchen table. I am on the brink of too much social media. You and your generation are swimming in it. Please don't drown.
You will hurt people, definitely. But don't ever set out with that intention. Even in retaliation. Don't be bitter. Be better than that. And if you do hurt people, be sorry, say sorry. I am sorry to say that you absolutely will get hurt too. Elsa from Frozen is not the only one who says let it go (I actually prefer the parody and somewhat ruder Fuck It All). The Buddha says you should ask at the end of your life How well did you love? How well did you live? How fully did you let go?
The more you put in, the more you will get out of things. Try to be kind with your time, your actions and your words. You will not always be right – far from it. Listen to other the side, concede when you should, agree to differ if necessary. Don’t set out to win every argument. Be generous. Be fair. Don't be greedy. Don't grab. It's an unattractive trait. I suspect your strong ethic of fairness will prevail. The world is unfair. Life is unfair. Fight against it for others but try to rise above it for yourself.
Don't judge others harshly. Mr Minchin suggests that just as 'you can’t truly take credit for your successes' (there is much luck at play, from your childhood background, your schooling, your peers, and the general throwing of the genetic die), nor can you 'truly blame others for their failures'. You have no idea what influences them, what has gone right for them, or wrong. And we all make mistakes. He is not saying that we cannot be blamed for anything, because of course, we have choices. What we choose to do has consequences. There are always consequences.
The person you sit next to on the first day of fourth year might turn out to be a friend for life. I know you see past shallow. Always look past looks, clothes and likes and tastes. I know you know all of this. I have a friend who has a wish that people will say of her, at the end of her life, that most importantly, she was a kind person. That probably sounds ridiculous just now, and probably will for quite some time. You might write such words for your own epitaph as ‘witty’ ‘entertaining’ ‘clever’ ‘funny’ ‘interesting’. All good words, but one day I hope you will think that to have been kind is a very good wish.
I love that you love music. I love that you love such an eclectic range of music. Did you know that without music, life would be a mistake? Friedrich Nietzsche did..... I would also say that life without singing is also pretty crap. I love your singing voice. SING! Sing in the shower, sing on the paddle board, sing up a hill. Nietzsche also said some other clever things. 'There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.' And 'He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.'
In the search for happiness, remember to bark up the right tree. Things can make you superficially happy, and of course money is nice, but always remember that it is the people in your life, and your attitude and your actions and your love that will make you (and them) happier. Try not to look over your shoulder at what others have got. There is always greener grass to compare with yours. It's what you do with your own lawn that matters and what shade of spectacles you are wearing when you look at it. Appreciate the scenery, the sunshine, snow days, get outside and swim like a narwhal. Laugh, cook, eat good food and try to grow something of your own.
You said quite recently that you have changed your mind about crying, that it is not a sign of weakness, but instead you see that to allow yourself to go so far into sadness is a strength. To have realised this at your age is, I think, pretty impressive. Many grown ups would disagree with you. But a good cry can help to let it go. Do cry with joy though as well. Cry when someone wins a race, when you hear beautiful music, when the underdog is triumphant, as well as when he fails.
In short - and don't think that me giving you advice means I think I've got it all right (I haven't but it's important to keep trying) - do your best, be nice, try to read, go outdoors, sing, run, swim, eat, dance and cry. Don't be greedy, don't be bitter - judge yourself more than you judge others. Laugh. Listen. Love. And on top of all of this, remember you don't need to plaster it on (you're beautiful) and please do consider using full stops. (Here is my snippet on age.)