A letter to my 17yr old self …

In response to A letter from my 17yr old self.

2016

Dear 17yr old Andy,

Thanks for your letter. Well, here we are. We survived, we are still alive and kicking! The good news is we generally did pretty well. I’m not going to tell you the details as it will spoil it for you, but we get through, so keep on keeping on young man.

What I will say, is that those guilty pleasures of yours – singing in the band, making people laugh – they’re not just lusty and pointless, so don’t keep dismissing them. Those are beacons in the dark, sirens in the quiet still of night. Despite what you might think, they are your soul speaking to you.

I just realised that last sentence might freak you out. Sorry, let me rephrase. Those are the things that make you what you are. Reading your letter brought back many memories for me, how we believed and trusted unerringly in our elders, and by consequence, how we felt anything we experienced that didn’t align with them was somehow incongruous, somewhat deviant and unhealthy.

I remember now, thanks to your letter, how we lived our life by a set of rules devised purely by teachers, parents, lawmakers, guidelines always laid down in tablets of stone. Our success was measured not by happiness, but by how well we stayed on that path of righteousness as prescribed by ‘them’.

If I can offer one piece of advice, it’s to stop always looking to others for guidance – instead start to look inwardly at your self, at our self. You know that ‘gut feel’ you get, but always push back if it doesn’t conform to The Book? Well, stop doing that. Stop it now. Immediately. Listen to the voices inside – I bet that spooks you too? Don’t worry, I am sane of mind, I just see life differently, through a less filtered lens.

I don’t mean to suggest you ignore The Book altogether – there’s a lot of great and sound advice out there, advice that’s built on thousands of years of hard earned experience – but complement it with your own thoughts and beliefs. Believe it or not you (we) are unique, and we do have talents that would horrify you if I were to tell you them now.

And so I won’t tell you, for you must find them on your own, because the journey is the biggest part of any experience, not the destination. That obsession of getting somewhere, stop that too. Retune your beliefs, redefine your passions and act accordingly. Most importantly, stop obsessing with trying to define the end point all the time. Instead set the rules (your rules), and let your own moral compass navigate.

By the way – I still don’t get electricity, it just works, and the sooner you get comfortable with the fact that you don’t need to understand everything, the better it will be.

Forget destinations and just enjoy the journey, young man, just make sure it’s your journey and not anyone elses.

Love,

Me (2016)
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A letter from my 17yr old self …

1982

Dear 51 yr old Andy,

I’m sitting here in the common room at Sixth Form college. You remember this place? Defender video machine in the corner, table football, comfy chairs, coffee shop – we even have a radio, pretty cool.

I feel so much more grown here compared to Kendray Oaks Comp. I feel a hell of a lot safer too – there’s no bullying, everyone is here because they want to be (by and large), everyone wants to learn (by and large) – you know what I mean, you remember that don’t you?

Yeah, it’s cool here, I like it, but the work is so hard. A-levels are like ten times harder than O-levels. I’m struggling with Physics – I can’t grasp ‘electricity’ no matter how hard I try – electrons moving along a wire make a bulb light up – are you serious?? Economics is kind of interesting, it’s different, but some of the concepts seem a bit alien and I’m not sure what the point of it is? And maths is maths, just maths, although it’s much harder, much more abstracted than O-level.

That’s the thing about A-levels, it feels all rather ‘disconnected’. At school, working out the price of apples and oranges knowing that John bought 2 apples and 3 oranges for 19p whilst Jenny bought 1 apple and 3 oranges for  17p seems like a worthwhile thing to do. It has practical meaning. However, working out the value of ξ in a Fourier Transform that ranges from minus infinity to plus infinity seems somewhat unnecessary and unimportant to me:

\hat{f}(\xi) = \int_{-\infty}^\infty f(x)\ e^{- 2\pi i x \xi}\,dx,   

Quite frankly, as much as I like Sixth Form (I have a girlfriend!), I’m gutted about my subject choices. Anyway I’ll plod on because Dad said it’s the right thing for me and he’s always right. Besides, what else would I have chosen? The Arts subjects aren’t going to get anyone a job, jobs come from engineering and mathematics. That’s how the world works. People that study the Arts are a bit … well deluded, and silly. How hard can Arts be anyway? Drawing pictures and writing stories – these people will never get a job!

I plan on going to university. I have no idea what subject I will study, but I will go. It’s the thing to do, the teachers said so, and besides what else would I do?

Some friends of mine have formed a band, they play stuff I love and it’s cool, but what about their homework? They practice on school nights! Such a waste, they’ll regret that in later life. Although I am a bit jealous deep down – I’d love to be the singer in the band but I have to push that thought deep down inside, it doesn’t help anything.

I also really love The Young Ones – its a new comedy series on TV and Rik Mayall is brilliant. I have all the episodes on VHS tape and I know every word, every joke, every line from every episode. Mum and dad think it’s a bit odd, older people don’t generally like it and so I feel bad about that as older people are almost always right. They call it Alternative Comedy. I watch it when they’ve gone to bed. I’d love to tell jokes like Rik but I have to push that thought deep down inside, it doesn’t help anything.

So how’s life at 51, older me? I feel a bit nervous writing that – how did we do? And do you understand electricity yet!?

Andy, 1982

 

 

 

The Zen of running …

I wasn’t going to go for a run today as it was tipping down with rain, or ‘pissing stair-rods’ as they say up north. I usually don’t need much of an excuse to avoid anything, I have a deep seated propensity to do bugger-all if the chance arises, but rather unusually today something inside nudged and cajoled me to get changed and head out.

This is what greeted me – this is the street outside my house, amusingly called Water Lane, and now we know why:

I do love running, and have been an on-off runner most of my life. I was fairly good at it at school, and particularly enjoyed cross-country which put me in a minority group of 1. I always enjoyed running ‘off-piste’, leaving the pavements and roads behind me as soon as I could, finding peace and solitude in whatever fields, footpaths and woodland areas I had access to.

I never consciously sought out the countryside, it just seemed to find me. It was like an instinct – birds fly south in winter, salmon swim upstream to lay their eggs, Andy turns off the road and into the fields as soon as he can. Running like this just feels right, it feels nice, I feel like I fit here. Running along a pavement, along a road, all those cars, all those people, it all feels stressful and that’s probably why I have never enjoyed cycling where you are consigned to the public roads. I can feel myself physically relax once I hop over the style, leaving the noise, pollution and people behind.

Today was muddy, seriously so, and at times it was difficult to stay upright, but it was hugely enjoyable. Within 5 minutes I was soaked through from head to toe and I had mud splattered everywhere and it felt bloody brilliant.

I ran for around an hour, tracing a loop across the fields, slipping and sliding through mud and puddles. I covered just over 5 miles so no records were in danger of being broken but that was fine, I wasn’t running for speed, I was running for running’s sake, running because I can, running because it feels good.

Running makes me feel happy, a pursuit, a hobby like no other in that respect. I love the solitude, the thinking time, the rhythm. It’s almost meditative, some call it ‘flow’, where you lose track of time and focus only on what you’re doing right now. The usual fears, anxieties, worries and concerns prevalent in everyday life are cast aside when you’re in ‘flow’. You hear nothing, you see nothing, you just are, you are 100% in the now, no regrets from the past, no fears for the future.

In flow, I just am.

The rain became heavier, the paths more sodden and boggy, but by now I no longer worried about finding dry spots, I just ran and even waded in parts. Fuck it.

I hadn’t a care in the world now I was in full flow. I didn’t want to stop and felt like I could run forever.

I do a lot of thinking whilst running, I process thoughts, often arriving back after a run with solutions to earlier, seemingly insurmountable problems of the day. They say sleep is the time most people process their thoughts, that’s why we dream, but I’m a poor sleeper, and perhaps running is my place to do the necessary care-taking of my mind’s thoughts? I certainly arrive back from a run feeling better, not just physically, but mentally and dare I say spiritually too.

I love running, running is my thing, my ‘flow’, my Zen. For you it may well be different – perhaps it’s reading, cooking, building model boats out of matchsticks. I don’t think it  matters what ‘it’ is, so long as you find your ‘it’.

For me my ‘it’ is definitely running, and if I’m fit enough to run I feel very lucky.

‘I might go for another run tomorrow, or perhaps the day after’, I think to myself, and so I turn for home before I’m really ready, because I want to do it all again very soon.

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My shoes