I enjoy writing. I enjoy reflection. I enjoy thinking about stuff (yep, it's going to be one of those posts). Often I try and write to 'save' useful knowledge or ideas for later (of use to others), whilst other times I write to help understand my current situation better (mainly useful for me).
In the process of thinking back at what advice I'd give my younger self (we're talking 16-19 here), there's probably lessons that apply to the future. Or so I hope.
Dan at 16-19, the bleak years
I was definitely a extremely shy, reserved and unconfident teenager. That goes for most I expect, but outwardly I felt that anxiety and trepidation of 'life' greatly affected my behaviour and my opportunities. I played things safe. I used to truent a lot in school too - I was unhappy and depressed, skipping school (usually to the tune of 1 day every fortnight) was a coping mechanism of sorts. I felt overwhelmed and particularly down some days and didn't want to face the world.
My grades definitely suffered, but I guess a focus on creativity made that not matter too much (thanks design). I'd typically lie about being ill (my mother never questioned it) and flit between pretending to be ill, procrastinating and doing college work (I wasn't skipping school because I didn't want to learn, I just couldn't face it sometimes). A little pathetic perhaps; but that was the reality.
I remember one day I woke up late and had to rush to school so I didn't miss an exam. As I was in a rush I didn't consider what to wear (I wore a short sleeve tee) so under my coat my arms showcased the fresh scars of self-harm. Although one of the monitors questioned it; I was able to wear my coat through the exam (phew). Whilst not the bleakest story, it was far bleaker than I would have preferred. The sudden fear of being found out will stick with me for a long while.
The point is; this advice is tailored to me at that time. I can't spout generalised advice to myself without considering the type of person I was back then. Advice to my... type articles aren't new; but sometimes they feel like simplified points made to please every body.
This is some advice for me.
Get a motorbike
I was going to begin by writing about design, or believing that things would get better (which I obviously did to some degree because I'm here now, happy). But basically Dan...ask your dad to book you a C.B.T test as soon as possible and buy a motorbike.
Just buy a motorbike. As soon as you can. Being part of something 'edgy' and 'badass' will lift your confidence immensly and the 'cool' factor of having a motorbike (even if it would only be 125cc) would serve as a bit of a buffer against the parts of your life that suck. Motorbikes are a great form of meditation. Plus it will be cheaper to get to uni and you'll save hundreds.
Realistically. I'm not sure what would have triggered me to want to ride a motorbike at that age. I was socially awkward and quite insulated. I certainly wasn't the type of person to get a backie on my friends moped...I didn't have true friends for the most part. But I guess that's why it's called "advice" and not "things I should've known to do". I guess the message for the future is to be brave and that I should try things even if they don't seem like a 'me' thing to do.
Passion projects aren't useless
This might actually come into play a little later in life, but I might as well plant the seed early. Passion projects aren't useless. They've made me a better creative (through trial and error), they've made me more confident (through having more work to show) and I feel quite strongly that this proof of personal creative expression has helped me land jobs.
Dan, when you have an idea for a fun project (be it design, photography or writing), make a note of it and act on it. The measure of a true creative is that create, right?
Spend more wisely
Unless your confidence improves profoundly overnight...you're probably not going to get a job for a while. Your lack of confidence, anxiety about new social interactions and lack of belief make going for interviews a tough sell...so for goodness sakes spend a bit more wisely.
I remember we had 9 pairs of trainers at one point towards the end of uni. Why the fuck did we have 9 sets of trainers (and they weren't cheap)? We're not a wealthy rapper. And spend less on alcohol dude...you don't even like it that much. Just throw in some soft drinks now and again.
Thinking back; you could've saved a substantial percentage of your spending across these uni years. Whilst I know you weren't spending out of total ignorance, you certainly didn't appreciate money like I do now. Now I realise that it can be easily to find an extra grand over the year, without really noticing anything changing day to day.
Why couldn't minimalism have been such a big thing back then? Save them penies bro.
Fucking believe in yourself (yep, the basic bitch advice is here).
You were a smart kid Dan. You're pretty kind and well meaning and you were getting great scores on your design coursework. So just trust that little by little you can conquer your demons. Try be a little bolder and confident each day. You grow into a confident, funny and well liked guy. You're pretty darn good at public speaking, and even enjoy it believe it or not.
Maybe even talk more honestly about your difficulties. I remember you used to try so hard to hide that you were unhappy and lonely. from your parents and others. Thinking back, it was a foolish fear but I remember it well. A problem shared is a problem half in most circumstances.
Get a passport
You missed out on a few trips abroad when you were younger. I can't really remember why you procrastinated so much with getting a passport; it was probably fear of new experiences. It would have been cheaper to buy one whilst you were at Uni (and future Dan likes when you save money).
So that was a little advice for my past self. Just a few points, but each would have been useful for me to hear back then. I guess the learning in this is don't allow history to repeat itself in the future. I guess the main one that is still relevant is to believe in yourself; everyone needs some self-belief now and then.
"It's not your job to tell yourself no".
I can't remember where I first encountered this, but it's a great mantra for those who struggle with doubt, or for anyone at key decision making times. It's not your job to tell yourself no so go a head and take a shot.
Have a great weekend all!