I come across my decade younger self waiting for me at the coffee shop. Bedecked in a wonderful wizards tunic made lovingly by my grandmother (black tunic pebble-dashed with silver wizard-y things, and a hat!) I say hello to younger Anthony and he says hello back, in a monotoned voice, not quite returning my gaze. Before I share a coffee and dispense my words of wisdom, I have a little fun. I joke that that was not a very energetic way to greet older you, pull your socks up and try again! Immediately, younger me reaches down and yanks his socks as high up his legs as he can manage, then says hello in a more enthusiastic manner.
I order us both a coffee (a mocha for me, and a hot chocolate for my junior counterpart) and sit down to business.
‘What I’m here to tell you, is that life over the next ten years is going to be very much like riding an almost physically impossible rollercoaster.’ I decide that being straight with my younger self is the best way to go, hearing the hard truth has always been the best way for me to learn and change.
‘First and foremost, High School is going to be a reasonably unpleasant time, kids like us, damaged through no fault of our own both physically and mentally are seen as fair game for the immature workings of the teenage brain. You will feel that every whispered comment, every bit of laughter, every private exchange between friends will be at your expense. Taunts and even the occasional physical attack will occur, but you must always remember that you will make it out OK on the other side. You will be fine, there will be times when you break down and made to feel lower than the belly of a dead and buried snake, where tears will flow, but you will make it through. My one piece of advice would be to carefully consider who you choose as friends, because if not you will make some terrible choices (although admittedly it will be friends of those you choose as friends who will show the most intolerant attitudes, those who will not accept you because of the way you are. But once again, you will be fine, there will be good days and there will be some happy memories. However the most lasting will be the negatives.’
I notice 12 year old me’s face fall slightly and I put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
‘Once High School finishes, life improves. Sixth Form is by and large filled with decent memories. One piece of advice I would give is perhaps choose your A-level topics a little more wisely and with a bit more thought into where you want to go once you leave, or perhaps even consider going to a different college. AS-Level Biology is going to be hellish, perhaps you may be better off trying your hand at Performing Arts or perhaps Law, or perhaps try a more scientific route. By and large though, Sixth Form is pretty decent. However I would recommend getting some ID sorted as soon as possible, and for GOODNESS SAKE, take it easier at the Sixth Form ball (English version of Prom), embarrassingly drunk will not cover it!’
‘Getting into University will be one of the best things you do, even during the time where you will struggle for jobs, you will still never regret a second. It is the place where you truly find yourself, where you meet the best people you ever will have known. You will live, study and socialise with some great people who will help you to come out of your shell. Again those, on some nights take it easier with the drink, embarrassment will not cover it (and one particular meme will always float around on the internet for all eternity, go easy. You will love your graduation day, whilst also hating it. It will mark the end of a great period in your life, one which you may struggle to let go of whilst you stagnate back in the village you came from, back with the parents, and one where joblessness and living on the dole seems an unfortunate end to such promise! Another piece of advice, run for the Student’s Union committee in some form (never president), because it will be something you will regret at nights when writing blog entries about meeting your decade-younger self.’
After this, younger Anthony begins to perk up and a smile forms across his face.
‘I guess my advice for the next ten years is this; don’t be afraid to express yourself, be the person you are today back then, have a laugh, make jokes about yourself and your (ahem!) shortcomings, run for more drama productions, run for more extra-cirricular activities. When you go to Uni, same thing again, run for everything you can, get involved with the student paper, student radio, students’ union committee, find a part time job. Snatch every opportunity you are given and never, ever, EVER be made to feel less of a person because of the way you were born. You are capable, you are smart, you can be talented and you will find a way in the world.’