Dear Past Me,
I’ve never written a Dear Past Me letter before, it never occurred to me. A Future Me letter makes more sense as I can store it away for you, me rather (Argh, confusing!) to read when you’re clearing out the cupboard, or that box under your desk where you put all the papers that have no proper place anywhere else in the house.
But a past me won’t ever read this. Unless that weird theory is true where all moments in time exist simultaneously, so you might even have already read it. Or if I am me, past, present and future, then this letter might affect my being in all dimensions of time.
Or it could just be a good exercise to see where I fucked things up in the past.
Now, you did once write a Dear Future Me letter didn’t you? Remember that? It was possibly the most embarrassing thing I have ever read. You actually thought you would be an Olympic show jumper? (of course, you had no idea that your grandparents had taken out two loans to keep up with your hobby). And something about a guy you hoped I was still together with, who I actually have no recollection of whatsoever.
So maybe first thing that springs to mind Past Me, get your head out of your arse?
In all seriousness though, I suppose the point of writing a letter to yourself in the past is to look at those moments where you wish someone had given you some insider knowledge or could have warned you how things in the world actually work.
When I was a kid, my best friend Cassandra and I believed that when you became a grown-up you learned a secret that somehow told you everything you needed to know about being an adult, but telling it to children was forbidden.
Yeah, that never happened. As all adults know, you are forever a child in a gradually larger body trying to figure out how to survive on a day-to-day basis.
I think in my life I have pointed some sort of inflexion point. That point separates my dreamy childhood and hopeful teenage years from the harsh reality that I now call: life.
Because it was towards the end of that hazy coming of age movie, that my generation really believed we could become whatever we wanted to, and that it would be a piece of cake.
What they didn’t tell us (or I failed to tell you from the future) was that for a portion of us, there was one thing standing in our way: class. Class? My teenage self had never heard of such a thing! Well, I’d heard of Bolsheviks and proletarians and trade unions in films about the UK in the 1980’s, but I was going to school, I went on holiday, I had my own room, I could eat in a restaurant, where was the class divide?
Ok, there was a really rich kid at school that had an indoor heated swimming pool, but my fourteen-year-old self didn’t imagine for a second that meant she might get a better job than me. I could do whatever I wanted!
But then something happened that we had never experienced before, something even some proper adults had never experienced, and it wasn’t just learning that society sucks. No, it was the Crash. A crash? I remember thinking. Like in 1929? Here?
The day the markets came tumbling down around us and life as we knew and understood it changed forever. It sounds dramatic. In Spain, where I’m from, we called it “The Crisis”. So yeah, pretty dramatic.The great property boom was over, over 5 million people became unemployed and countries like Greece, Ireland and Spain plunged into economic meltdown.
What did this mean for Past Me and my place in society? Well, it meant realizing that there was such a thing as a working class and I was part of it. My grandfather had worked hard to escape the hardships of working class Manchester (UK) where his family of 6 shared a tiny one bedroom flat. He had left school at fourteen and worked relentlessly, until providing a comfortable home for his family. Eventually he moved this family to Spain. Was the family now middle class?
I didn’t see any reason why not. But these were the families most changed by the crash, the ones that could all too easily slip back down from the lower middle classes. On the various occasions I’ve found myself sitting in the dole office I have wondered if my poor old grandad’s hard work was in vain.
So what could I have said to my younger self confronting this situation? Coming to these realizations was a shock. But I didn’t come to them immediately and that was the issue. When you think that just by getting good grades at school, speaking four languages and showing an eagerness to work hard you can do whatever you want, it sucks when you get out into the world and realize that the people that have the best jobs are obviously the ones who went to the best schools, they’re also the ones who could afford not to work during university and do a thousand unpaid internships, and their parents probably know a guy who knows a guy. But the problem is you’re told by the system that you can achieve the same lifestyle as the rich kid with the indoor swimming pool, as long as you put the work into it. When you don’t, you’re failing, you obviously didn’t work hard enough.
The peculiar situation of my generation is difficult for some members of the older generations to understand. Which puts added pressure on a youngster in their very early twenties. You can’t get a decent job? You’re not a lawyer or a doctor? One of the highest unemployment rates in Europe? Ah, you’re probably all just lazy, too busy having a siesta or something. Those years I suffered terrible problems with depression and anxiety, as did a lot of people around me. Everything seemed so bleak and it contrasted so much with the hope we had the year before we finished school, the year before the crash.
So even if I could warn Past Me that the world sucked, it wouldn’t have changed anything. But maybe if I had that information. Maybe if I knew how things worked or what was coming, I wouldn’t have felt the same amount of pressure or have that sense of failure, that I hadn’t become the next big thing (whatever that means). Maybe I could have been a bit happier knowing that.
Or maybe not. Maybe it was just something I had to learn the hard way. Sometimes I feel those years were lost, but I guess they gave me what I needed to survive and become a much happier person today!
So Past Me, relax, try and enjoy yourself! I know you don’t have any money, but I’m the weather is nice, get down to the beach. And don’t worry, I’m currently saving up some avocados to buy us a house!
Eleisha Rae Kennedy is an odd mix of Spanish, English, Italian and Irish, so a pretty average European. She lives in the south of Spain but travels for a living, writing and doodling as she goes.