Time Travel

I was fascinated by a post I saw by my friend Nancy this morning, where she writes a letter to her five-year-old self. I’d urge you, it’s worth the read.

The topic got me thinking: what would I say to myself?

I’m happy with how my views turned out, both politics and religion. But who isn’t? If we didn’t like our views, we wouldn’t have them!

Certainly with mine, I had an about-face with both from about my mid-teens. I suppose I’d remind my younger self that viewpoints can always change, so not to be intransigent. That’s a lesson I’m glad I learned, but I could have learned it quicker.

I’m always mindful, too, you know when you hear about some politician who did something really dumb as a student, say? For example in the UK a few years back there was a story about one of the young royals going to a fancy dress ball as Hitler. Bad taste, for sure. And didn’t something bite Trudeau?

And their excuse is always “I was young and naive back then”? And our reaction is, “yeah, right”, before cussing them?

But it can happen. I’ll forgive any twenty-year-old their view. How long I’ll forgive that view is more open to question. In my case, I was in my mid-twenties before the foundations set. And I’ve built on them ever since, despite a lot of self-doubt.

As an aside, that’s the reason I’d raise the voting age, not lower it. Eighteen is way too young to know your own mind. Obviously it would raise knock-on issues about e.g. taxation, which I haven’t thought through.

Education, I should have stayed and completed a PhD. One was offered. In astrophysics, too, the most fascinating subject imaginible. But I was fed up having no money and wanted to start earning, although with hindsight the money I earned during those first three years was not worth a PhD. But those three little letters… once you have them, nobody can take them away, ever. You’re a Dr. all your life. It’s ironic that in my career I’ve worked to a far higher level than I would have in a doctorate, just I don’t have those letters.

Career, again, I can’t complain. I remember being very frustrated in my first job. But while I got mad, I also learned the core skills there which made me a real master at what I do. And, I remember it as being the most rewarding job in terms of content – writing software to control real things, rather than moving numbers around balance sheets. So yes, I had to get out, but rather than getting frustrated, I should have concentrated more on getting better.

And, when I worked in the USA. I’d have loved to have worked there for longer – the visa was for three years, and there was a path to a Green Card, but I only stayed one. But I met my future wife the year after I got back, we had a daughter a year later, so how can I complain?

There was a biggie in my personal life, in that it took me a long while before I felt I fitted in. That, until my mid-twenties, I was still carving out my niche. If I’d but realised, everybody feels that. Everybody back then was as insecure as I was. In fact, to have got my act together by my mid-twenties was not bad going. But in my teens and early twenties, I was awkward, and a lot went unsaid. I should have been braver. Despite having girlfriends, it was a while before I felt I had anything to offer anyone.

Lastly. I gotta mention the stroke. For all I know, it was unavoidable, but I’d like to think I could have tried a little bit harder, just in case. I miss my old life, and certainly a big part of me died with the stroke.


  1. I don’t really regret anything, but I wish I’d had more confidence. I still wish I had more confidence and self belief


  2. Hey, Pete. I’m honored if my letter to my younger self prompted what you just wrote. You really hit on a few issues I can relate to and strongly agree with.
    In my opinion eighteen is too young to do anything but further one’s education or possibly get a job, depending on the circumstances. Did you know a 14-year-old kid can get a job at McDonalds as a Crew Member? I realize it’s not possible for everyone to go on to college but 18 much too young to vote, get married or join the military.
    You mentioned those three little letters that say “I made it”. I know a few people who have a PhD; one works for the post office, another is a church organist and the third is a stay-at-home mom. Come to think of it, three little letters such as “mom” or “dad” are pretty damn important, too.
    Well, what can I say about your stroke? It sucks royally and I admire you more than you could ever know for your positive attitude, your resourcefulness and the way you carry on with your life. It broke my heart to read your last sentence but that is a damn fact of life, isn’t it? There are two things you or anyone in your position can do: give up or dig deep and do the best with the cards you were dealt. You may beg to differ but I think the world is a little bit better off with people like you in it.
    Thanks for sharing your story with us. It’s a joy being your friend. 💫

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As one of the people who had no choice about leaving school at 15 and working to provide for the family (not your average mum and dad family; fosters and lostlings), and who continued learning at night school and community colleges outside work, I’d have loved to be in the position of a higher education. Any higher education, full-time, while young. I finally got a degree (double) after 15 years of external study in between moves, new towns and cities. Then went on to grad. dips. It was never enough to hide the snide remarks of those who achieved their letters through the education system as young people, often due to the care and finances of their parents.
    As I’ve aged, I’ve come to the conclusion that life experience is worth more than those letters. When I’m gone, there will be no one who wants my carefully-chosen leather chair that I’ve covered daily to ensure it lasts as long as I do. No one will care about the way I’ve layered the garden to show colour at each season of the year. No one will care about the journals I wrote for each foster child I took under my roof for a period of time.
    No one will know, and no one will care. My life is my choices, and I’m the one who has to bear the cost of the journey. I no longer feel dumb or stupid for not getting an early education, and nor do I feel that my life was/is useless. My achievements may not matter to the world, but they matter to the people in my world.
    And at 18, I’d been working for years, saving and providing, owned a car and a house (without the help of a bank (they didn’t lend to single women) or anyone else), and understood a lot of the way the world worked – which wasn’t in my favour because, as I was told often and over a long period, I wasn’t educated enough to have a useful thought.
    To my mind, the politicians and others who blame youth and naivete on their indiscretions are blinded by their privilege, and the excuse is as lame now as it ever was – actions always speak louder than words, even as a child.
    How would I react to one of my foster kids undertaking that behaviour? They could tell you; they knew the boundaries.
    And they always knew what the consequences would be, even if I didn’t state them aloud. Stupidity is stupidity, and excusing it, or blaming others, adds more stupidity to the initial steaming pile – a bit like compound interest.
    I apologise if it sounds like a rant, but if I were to speak to my 5yo self, I’d be speaking to her as if she were already a grown-up because she probably was more grown up than most 20-somethings.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I will check out Nancy’s post. Thanks! Writing a letter to our younger self can be healing and revealing. We do this sometimes in the writing workshops I assist with. I enjoyed reading your reflective share. You’ve had some interesting experiences, and some challenging ones too. I considered pursuing a PhD. (not in astrophysics haha) but decided I did not want to spend more years doing homework! You are right, once you’ve earned the letters no one can take them away!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think there’s much you could reason with a five-year-old based on their brain development (and my own six year old) other than pure love, acceptance, and confidence in your passions and dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m reading this, Sting is singing an Englishman in New York on the radio. It’s one of my favourite songs. It leaves me lighthearted. Just like your many posts. Astrophysics is a weighty surprise though. Hadn’t figured that into your equation.

    Liked by 1 person

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