To mark Back to School Week, NUS Vice President Colum McGuire writes a letter to his 16 year-old self.
You'll grow into your ears.
You may not believe your mum when she says this, but it's probably the only factual thing in this letter. The rest is pure guesswork, most of which I’ve picked up in the last decade, all of which I'm still trying to learn, and some of which I'll share now.
Enjoy being young.
Forget that. You'll never know what it means until you get older.
You'll spend far too much time wishing, and hoping, and thinking that you're older.
You'll even celebrate your 21st birthday three times.
But you'll be surprised at how quickly that turns, and how you wished you'd embraced and appreciated the age that you were.
I'm sure I'll probably try and celebrate a few more 21st birthdays.
Don't be reckless with other people's feelings.
Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.
And don't let the latter push you to do the former.
Don't worry that you don't know what to do with your life. There certainly isn't a conclusion coming in the next decade, but you'll have some wonderful ideas, opportunities and experiences that will help you figure out what you want to do. And what you don't want to do. Embrace that, and the rest will come.
Here's hoping, anyway.
Remember compliments, and forget the insults.
If you figure out how to do this, please let me know.
Forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much.
Smile. It pleases the people who you like you and bothers the people who don’t.
There are things you don't quite understand about yourself and the way you feel right now, and people will treat you differently and sometimes badly because of it. I can't tell you that completely changes or goes away, but what I can tell you, and what you should know, is that in many ways
It Gets Better.
Look after your teeth. The fear of losing them comes around pretty quickly.
Eat more fruit & vegetables. Getting into that habit early will be pretty beneficial.
Don't mess about with your hair too much. It just gets angry and ages pretty fast.
Talent borrows. Genius steals.
In fact most of the things I've written in this are from something I've read or heard elsewhere. But allowing someone or something to shape the way you view or behave in the world is the greatest compliment you can give them, and don't be afraid to let them know they've done that. And if you can do it for someone else, you're doing great.
The people on TV aren't as big role models as you think.
The people in your classrooms are bigger role models then you'll ever know.
Be nicer to your parents. They work incredibly hard to give you opportunities at the risk of their own.
Get to know your parents. It gets harder as you get older.
Sometimes it's hard to enjoy something that other people berate you for, but very shortly, you'll outrun every single boy in your year during the PE bleep test because of it. That... will feel amazing.
You'll also learn from it much more than what you do with your legs and feet.
Soon you'll wake up every day with aches and pains in your legs and feet.
But it will be worth it.
And you'll miss it a whole lot after climbing two flights of stairs aged 25.
Aspirations are wonderful, but it's easy to let them control you, or let other things control what they are. If you can be in control of your own aspirations, then that in itself is something to be proud of.
Everything outside of your direct life seems big. Buildings, people, groups, the world. The more you discover, the smaller everything seems.
Whatever you do, do it to do something, and not to be someone.
Nobody really has all the answers. You may look at someone aged 25 now and think they seem incredibly mature, wise and have their lives figured out. It's all perception. The truth is, I'm probably just as insecure and clueless and lost as you are now. Sorry.
Changing yourself isn't the most achievable or worthwhile thing you can do for yourself, but changing the world around you is.
And learning how to use what you have to do that is far superior to whatever else you can learn.
But you can trust me on the ears.
From Colum (aged 25)