Letter to my 18 year old self

Dear Matt,

I’m writing this letter to you from 13 years in the future.

We’re 31 now.

That probably sounds really old, but actually it’s not.

Apparently our hair is going grey, but I refuse to believe it.

Guess what… You’re a dad! Our greatest ambition in life achieved.

Well done, bud. You stayed the course.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you. The next 13 years aren’t going to pan out exactly how we had imagined as a kid.

Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing times ahead, but you know that undercurrent of dread and fear you’re feeling, but shake off and pretend it’s not there? Well, those voices are going to get steadily louder.

You already had a taste of what’s to come last year.

Do you remember all those sessions spent crying in the college councillors office? Always being offered tissues from the same fucking pink Kleenex box before being turfed out after 30 minutes, thrust straight back into the canteen to put on a brave face and lie to your mates about where you’d been? Well, that becomes a bit of a metaphor for your life experience in years to come.

All that weed you’re smoking to numb out the pain is only making matters worse. And I know, ’so what?’, you feel like a fucking failure because you’re having to redo sixth form, so you might as well stay stoned throughout.

Well, you’re not a failure.

It turns out we have ADHD. I think you already know that, but I’m afraid it’s not going to be diagnosed until you’re 30.

Buckle up, because over the next 13 years you are going to fail over and over, until you’re so crushed that the only way you can feel normal is by being permanently half-cut, relying on coke to sharpen you up when you push it too far and get sloppy.

Not many people are ever going to know how much you’re struggling.

You’ve already mastered the art of putting on a brave face and it will serve you well.

You will outwardly excel as a socialite in the boozy world of London ad agencies. People will enable you and you’re going to become the ultimate fucking party animal.

But, quickly you’ll find that when everyone else goes home, you’ll be left drinking alone.

An empty shell on the edge of eternity.

But, don’t worry, Matt.

You’re a resilient fucker. We always get back up.

One day, when you’re 30 – a time which I’m sure feels impossible right now – a switch will flick in your head and it will turn on a light which leads down a path out of the dark and into the warmth of the sun.

You’ll begin to feel a connection with the sun and even start getting up before it rises every day to watch it and be grateful for its warm, hopeful rays.

You’ll decide to quit drinking overnight, seriously. You’ll discover full sobriety and it will change your life.

Our eventual ADHD diagnosis will open up a world of opportunity and you won’t focus on the regrets and ‘what if’s’, because our future looks too bright.

We end up landing a job you’ll dream about throughout most of your twenties. It takes longer to get there than most and you’ll watch far less talented people fly past you. But, once you learn our ADHD made things 100x harder for us, you’ll just feel immense pride in the fact we managed to get there at all without ever losing the faith.

One morning you’re going to sit down and write this very same letter, word-for-word, to our 18 year old self.

You’ll write it as a show of solidarity, not so much to offer advice. I seem to remember that right now you hate advice.

The letter will stand as proof that the pain you’re feeing right now is real and the tears you hide from the world are valid.

But, throughout everything we endure you will be guided by our perpetual positive outlook and it will keep you safe from harm.

Matt, mate. We make it out alive.

Good luck and godspeed,
Matt