Over the past two weeks, I've been attending a creative writing course with Bauer Media's Academy programme. It's been eye-opening, insightful, emotional and educational, and I've taken away some essential tips with regards to honing my writing and venturing into the world of freelance journalism. We've been asked to complete various tasks throughout the course, and one of them was to write a letter to our future selves. It had to include our hopes, dreams, fears and accomplishments, yet I somehow managed to dive into the rabbit hole and landed at the core of my soul. So, in the spirit of radical honesty and me sharing everything that pops into my head, I thought it only fitting to post the letter here. Enjoy!
You're reading this in the future, a future in which I hope you're in a better place than I am right now. Currently, I'm quietly hopeful, subtly optimistic about the things to come, but I can't believe in all the glittery, positive bullshit when I feel like there's this vast emptiness in the pit of my soul.
I know that I have a drive and ambition to make the most of life, I really do, and I do listen when people pay me compliments instead of shrugging them off. I explode with creativity and passion when I believe I have something worthwhile to say or I need to unload. I am a social butterfly yet also a social pariah, what a contradiction! I want to change the world but I find it such a struggle to change my own bed, go figure! I raise money for charities close to my heart by physically exerting myself and pushing myself to the limits of my body and I volunteer for OCD Action. Who knows, you might be reading this from the desk where you work which might even be there! I want to live off what I have to say, because (I feel) that's all I've got. I wasn't committed enough to work harder at school, I'm not suited to manual labour, but what I can do, one thing I know I'm really good at is helping people see hope in their own lives, inspiring them to be happier people and reassuring them that they aren't alone.
I love video games (I mean, let's be serious, we know this won't have changed) and play regularly with friends, and I absorb comics and books like there's no tomorrow. I'm trying to eat healthily, although the temptation is everywhere (thanks, Tony!) and I want to meet Joe Wicks, maybe even write a book with him about the importance of mental and physical health. Maybe you've met him? I hope he's how I imagine him to be, off his tits on adrenaline and enthusiasm. I love my friends, girlfriend and family ever so much. They're so supportive and I know they still will be when you come to read this letter. I sincerely hope that you're finding it easier to deal with the overwhelming grief you feel about Nan. I know that I almost can't bear to look at my lock screen through fear that I'll burst into tears. I don't want you to forget what the pain feels like, but I hope you're able to live with it without letting it take over. I know Nan wouldn't want that.
I guess the one thing I wish for most, when you find this letter at the bottom of your desk at Empire Magazine or you're reading parts of it out to the millions of listeners live on air on Absolute Radio, is that your darkest fears don't settle for as long when they burst in on your moments of serenity. That their roots have started to rot away from the core of who you are. That your neural pathways don't send your thoughts automatically down the highway of despair, hopelessness and dread that they occupy now.
I hope that you're not washing your hands as much, that you can go a day without showering out of choice, that you don't fly off the handle at the people who love and care about you so much and only want the best for you. I really want to hear that you're telling the OCD and depression to fuck off when it tries to take over and ruin all of the good things you've got going for you. You don't deserve to be trapped by this incessant voice that lives inside your head, taking up valuable rental space. Remember that it's part of who you are, it doesn't have to define who you are. You are bright, funny, sarcastic, obnoxious at times, stubborn, pig-headed, determined, kind, compassionate, thoughtful, empathetic, giving, loving, caring, sensitive and passionate. But most of all, you're worthy of loving yourself for exactly the person you are today, right now.
Looking ahead, I hope you're able to distinguish between boredom and sadness. Don't pick up your phone every five seconds and mindlessly scroll through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. I mean, they might not even exist when you're reading this, right?! LOL. But do better by yourself for fuck's sake! Read a book, write a poem, get out of the house for five minutes, just be more aware of your phone. I want you to be focusing on the now (your now, not mine) and live life as it's happening! Don't dwell on the past or aimlessly look ahead and worry about the future. The future is full of what ifs and unknowns, the past can't be changed and will never happen again, so live life by the breath that you have and feel. Yes, I know, it all sounds a bit out there but trust me, you'll be better off for it! So, I appreciate that I previously classed your stubbornness as a quality earlier, but don't always listen to everything your mind tells you. Sometimes, like your name suggests, you can be a right dick!
In essence, Rich, use your voice. Tell your story, keep telling it and keep giving people hope. You better be letting the world know that there is always an alternative to ending it all. Fuck knows we've been down that road before plenty of times! I hope you don't travel there as often as I do now. Hug your dad more, he's certainly been through the wringer and back with you. Do more things around the house for him, take the pressure off. I will be really pissed if I find out you're not telling him you love him every day. Whilst you're at it, give your mum a text every day and let her know you love her, because she really does love you, y'know.
Rich, just be the kind, caring person that I know you are and help others where you can. I hope you're doing something you love and that it brings you happiness. I hope you're taking care of yourself and are still practising yoga every day! I love you, mate. Keep going.
Reading this back out loud to my dad last night, I started to cry. I was desperately tired after being at Bauer all day and then attending an app development meeting in the evening for OCD Action and I think that was the main reason for the tears. Yet I must admit that I did well up when talking about loving myself because I know I don't give myself enough of a break, both physically and mentally. And in part, the writing course has given space in my head for memories to resurface, enveloping my thoughts with sadness and hope in a little cocktail that's difficult to swallow at times. But I'm glad I wrote this letter, and I'm proud of it. I'm proud that I can express my emotions and get it all off my chest, and Bauer has had a big part to play in that, so thanks go to them and the staff that have been so kind, friendly and compassionate.