A letter to my fresher self

By George Simms

I really wasn’t sure how to address this. ‘Hi mate’ sounds slightly like I’m trying to buy a club ticket off someone I once sat next to in a lecture. Let’s be honest, just ‘George’ is far more direct than either of us will ever be.

‘Hey’ is how you would’ve started, and I like to think my writing has moved past that. ‘Dear George’ seemed safe, it even suggests I quite like you, which is probably more than you could say for you right now. Now we’ve moved past that, let’s get started.

It’s me. I’m you, but three years in the future. I suppose I’m here to try and give you some advice. All things considered, I’m probably the best person for the job. I know self-reflection has never really been our thing, but there’s no time like the present.

You’ve just set off for Durham. In about six hours, you’ll be lingering in a hospital waiting room-cum-socialising space you’ll come to know as Hatfield Bar. You’ll see a group of guys hovering around a table, tentatively asking each other what A-Levels they took and where they come from. Go over to them. They’re equally as scared of this as you are.

Stop trying to live up to an idea of ‘future you’ that’s in your head.

You don’t even really have to say anything, just laugh when it seems appropriate and try and ascertain everyone’s names before it becomes too late to ask. Remember that one, it’ll save you a lot of time and inner turmoil.

You’re going to change in ways you can’t even begin to comprehend. It’ll happen so quickly you won’t be able to keep up. Some days you’ll look in the mirror and like the new you and some days you won’t. Trial and error have got us this far and I still don’t have any better ideas. I’m not convinced anyone else does either.

Take every opportunity you can. Take risks. Make mistakes. Let yourself be an idiot. It’s not something you’ve ever been very good at, and wow, you’re about to over-compensate. But that’s ok. It might be the oldest cliché in the fresher phrasebook, but first year really doesn’t matter. Spend your first year exploring – discover what you enjoy and then do lots of it. Write as much as you can, play football, get your mates to go to the pub at lunchtime and don’t leave until kicking-out time.

Spend your first year exploring

If someone invites you to do something in the first term, just do it. The friends you’ve already made won’t forget about you if you go to another college for a night out, and if they do then it’s a fair sign that they weren’t destined to be in your life long-term.

I’ve left the most important piece of advice until the end. Stop trying to live up to an idea of ‘future you’ that’s in your head. You’ll miss who you really are trying to become, someone you’re not. I’m nothing like you think I’ll be and, trust me, that’s a good thing.

You’ll never learn to drink beer. It’s still cocktails and fruity ciders for you and no one could care less. You won’t spend your time curled up in bed reading the classics, because one day, you’ll peruse your shelf full of books you’ve read 100 pages of and never opened again and realise that, as much as you might want to be a turtleneck wearing literary aficionado, you get bored too easily to read books with 1,000 pages.

As much as you might want to be a turtleneck wearing literary aficionado, you get bored too easily to read books with 1,000 pages.

You’ll never be on University Challenge because your trivia is far more The Chase. You won’t learn to love cricket, or really ‘get’ art, or work in the City. All of that’s ok because that’s who you are. Stop trying to fight it.

Just be yourself, people will love you for it. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, sooner or later people will find out. Spend your time becoming yourself rather than being what you think people want you to be. All they want is for you to be you.

Even when life seems like it won’t, it’ll be ok. I promise.

I love you, and you will too.

George, September 2021

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