From Jonathan Kim flickr
From Jonathan Kim flickr

March 2014

Dear 16-year-old Tim

It’s odd writing a letter to a younger me and I’m not sure where to start but it is something I have been meaning to do for a while so here goes.

So you are about to start your G.C.S.E exams in a few months time and you are a bit nervous aren’t you. It is going to be a stressful time but nothing compared to your A-Levels if that’s any consolation. I think your first exam is your art exam and trust me you will wish you had chosen a different theme for your exam. Don’t worry you pass but you will hate that painting for many years to come. I’ve still got it and can’t bare to look at it still. Theres a bit of a shock you need to re sit your English language exam but you do that the following year and it’s all good. Everything else you do great at even maths. Yeah those maths tuition lessons certainly help get that grade C for you and you have the satisfaction of telling the teacher who told you that you would never pass G.C.S.E Maths the good news and you will enjoy that smugness. You will have mixed emotions leaving secondary school. You’ve had some tough times because of bullying but there have been good times as well they are just difficult to remember.

Sixth Form is a great opportunity for you but you hold back on the social side when you should embrace it. Go to those parties instead of turning them down like I did. You know you want to go to them and this is the time to do the fun stuff. You will regret it later I promise you. You will meet new friends and some of these you will still keep in touch with over the years. The work for your A-Levels is tough and you really don’t think you will pass your History. Don’t worry you do and that dream of going to University becomes real.

You have always wanted to go to University and had dreams of going to a university miles and miles away and living in a big city. Well I can say you do go to a university in a city but its quite close to home. You go to Sunderland University to do Communication, Cultural & Media studies. You are probably thinking this isn’t your first choice but actually it is. You get offers from all six universities you apply to and this is the one you choose. You have tough first year though. Not with the work load that’s ok it’s the whole fitting it thing you struggle with. The people you share with in Halls are great but you will misinterpret many things and you become quite isolated because of it. You try too much to fit in and forget to be yourself. They are tough times and you will have many a night just crying on your own and this period of your life is one you try to forget for many years. Your second and third years at university are much better and you live with some great people and you keep in touch with some of these friends. Your graduation goes well and mum and dad are very proud of you as is granddad who you also invite to the ceremony. It means a lot to you that he was there but he loved being there as well.

When you leave uni you will have a few months without a job and its tough going. Theres nothing more demoralising than the job centre. You do eventually get a job at a supermarket and although it is not what you want to do you are at least earning money. You also meet some great people and a very good friend. I know are probably thinking of a career in media and you have done for a number of years now and it’s good to keep that dream but in reality you become a librarian or should I say a library assistant at a university. You have always had a love of libraries since that first visit with Nanna and you are a school librarian as well aren’t you. Before starting university you will have a summer job at the town library and someone there will say to you that you will end up working in libraries. You don’t believe them but it’s true and you will enjoy it. You are also lucky to work with great people who become friends. You learn to become the real you for the first time because of their help.

There’s one thing that I had better tell you. Well you already know this thing anyway at this stage in your life but it takes you another 14 more years to actually admit it. Yep you are gay. Now don’t act surprised your instinct is telling you I’m/you are right. Those feelings you have for those other guys is real and thats odd to get you your head round and pretty scary too.  Although it’s on your mind now you don’t do anything about it and just push to the back of your mind. If I said you had to change something then I would tell you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up. Part of you thinks university will be the time you finally do come out but you don’t. It’s one of the reasons why you struggle in your first year in halls. You had hoped this would be the time you do it but you let the past stop you doing it. You continue to think you are alone and the only one going through this in your life and you don’t see the others around you. When you do finally ‘come out’ it is the best decision you will ever make it. All that burden and stress you have each day lifts off your shoulders and that first day after telling people is scary, you feel a little sick but it’s the first day you live your true life. No hiding anymore. You ‘come out’ when you are 30 and although you are surrounded by lots of love and support part of you hurts inside for not doing it sooner. You really wish you had told your grandparents as well. Yeah there’s a risk they would have had a problem but by leaving it so late you have that question at the back of your mind of what would they think. Did they know/suspect? You will never know the answers by leaving it so late.

I would like to say that by 33 that you are settled and in your own place with that special someone. Sadly it’s not happened yet. That joke mum always says about you can move out when you are 50 is no longer funny. Seriously though you are trying your best  to move out. With regards the love life you need to do more work on this in fact a lot more work. Maybe I’m partly talking to the 33  year old me as well. This is why I said you should ‘come out’ sooner and go to parties you are invited to. You need to meet more people and socialise and live like other teenagers do. Also take the plunge and ask someone out. They are not going to ask you because that are hoping someone will ask them just as much as you are hoping for the same thing. Yeah it’s a risk asking another guy out. You don’t want to be smacked in the face but listen to your instinct. It’s true when you ‘come out’ that gaydar thing they talk about is sort of real and you are pretty accurate when it comes to these things. Yep even about ‘him’ and ‘him’.

You want to travel and have a list of places in your head where you want to visit. You will visit some of them such as South Africa, Rome, and Florida. I still hope to go to New York City and visit each of the continents. You should do more travelling early on. You have no ties , no obligations. If any travel opportunities come up grab them and do whatever it takes to make them happen.

When it comes friends you have never had a huge social group. You have some really great friends though and like all friendships you will have times when you are close and then others when you drift apart for a while. However when you do meet up it’s like you had only met yesterday. When you ‘come out’ you really see your true friendships and the ones that help you the most are probably not the ones expect. Remember to try to be there for them though. You sometimes can get wrapped up in yourself too much and not see when some friends need you. They are just like you they won’t ask for that chat, but they need it just like you do sometimes.

Oh one other thing you do the Great North Run. Yeah honestly you do. It’s one of the things you do when you turn 30. It’s tough going and it’s not a fast time but the main thing is you do it. So not bad for someone who hates P.E is it?

Right I have mentioned some of the things that have happened and some things you should change if you could. Now it is time to give some advice to you. Stop worrying about the ‘what if’s’. Thinking like this gets you no where and just makes you ill, so stop it and grab every opportunity and leave the doubt to one side. The other piece of advice is relax more. You can get yourself so highly strung for nothing. This does you and anyone around you no good. So use that energy for something more productive.

Well I suppose that’s it from me. I know it’s doubtful you can change anything that has happened but maybe it’s not too late to change the future.

Best Wishes

Tim (33 year old you)