Originally written in February last year for my Patreon.
I turned thirty today. I woke up, drank some coffee, and went about my life as I would any other day. I went for a run, did some writing, and walked the dog. Standard stuff. But suspend your disbelief for a moment. Imagine my day wasn’t so standard. Imagine I woke up this morning and went down to grab my cup of coffee and as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and cracked my back, my day was suddenly turned topsy-turvy.
Imagine I’d looked over and saw something peculiar sitting there in my pet cat’s litter tray.
Something that wasn’t cat shit.
Sure, Oscar had been leaving some big presents but this was something else. This was something cosmic. This time the cat went and dropped a time portal. So imagine I sighed, downed my coffee, and did what any other rational human being would do in that situation. I climbed inside the litter box, slipped myself into the time portal, and went for a ride.
There I flew through the time stream, gliding past colours known and unknown, journeying back ten years until I popped out and landed on something soft. It was a bed; it was my bed at one point in time. A bedroom that stunk of old cigarettes and too many late nights. I recognised the littering of DVDs, empty beer bottles, and that ‘For Sale’ sign that I’d been using as a noticeboard. It only had the one piece of paper press-studded into it — a birthday card that said ‘Happy 20th!’
So do me a favour, imagine I looked upon my 20-year-old self, just waking up, groggy from a heavy night of drinking. Imagine I spoke to him. Imagine what I said…
Hello, Luke. Don’t get up. Listen for a second. Here are some life lessons. From me to you… who is also me.
1.) Lose the vices.
It’s around this time in your life that you’re doing a lot of drinking and smoking. You’re spending many a night frequenting pubs and clubs and have gotten yourself into many an odd scenario. I remember the time we woke up at 4am in the middle of that park, the time we shared a beer with that racist homeless guy, and that joint we smoked that time. Remember how we couldn’t move our legs for hours?
Well, as fun all that was, it’s time to get it under control. I’m more than happy for you to go and experience life but you need moderation. You need to be able to say no. This is true not just for booze but for anything. For some this is their gym membership. For others, it’s maxing out their credit cards on new clothes. For some it’s sex. But for most young Brits fresh out of their parents’ houses, it’s the booze.
I know you’re feeling lonely and disenfranchised. I know you drink because you don’t think there’s not much else for you. You see the world through the bottom of your pint glass, already eyeing up the next drink before you finish the first. Do you still call yourself an escape artist, always looking to escape reality, escape clear thought? I think maybe you do.
You’ve had some great times, sure, but you’ll wish you stopped sooner. Trust me. You’ll wish you reengaged with the world. You’ll wish you started laying down some goals, put down the booze and went and made something. You’ll feel all the better for it. Trust me.
2.) Don’t resist change.
When I look back and think about the truly sad points in your life/our life, I see one common factor — change. And it’s not the change itself that causes the pain but your unwillingness to accept it. Your resistance.
In some languages, resistance is considered an emotion. As fundamental to our experience as being happy or sad or angry. Those emotions get handy little emoticons or get characterised in Pixar movies but resistance doesn’t, so we often forget it’s even there. It’s that shrinking, weighty feeling you get when your life feels outside of your control. We fall into it when we find a comfort zone comes under threat, like when your hot bubble bath is all dead and tepid and you don’t quite want to get out so you lay there in your own soup, growing wrinkly and uncomfortable, wasting your time.
Change will hurt you again and again until you learn to accept it, to roll with it. You have to get older. You have to learn to accept responsibility. You have to grow. You have to say goodbye every now and again. You have to move house once in a while. You have to get out of the fucking bath.
3.) A body in motion tends to stay in motion.
When I look at you, Luke. I see a guy who has ambitions but isn’t moving towards them. I see that you’re frustrated. You want to have written without doing the writing. You want to have made the film without doing the making, have done the thing without the doing. Eventually, you will realise that it’s only when we verb, that we noun.
Learn that sooner than later. Learn it today. It’s difficult at first, sure, but once you get moving, build some habits, some routines, you’ll find things happening somewhat on their own. Like you simply programmed in the configuration and the machine did the rest of the work. Get that body in motion and it will take you the rest of the way.
Also, I mean you should really get your actual body in motion, too. You might look nice and skinny now, but your metabolism is on its last legs. You might want to think about getting into an exercise routine before you put on those extra two stone because believe me, they ain’t going anywhere on their own.
4.) Read like a motherfucker.
You are a reader and that’s good. You’re a slow reader, though. You pick up a book and it takes you two months to get through it. Then you take a month off before you pick up the next one. Come on, dude. Who you fooling? You’re a lightweight. And not every book has to be from the beat generation. There’s a whole world of genres and types of books out there and the sooner you learn to love them, the sooner you’ll find your calling.
Also, this snail’s pace is hurting your reading experience if anything. Books are better when you dive all the way in, soak yourself, maybe even drown. Some of your favourite reading experiences will be those mammoth 8-hr long sessions. The more you read, the more you’ll like to read. I believe this fully. I believe that it’s worth drowning in a book every now and again, because that’s what makes you feel alive. Go and do me a favour and drown a little.
5.) Let go of the ego.
Ego is a weird thing. It has a purpose. It props us up and gives us a little confidence when we need it. It’s a little bit of strength that helps us say, “I can write a book” or “I’m good enough to talk to that girl” or “I’m cool enough to pull off skinny-skinny jeans”.
And that’s fine for a while. The ego can hold our hand but it has this nasty little habit of defining you. Not only can you go ahead and do those things, but now they are you, and hell to anyone who says otherwise.
The ego will break relationships and leave you an emotional mess. Unless you learn that the ego isn’t you. You are not your work, your achievements, or your relationships, your car, your location, or even your hair. You are much more than that. Use the ego for a while, but then ditch it like the parasitic alien fungus that it is, before it takes over, defines you.
6.) Move to London.
You will anyway but you should do it sooner. You’ll love it. You’ll get a sense of how big and wide the world truly is and how small your world has been up to then. Go and see the sights and fill yourself up on the energy and the culture. You’ll begin to humanise some of those things you’ve built up so much in your mind. These people who you dream of meeting (and will) — Charlie Brooker, Simon Pegg, Terry Gilliam — are just people. Very cool, very kind, but just people. The same goes for these giant organisations and brands. They’re just big groups of people with a fancy label around them. Guess who else is just a person. You. You’re a person too. I know you don’t feel like it sometimes.
Believe me, this city will be everything that you dreamed it will be… until it won’t be. Which is what lead me to realise that…
7.) Where you live is not an accomplishment.
As much as you believe it to be right now. Your worth is not measured by where you live. For a while, you will believe that you are a London person. That you are supposed to be in London. That simply by being there you will have succeeded at something. This is something the ego has constructed for you. There it is again, slipping in, defining you. Slippy slippy.
And then when you have to leave, and you will, your ego will break. You will crumple into an emotional little wreck and mourn the passing of that version of you like you would the death of a loved one.
With the love and support of your family you’ll get better again and you’ll come to realise that where you live has no bearing on the real you. You’ll come to realise that living isn’t an accomplishment. It’s simply where you keep your stuff.
8.) All those things you think you can't do… well, you can.
Maybe it’s because you come from a working-class background. Maybe it’s the small towns you were brought up in. Maybe it’s because you didn’t even see a big city until you were a teenager. But somewhere along the line you started to think that you weren’t made for much more than factory work. Going to university was the first step, but you’re still covered in this sludge of self-doubt. It’s there when you talk to people. It’s there when you have to do any form of public speaking. It’s so thick it’ll stop you from even trying.
You’ll pass on a lot of opportunities because you don’t feel like you’re good enough. I think it’s around twenty-five that you’ll start to clean yourself of that shit. Little by little, through small goals achieved you’ll realise that you can do all of this stuff. In fact, what’s funny is, you will do all of these things and then kick yourself because… well… they really weren’t that hard in the first place. Some people come out of the gate knowing this. For some reason it takes you a little longer, but you’ll get there. Trust me. You’ll get there.
9.) Things will get better.
They will. And sometimes they’ll get worse. But you’ll ride the rollercoaster and you’ll survive. You’ll live and learn from both the ups and the downs, and then maybe, just maybe, in ten years’ time, you’ll wake up one morning to see your cat has left a little birthday present in his litter tray.
Maybe you’ll go for a little ride.
Maybe you’ll have learned a thing or two to tell the you of ten years prior.
But listen, Luke. Imagine for a second, that you can be happy, do all the things you want to do. Imagine it like it might happen. Because it just might. Suspend your disbelief for a moment or two. Dream big for a second. And get ready to meet the love of your life. She’ll be moving in pretty soon. Into your house and into your life. Wear cologne. And tidy up your fucking room.
See you in ten.