Bibliophile | Remarkable people write a ‘Letter To My Younger Self’

Letter to My Younger Self
Edited by Jane Graham
Allen & Unwin

What advice would you give to your sixteen year old self? What part of your life would you want to revisit? Journalist Jane Graham wanted to encourage the famous people she interviewed to talk about their lives in revealing and honest ways and these are some of the questions she posed.

Letter to My Younger Self started as a column in the Scottish edition of The Big Issue 12 years ago. Graham’s book contains interviews of 100 (selected from 500 interviews) inspiring people on the moments that shaped their lives. Some of the interviewees would reassure their younger selves that everything would turn out fine, in many cases better than fine.

Some of these famous people would pass on a number of life’s lessons particularly to do with drugs, alcohol and smoking. Some like Ozzy Osbourne wouldn’t give anyone any advice about anything and least of all to his younger self and artist Grayson Perry wouldn’t comfort his younger self because it was the demons that drove him.

Several people remember not fitting in and looking at the world differently. Some thought they might be gay but didn’t know what to do about it. Jane Lynch guessed but only knew it was a bad thing people whispered about. Val McDermid knew there were no lesbians in Fife in the 1960s and she had to escape whilst Rufus Wainwright would have told his younger self to get to the gym.

It was sometimes the darkest hour before the dawn for some young people. Tom Jones was a father at 16; Jackson Curtis (50 Cent) was dealing drugs at 12 and Desmond Tutu was in hospital with TB at 16. Chelsea Clinton had just moved into the White House and Billie Jean King just wanted to change the world and she knew she would have to be number one to change things. “Hopefully each hit of the tennis ball helped amplify my voice a little.”

Bear Grylls and Jamie Oliver both struggled at school. For Bear, Eton was an exercise in survival and he wants to tell his younger self that school is such a small part of life. Dyslexic Jamie Oliver found it hard to concentrate and wants to tell his 16 year old self that you don’t have to be good at everything.

These remarkable people’s lives have turned out better than they could have imagined. The stories are fascinating and inspirational and make me want to share some of them with every young person in my life … and a few of the older ones as well.

Lezly Herbert

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