When I was eleven, we had to write a letter to ourselves ten years in the future. Our sixth class teacher made us do it. Back then, I wasn't sure why, and a lot of us weren't sure what to say. That letter has gone missing in the dumping ground I call a bedroom, but I remember the main points of it. Thankfully, part of what I remember is that I wanted to be a journalist when I "grew up".
I don't think I'm far off, but we'll get to that soon.
See, at the age of eleven, I thought you had to do something in particular to become a journalist or write for a paper or anything like that: study Journalism in college. I knew the name of one college, and it so happens that they have a Journalism course (though how I knew that back then I don't know, because we didn't have Internet access!). That college is Dublin City University. At the age of eleven, I thought I wanted to go to DCU to study Journalism so I could write for a living.
I don't know if every child my age thought that was how people ended up in the newspaper, but I know now that that's not necessarily true. You don't need a degree to end up in print.
I proved this to myself last year when I wrote an article for Writing Magazine, after putting a novella up for sale for the first time ever. Since then, I've actually sold copies of books. I'm still an Undergraduate student (though it won't be long before I can't say that anymore!). I'm not studying Journalism. I have no formal training in writing.
And yet, here I am.
No, this isn't me bragging. Well, not to the public. To my eleven year old self, yes, I am bragging. I did something I wanted to do then without realizing ten years ago that it was an option. Heck, ten years ago I had stopped making new friends or talking to new people. I hadn't written a novel. I hadn't considered writing fiction for a living an actual possibility. I hadn't discovered most of my favourite authors, met most of the people I know now (or any of the people I actually talk to on a regular basis). I hadn't even made my Confirmation or sat Entrance Exams for secondary school when I wrote that letter.
But like I said, no one knew what to write, or why we had to write anything. I think now I understand better: she wanted us to think about the choices we were going to make in our lives. Who did we still want to be friends with? What did we aspire to do or to be when we "grew up"? What were our plans for after secondary school? (Oddly, before we'd even started and before some people even knew where they were going!)
Nowadays, I can't help but think about the future. Yes, it's more of a worry now about who I'll still be talking to, or how I'll be making a living, or the sort of life I'll be living, but it's still important. And I still aspire to do certain things and be a certain sort of person, and I think it's important to think back on the times when we didn't know any better. The choices we make are important ones, but we don't necessarily have to have all the answers before we make them. Finding new ways of achieving dreams and discovering ourselves is as much a part of life as having a master plan for success and happiness.
So, let's try it again. When I grow up, I want to write for a living, I want to be happy with my choices, and I want to learn from my mistakes. What about you?