Letter to my 16 year old Self

You said you guys should just be friends…

He came to the boarding house that evening and asked someone to call you. You were wearing your navy denim jeans and your brother’s red and white Michaelhouse top. He had come to talk about the kiss. You told him you didn’t want to pursue it further. This was a good move.

It’s ok that you told him you think you should be friends even though you wanted more. Granted, you’re suffering for your choice. You get to watch him take other girls to dances. You have to answer that “Why not you?” question over and over again. And your heart aches for what could have been. It hurts like hell. Let it. This is temporary. You’ll be fine. For one, there’ll be more guys… But when you’re in your mid 20s, you ‘ll say hi to a guy while sitting at the bar waiting for a show to start. He is one of the performers, but you’ll miss his performance. You’ll make small talk and you won’t think much of it. This is a pivotal moment. Thank me later.

A few months from now, someone will enter your life and make you question everything about it. She’s abrasive, but you’ll like her. Because she’s honest. She reminds you of what your life could’ve been if you’d had a different upbringing. She’ll make you reflect on yourself. You guys will grow close. You’ll get attached. She’ll be your best friend. She’ll leave after a year. You’ll cry over it. But you’ll email each other. You’ll lose touch. But you meet again years later and it’ll feel like she never left.

It’s not too late to change subjects. I know you want to do Art. Rather badly. But you’re scared. What if you suck? You’re reconsidering French. But you won’t drop it. Good move. As interesting as Biology is to you, you won’t use it. Along with Chemistry and Physics. I hate to break it to you, but…You won’t be a Medical Scientist. Or a doctor. In fact, you won’t even need the Sciences that you’re studying. But they’ll teach you planning, structure, organisational skills, logical thinking etc. You’ll need these later in life.

Your obsession with The Cranberries? It doesn’t die. Ever. It helps you form a life-long friendship with someone. You won’t realise this until your ten year reunion. She’s a great guitarist. She can sing. You believe this. She doesn’t yet. But you’ll play guitar and sing together. She’ll join some bands after high school. You’ll pay to watch her perform. It’ll be mad fun.

I’m not sure yet if you’ve started dancing. But when you do, you’ll love it! You’ll consider going professional. Because you’ll be that good. Or so you think. But life will get in the way and you’ll give it up. Don’t be too bitter about it.

Your relationship with your brother is changing. You’re not quite sure what happened. Maybe you’re outgrowing him. You can’t do anything about it. Let it be.

You envy your sister’s relationship with your Mom. You wish the 3 of you could find some kind of common ground. You won’t. Instead, you’ll develop your relationships with them separately. First your relationship with your sister will grow through emails about boys and phone calls and texts about balance sheets and income statements. [Accounting right? Who ever thought?] Then your relationship with your Mom will be built through fashion, beauty, accessories etc. Yes, this is the same mother who stopped buying you clothes because you would cut and resew them. But you guys did pierce your ears together that one time when you were 9/10. Remember?

Two years from now, your position in your family will change. It will start with a strange conversation in the sitting-room with your Dad about a financial decision he made. You’ll get freaked out. You’ll wonder where Mom is. This is the beginning. You’ll be given a lot more responsibility. This will make you angry. You won’t understand why. But you’ll grow into this role.

You have such a strong sense of self. I love this about you. You are also ahead of your time in many ways. Many people your age aren’t thinking the way you’re thinking. You’ll feel lonely a lot. Some of your friends are far away. But there are others in your school who feel just as misplaced as you do. You’ll befriend them. You’ll hang a banner on a roof with some of them towards the end of high school.

Keep finding solace in those novels. Keep writing in your journals. Keep your wit and sense of humour. You think it’s weird that you like to study maps, but you’re a dreamer. You need your imagination. You will go through so much. Discover so much. You are exactly the person you imagine yourself to be. All that and more. The time will come when you can express that freely. Your life will truly begin after high school. You will grow so much. It’ll hurt. People won’t understand. You’ll lose friends along the way. You’ll make new ones. But you’ll be ok.

Oh, and those girls in your boarding house that you don’t like all that much? Well…let me just say that something interesting happens before your 30th birthday. I’ll leave it there.


Your soon-to-be 31 year old self


Q & A

What kind of teenager were you?

A very lost one……No. Just generally awkward and very into my books. Not awkward-looking or anything. I was just socially awkward. I sometimes joke that while my peers were sent off to socialising class – like while they were learning how to socialise, I was learning how to be alone. I’m still socially awkward. I don’t know…I’m really uncomfortable with socialising. I panic whenever I have to network or interact with new people. So, as a teen, especially from 14 – 16, I felt awkward a lot of the time. But there were books….and there was music and….I had a journal so…..

So you felt out of place?

Yeah, but I mean every teenager does. With me though, it was like, I was at a new school and I didn’t wanna be there. So I wasn’t tryina be cool or fit in or be popular or whatever. I didn’t date anyone. I kissed some boys though….

I was a serious teen. I’m still a serious person, so…But I had friends. We were the ‘uncool bunch’ if you will. I always ended up befriending the ‘misfits’. They were cool people. They were all about having fun and they weren’t trying to prove anything or impress anyone. They were just themselves. And I liked that. But we didn’t always get off to a good start. 🙂

Why not?

Well, I’m reserved and that was misinterpreted. Some people thought I was stuck-up, which I’m not. My mother’s also like that. Very reserved around people she doesn’t know, but if she sees them on a regular basis, she’ll loosen up. But yeah, so I liked the fact that my friends were about just being themselves…..and being rebellious! I wasn’t really rebellious. Well, not as rebellious as they were. Like…I wasn’t really rebellious in my early teens. That only came when I was 16. I don’t know what it was about age 16 specifically, but I remember questioning everything. And I got tired of being molded, of not having enough freedom. I was questioning why school was the way it was. Why we were always being molded in some way. Being taught how to behave, how to dress etc. I questioned that. I just didn’t see the point of going to church anymore. Because I never felt this spirituality that they kept talking about in church. You know, this whole….holy spirit and being one with Christ? I never felt that. And I didn’t understand why because I felt like I was doing everything that I was supposed to do….And I was also unhappy. And very lonely at home. We moved to Queenstown when I was 14 and I never knew anyone there. So I was lonely whenever I went home. My friends and I used to write letters to each other over the school holidays. That was fun. 😀 I actually miss that. A couple of friends and I tried to resurrect it, but it didn’t really work. I only managed to write and receive one letter. I mean with Facebook and Twitter and stuff, who’s gonna really sit down and write a letter to someone?

If you have any questions or comments or anything you wanna share, feel free to drop me an email: nopeceun@gmail.com

Teenage Travels….

You were married to a black woman. An African woman and….I remember our conversation in the car that one day on my way home when I was a teenager when you said that….that you strongly believed that everybody in this country should learn and know English and all African languages should only ever be used in a social context. It doesn’t undermine the other languages in any way, you emphasized. “They can still maintain their languages,” you said. And I remember suddenly feeling so uncomfortable as a 17 year old and I never understood why until now. Because if you as a white English-speaking man can marry a Xhosa woman for many years and have children with her and STILL not get it then I dunno…..I just don’t know……