Simon Rutter

Copywriter & Editor

Everyone is winging it.

No one has any clue what they are doing most of the time (certain exceptions obvs – e.g. pilots), so don’t worry if you don’t. I know everyone – teachers, parents etc – seem like they have it all figured out, but here’s the thing you will learn – they haven’t got a clue. Barely hidden underneath their functioning veneer is this indisputable fact: they are making it up as they go along, winging it from one minute to the next. Everyone is just doing their best, which sometimes is good enough and sometimes isn’t, but it’s all you ever have a right to expect. And this is before the internet put all the world’s information in people’s hands – in 1992 there was no YouTube telling people how to cook the perfect carbonara.

When you start winging it too (just with fewer excuses for not being able to cook amazing pasta), you will understand this lesson. You’ll forgive your parents, teachers etc, and appreciate them as people just like you – who make mistakes, who doubt themselves, but who keep showing up regardless. Oh yeah, keep showing up. That’s about 95% of it.

You can outrun your sadness

Running will save you. That may sound dramatic, but you’ll get it one day. Keeping the body moving is so, so important. It’s way better and necessary for you than sitting at a computer painfully leaning into a screen and tethered to an endless list of urgent/important/drudge tasks that are largely inconsequential.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, when you move your body everything else moves – your mind is wiped clean, your creativity awakens, and you develop mental and physical strength that will help you every day.

In 2008 you will lose someone important to you. You already run, but now you’re aware of your mortality in a way you never were before. So now the race is really on. You will do your first marathon. Then another. And slowly, mile by mile, you outrun your sadness to a point where you can shake its hand and tell it, ‘You had a strong grip on me for a while, but I wriggled free. And I’m never going to stop running now.’

Life is too short to drink bad coffee

Having a discerning palette is a blessing and a curse. You appreciate flavour, taste and aroma, but you also have high standards that more often than not aren’t met.

First, it’s craft beer, which you get into years before it becomes a horrendously used and abused term. Then your wife and father-in-law introduce you to specialty coffee. Your palette comes in very handy here. You can detect the notes, you savour the beauty and simplicity of a delicious flat white. Unfortunately, you soon discover that most coffee served in shops is terrible, even in so-called specialty outlets. But don’t succumb. I know you need your caffeine fix, but please don’t settle for anything less than you deserve. Life really is too short for bad coffee.

It’s not going to be a straight line

Right now, you think the path is linear. It’s school, then university, then a job. But it’s never going to be a straight line. And that’s part of the fun. Or the ‘rich tapestry of life’, as your gran used to say.

There will be periods when you’re out of work. You will fall into and out of jobs, take career detours, and pivot. One minute you will be higher than the sun, the next falling through the floor. You will be lucky enough to travel the world, meet amazing people and win awards.

Remember what I said earlier about cutting your parents some slack? Seeing your Dad running his own business as you grew up was part inspiration, part terror. Now you’re working for yourself and you know exactly why. But he made it work, and so will you.

Your passions aren’t silly

You already love writing, and seem to have a natural disposition for it. This will stand you in good stead for life.

But don’t ever think the things you love are ‘silly’ or can’t make you money. People just like you are earning a living from their passions, and the barriers to entry will be destroyed by social media – but don’t worry about that for now.

For now, hold on to things you enjoy – playing football, watching Bottom, and reading proper books you can actually touch (you’ll understand this one day when you’re inseparable from your Kindle). It takes more work to keep your passions alive as you get older, but when they disappear they rarely come back, so do what you can to hold on to them. Who knows, one day you might even write that novel you’ve been thinking about?

Thank you Simon Rutter writing A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self

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