A letter from 15yr old Henry Caldwell to his future self
Today is the 24th of March 2020, and I am 15 years old. It’s my 16th birthday in 18 days. By that time, I will spend my birthday trapped in the house in which I will have been imprisoned for a month, quite possibly with no cake, nor presents. There will be no birthday outing to a restaurant with my grandparents, no party with my friends. Yesterday, Boris Johnson, the prime minister, announced that we are officially on lockdown, meaning we can’t leave the house except for essentials. I have worked for two years in preparation for exams I will now never take. No chance to prove to myself that I could ace them. As I gaze out of my window the sky is a deep azure blue, birds are singing, oblivious, and golden daffodils are blooming. But beyond the sounds of emerging spring, it’s the silence that screams at me. No voices, cars nor sirens can be heard in the distance, and to me it seems the world has stopped to catch its breath. The future seems bleak.
It truly is an odd time to be alive. I find myself re-living dystopian disaster films through my own eyes, a feeling which evokes the strangest of emotions; one moment I’m excited, questioning what the future will hold, the next I’m broken and sad, wincing at the thought of how the rest of my teenage years may pan out. Will 2020 define me?
I spend large parts of my days on the PlayStation, eating, and completing online tasks set by my teachers. There really isn’t much else to do. I feel placid. I feel I need a purpose, but seeking one out proves an arduous task. I feel weak, simply drifting along. Sometimes I imagine myself to be a plastic bag, being pulled along by the ocean’s currents. From down here the water is murky, but I can still see the sun poking gingerly at the ocean's surface, like it’s afraid to shine.
This whole Coronavirus thing doesn’t seem real yet, but I presume it will start to dawn on me soon, but I’m not sure. I’m told that lots of people are dying, but again, this still feels far from home and not real yet.
A while ago, we crashed our car, so it has been a frantic struggle to find a new one before everything closes. Days of car dealerships and online car sellers…all leading to today, when we finally have it. The one. All of that, to do the research, make the deal, to buy it, to get to today, when at last we have it. All of that, with nowhere take it, nowhere to drive and nowhere to go.
So that’s me, how are you? You’re probably doing well, successful, nice house, even a girlfriend maybe? I hope so. I hope you got through this with your head held high and no problems on the way. I really do. Promise me one thing: look after Mum and Dad. You know they deserve it, you owe them the world and everything in it, so don’t ever forget them. Dad’s calling my name right now; he’s making chips and wants to know how hungry I am. I reckon you’ll grow to miss things like that. And if you want my advice, you should keep reading books because it sets you apart from others. And if you’re looking for material, re-read ‘We Were Liars’ as it will likely frazzle your brain and may even change your perspective. Also, don’t be fake - speak your mind. There is a time and a place for facades and pleasantries, and you should learn to distinguish those moments from the rest. You should always remain true to yourself. You can’t hide from who you are.
Try not to stress or be sad about things you can’t change or influence because they are, by nature, out of your control. If you fail at something, try again. If you do something bad or make a mistake, learn from it and remember that chances are, it does not matter. It doesn’t matter because you are one in 7.7 billion other people, on a huge planet, in a vast galaxy, in a huge solar system, all encapsulated by one infinite universe. Trust me, it’s way bigger than you, and your insignificance is quite literally immeasurable, so whilst you are blessed with this short time on this earth, do good. Make somebody else’s life better, easier or happier. That is how you will be remembered, because people will always remember how you made them feel.
So, when you feel overwhelmed by the chaotic pace of life, if you feel swept along by its force and you want to shout out at its unrelenting torrent, remember your fifteen-year-old self. Remember the imposed peace and quiet, and the isolation that you felt.