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Reform Magazine | July 15, 2018

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Editorial: Advice from my younger self

It’s the end times for ‘Jumble sales of the apocalypse’. This month’s Reform sees the last of Simon Jenkins’ column after five years. Its lively satire has received both more praise and more complaints than any other part of the magazine in that time! Simon gave my 30-year-old self a start in freelance writing, so it’s been an honour and a thrill to repay some of the debt.

While we’re looking back, you’ll see that ‘A good question’ this month asks: ‘What advice would you give to your younger self?’ It’s an intriguing question, and after I read the four answers on pages 21 to 23, my head started filling with advice I was very keen to send back to my own younger self. Having learned and grown so much, there were many ways I wanted to put Young Steve on a better path and many potholes in it which I wanted to point out.

So it was somewhat surprising to receive the following by return of imaginary post:

Thanks for your advice, Old Steve. I’m sure it was well meant. You don’t mind if I respond?

You tell me to ‘question the version of religion you were brought up with a bit more’. Have you really grown so forgetful and arrogant? I question all of it all the time. I wrestle with the problems. I read books by people I massively disagree with (sometimes). I change my mind.

I’m afraid I actually believe this stuff for myself, not because my family or church told me to. Do you really think that, because you’ve drifted so far from what you used to believe, you must have never thought it through? You did, and I’m the result. I’m not the starting point for getting where you are, I’m the end point of my life so far.

You sound pretty sure you’ve gained insights I don’t have. Well, I should think so, after however many years it’s been. But are you sure that you haven’t, at the same time, lost hold of things you used to know? Slid? Hardened? Grown complacent and over-comfortable? Listened to too many voices telling you what you want to hear? Lost your first love?

By the way, I can’t help noticing how ‘personal development’ all your advice was. Why aren’t you telling me how to make a difference and change the world? I’m hoping that’s because I work it out for myself, so you don’t need to advise me. Or is it because, for all your hard-won insights and wisdom and personal development, you’ve lost sight of the fact that that’s what it’s all about? Could it be you’ve become focussed on you and yours, and given up on changing the world?

You sound tired. Maybe you should have a nap and mind your own business. Maybe you should take a long look in the mirror. Eat more veg, drink less booze, and save your soul before it’s too late, that’s my advice.

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This article was published in the July/August 2018 edition of  Reform

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