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Reform Magazine | December 1, 2023

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Do stay for tea and coffee: What message should 2021 You give to 2020 You?

Do stay for tea and coffee: What message should 2021 You give to 2020 You?

Paul Kerensa talks back to 2020

Early 2020. You’re out shopping. Possibly off to a cafe, pub or restaurant. Suddenly, a strange person emerges from, say, a DeLorean or old-fashioned police box. Strange, because it’s you. You from 2021.

You look the same, just a year older. Alright, maybe you look a few years older – it’s been a tough 12 months. Yes, 2021 You is a time traveller (yet chose not to go to Wuhan… Don’t overthink it.) There’s just enough time/fuel/word allowance for one sentence of wisdom. From you to you.

What would it be? What message should 2021 You give to 2020 You, knowing what’s ahead?

I asked this on social media and answers flooded in, reading like a cross between the Sermon on the Mount and Baz Luhrmann’s song ‘Sunscreen’. Folks were eager to shout warnings from the rooftops or, more often, to give our younger selves a hug and a pep talk.

‘Hold on tight,’ was a common answer, or more caring alternatives: ‘Hang on in there.’ ‘You’re better prepared for what’s coming than you realise.’

Many opted for preparatory messages, advising to buy jigsaws, or loo roll, or to buy shares in loo roll. Oh, and perhaps don’t buy that suit – try jogging bottoms instead. (Alright, it’s not exactly like the Sermon on the Mount.)

Others urged their early 2020 selves to live for the moment. Enjoy yourself while you can. Treasure your local cinema, theatre or… anyone for a comedy night? And of course, see your extended family. Stock up on hugs. Can’t be bothered to go to that party? Go anyway.

Some sent themselves further afield: Take that holiday now! New Zealand’s nice. In fact, move there, marry a local, apply for residency and stay for good. (This is clearly based on how New Zealand has managed the pandemic thus far – though I wonder if there’s also a sense of going as far as possible from this/here/now.)

Lockdown has had its upsides though. Many wanted to advise not how to avoid it, but how to maximise it. Get that home exercise kit. Construct a home studio. Hold off on those box sets – you’ll have time later.

For too many, of course, time later hasn’t come. For some, the only message to pass on is a desperate one: Avoid that encounter. Don’t take that risk.
I tell myself that today too. Whenever I’m frustrated by lockdown, tempted to take chances, I remember I’ll never know what I’m avoiding by being super-careful. Staying in is the new going out.

So, I empathise with those seeking to make life comfortable for their younger selves: Build that extension. Take your favourite mug home from work in February. Invest in a good desk chair.

The most popular reply? Buy shares in Zoom. It’ll mean nothing in early 2020, but you’ll be glad to invest before the unmuting begins.

Above all, don’t worry, though you will worry. Jesus’s anti-worry message on the Mount has become a challenge this year. Worry is not an easy switch to turn off.

Hindsight offers a different lens though. A God’s-eye view is the ultimate perspective, a bit of space and time giving a new angle on our lives. If only we could reassure our younger selves that hope isn’t just a four-letter word but a window, to be cleaned daily for the best view.

While ‘20/20 vision’ means a clear image, maybe it should be redefined. Perhaps ‘2020 vision’ is now about hindsight. If you’re reading this, you’re here. We’ve got more digging deep to do. But I wonder what message 2022 You would give to 2021 You? I suspect that, once again, it’ll come down to Bobby McFerrin’s sage advice: Don’t worry. Be happy.

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and radio broadcaster

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