15 year old Clare McAuley

What would your 15 old self think of your life if they could see you now?

The other day I was sorting through some old cards and letters I’ve received over the years. I stumbled across a letter I had written to myself when I 15. In very bossy language I commanded that the letter was only to be opened when I was 22.

Admittedly I was a rather unusual teenager. At first I thought this letter might be great to put on my blog. After re-reading my scribbles, I realised I’d forgotten in the last five years the content of this odd letter. It was whimsical, personal and in some places very strange. I could never put it online. The letter wears its heart on its sleeve, and I still feel my teenage self still deserves some privacy.

Amongst the dramatic statements I did give myself some good advice. I told myself to go for walks, go to the cricket and re-read Charles Dickens. In particular, I should read Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens.

In one place I tell my future self to stay friends with certain people. My choice of people was in places a little puzzling. The first three are still some of my closest friends. However later in the list I included someone who I’m sure at the time I really disliked. From memory she a bit of a bully. Dear 15 year old self, what was that all about?

Half way through the letter I write:

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt its don’t be a flattering fool – be honest with yourself. Always smile and think, why should little things ruin your day? Love people and don’t judge. Never think you know someone. Don’t classify humans.

Don’t grow out of the Narnia series.

Good advice there Miss 15 year old Clare McAuley.

At the end I demand a return letter. So here’s a little of what I’d say.

Dear 15 year old me,

I like the advice you gave me. Sometimes even you have a sensible streak. Try and listen to it.

Never be afraid. Don’t be afraid if I guy doesn’t like you – they are never worth your tears. Don’t be afraid of bullies – they still exist after school, just appearing in all sorts of disguises. Don’t be afraid to admit you’re wrong or to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to do the things your love, even if they are horribly uncool. You’ll love murder mysteries, reading anything from tge 19th century, cooking cheesecakes, dancing in pubs, playing tetris and singing anything from a musical. The sooner you face up to this the better.

You’ll even love teaching. I know – bit of a shock that one. Life is surprising and when you say yes to the adventure wonderful things can happen. (Yep you’re still full of dramatic statements.)

And I absolutely agree that you should never grow out of the Narnia series.

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Friday Poetry -Dulce et Decorum Est, WIlfred Owen

English: Portrait of Wilfred Owen, found in a ...

English: Portrait of Wilfred Owen, found in a collection of his poems from 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I taught this poem to a group of teenagers, mostly boys. It was a struggle to help them understand.

Not that these kids had an easy life. Many of them felt neglected, uninspired and lacking in hope.

However their experience with guns and war, as well as my own, was entirely confined to computers games.

This poem is terribly sad; the images are truly horrific. The title is from Horaces Odes and translates as “”It is sweet and right to die for your country.”

DULCE ET DECORUM EST

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets  just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent(14) for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.(15)

Wilfred Owen
8 October 1917 – March, 1918