Letter to self – Before Start.

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Dear Lee

I wanted to take this opportunity to wish you well as you embark upon the next step in your scholastic journey and perhaps offer a few words of assurance and encouragement.

I’ll take my lead from Jacob Marley and begin with a visit of your ghost of academic past.

I wanted to address your recent expressions of regret at what you perceive as a wasted opportunity. You feel should have pursued higher education many years ago and now you feel that you have deprived yourself of the chance to fully realise your ambitions. If you recall you held no love of education back then, learning was a chore and life was miserable. Spending endless days labouring your way through the drudgery and banality of a forced institutionalised existence left you demoralised and frustrated. Your dreams were of employment, for you success was measured financially and the superficial accumulation of the material held greater prominence than the intellectual. Your values and aspirations were dramatically different from those you hold today and the pursuit of a campus life would only have met with failure.

These days’ teenagers roll off the A-Level production line and into university without taking the time to question if this is really the right move, peers, parents, even societal attitudes place pressures of expectation onto young shoulders and many inevitably make poor choices, struggling with a degree they were perhaps better off leaving until later. Take pride in the path you followed; you built a successful career, had a lot of fun and made a positive impact in the lives of those you knew.  You are focused, motivated and driven to succeed, all qualities you have honed through a working career, and with the knowledge, skills and experience that the last 20 years have provided I feel you are more than prepared for academic life.

If we have exorcised the phantoms of the past, now we turn to the spirit of the present.

This is in many ways a second life after you severed the ties of your first career. You left behind, your colleagues, friends and relationships and made a completely clean break.

Since the career change you have accomplished a lot, people forget that you have only been involved with photography for just over 3 years and to go from absolute ignorance to setting up as a sole trader within 9 months was quite an achievement. You also took that daunting step back into full time education, believing that the demands of level 3 schooling would exceed your capabilities and you would be unable to cope. Things turned out quite differently though, you were more than equal to the challenge and ultimately found that you really enjoyed education. Your depth of experience has enabled you to engage with a younger generation whilst still being yourself and you overcame the fears of rejection by communicating at a range of levels and although those same uncertainties once again permeate your thoughts you are confident that you will find acceptance.

Your personal life is pretty stable and you are happier and more content than you have ever been. The current lack of companionship perhaps at times leaves you a little lonely but you are ultimately better off for the dramatic changes you made. Remember this moment now in your life, hold onto to the memory for once you step forwards things will change. You have no pressures, no stresses and few responsibilities. When the new semester begins you will take on the expectations of those around you and they will (without malicious intent) judge you and the choices you have made. Even now despite your better health and well-being you have detractors waiting in the wings to pour their incredulous scorn on your efforts and eager to remind you of the life you left behind. You know without any doubt that you made the right choice; so I am putting it here to remind you that whatever the future holds you were right to follow this path.

Now the most chilling of our 3 visitors, your ghost of the future.

You sit unique amongst your fellow students in as much that your future has a greater sense of urgency and although the longevity of our lives continues to increase it does nothing to soften the insistence that your actions need to be swift and effective if you are to carve yourself a niche in the oversaturated intensively competitive market that the photography industry has become. Your greatest fear for the course now would be finding out that you do not have the ability to succeed within the industry, that you lack the creative ideas or the capacity to overcome problems and obtain resources. Do you really possess the resolve and unyielding commitment to prosper? Only time will tell but the next 9 months should leave you a little more enlightened.

As for other fears, those that plague younger students, such as friendships and socialisation have been diminished by your college experience and what was once a demonic leviathan is now little more than an irksome imp. Your trust in today’s youth has grown, you were completely surprised at their non-judgemental attitudes and open acceptance of others, a lesson perhaps the older generations can learn from its future benefactors.

You are ready; it is the right choice at the right time. You are old enough and wise enough yet still young enough to be a success. You have a good work ethic and perhaps most importantly, you are happy and you enjoy it

We have one life, no souls, no eternity, no happy reunions, it is just what we do here and now that matters so in the words of Quintus Horatius Flaccus,

“Carpe Diem”

Lee.

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