Wednesday, 3 August 2005

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Twenty

Inspired by Alan Titchmarsh, I thought this would make an interesting topic. Any additions to what I have scribed below are welcome at tommywgreeves@yahoo.co.uk. I’d be particularly keen to hear from James Hamilton.

It’s arguably a bit precocious of me to do this at 29, but here goes anyway. In no particular order, I wish I had known the following when I was 20.


1. Family Matters. Most of us are blessed with immediate families who care about us far more than we realise – I certainly am. Not telling them about our lives or failing to introduce them to our friends is thoughtless and hurtful. I still need to work on this!

2. Keep Fit. It is very easy to put on weight when one leaves one’s teens and doesn’t do school sport any more, and becomes more responsible for one’s diet.

Lifting weights regularly is essential to my spiritual wellbeing, and is one of the most important things that defines me. I also need to play football fairly often (and more than I am doing now!).

3. Sociology Is Bunk. Sociology is a worthless discipline. There is no merit WHATSOEVER in reading the diseased ramblings of these people, even for the purpose of crystallising one’s own dissenting views. No prominent sociologist has ever made a truly insightful and correct observation about humanity. Anyone - and this is invariably true - who calls themselves a Marxist is a hypocrite. They are also probably evil.

4. Ask People Out. I do rather wish that I had known what I have only really discovered recently – that a large number, and possibly a majority, of my fellow Trinitarians thought I was gay. This assumption seems to have been a product of my not asking girls out. This reticence in fact stemmed from a peculiar shyness that contrasted oddly with my general gregariousness. It would also have helped if more of my female colleagues had been pretty, however.

Having dinner with someone need not be a big deal, and may well be very pleasant. This can apply even if there is no sexual spark there. Americans understand all this.

5. Black People Actually ARE Less Intelligent Than Us. I can’t believe you fell for that.

6. Bullies Must Be Tackled Head On. There is only one way to handle bullies. They cannot be placated or won over through gentle persuasion or simpering. They must be met with an absolute refusal to bend to their wishes. It is almost never necessary to raise one’s voice to a bully, and yet physically hurting a physical bully is utterly legitimate.

7. People That Appear Wise Are Not Always So. Some people, and many of them end up at Oxford, have a demonic ability to make people think they are very intelligent. By parroting someone else’s ideas, or answering debating points with what in fact is a non-sequitor, or by trotting out a series of liberal Left (supposed) truisms, they often succeed in convincing us of their sagacity. Don’t fall for it. They are probably degenerate, disgusting people rotting in Hell without even knowing it.

Moreover, it is perfectly possible to be shrewder than someone more intelligent and knowledgeable than you, so be totally confident about taking a contrary view. Finally, intelligence is not a particularly admirable quality anyway, certainly when stacked up against kindness or moral fibre.

8. Adolescence Is A Long Period. Quite simply, I don’t think I was at all grown-up until my late twenties. It is now clear to me that growing pains go well beyond our teens. Sorry if you’re seventeen and reading this, but suck it up and all will be well.

Instead of brooding in a room, always see plenty of other people (and lots of different people - don’t just stick to the same friends all the time), and ask them about themselves. It’s a good thing to do in its own right, and it will make you a lot happier too.

9. Psychotherapy Rocks. Given that I was crippled by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder from the ages of 12 to 26, I sure wish I hadn’t assumed that a shrink would inevitably be some Freudian dickhead Hell-bent on screwing with my brain. Had I known then what I know now (and what has, I am delighted to report, made all the difference), I could have saved myself and my immediate family a lot of suffering.

I now know that there are good psychotherapists out there who can fix your brain like a surgeon fixes your leg. They offer common sense advice in a thoroughly non-hysterical manner, but crucially add the professional expertise that a good friend cannot. By the way, anyone who belittles mental illness is an arsehole.

10. Old Friends Matter. Meeting new people is exciting and worthwhile. But I don’t have any better friends than my oldest schoolmates, even though I have a few to whom I am as close. Some friendships do have a finite lifespan, but some don’t, and we shouldn’t neglect our old buddies. I apologise to those to whom I was a little distant when at university. I love you guys – but not in a gay way.
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