Magazine article The Spectator

What Would You Tell Your 14-Year-Old Self?

Magazine article The Spectator

What Would You Tell Your 14-Year-Old Self?

Article excerpt

Joan Bakewell

Broadcaster and journalist

Those early teenage years are a time of doubt and discovery. Take time to be alone and speak honestly to yourself. Weigh up what you think others - family, friends, teachers - think of you. Then consider what you feel about the world and your place in it. Read the world's great books and see the best of theatre and cinema. Take time to be thoughtful, and then come out bold and confident in yourself. Aim for the good things in life, which are not money and property, or even travel and glamour. Instead learn to value friendship, the beauty of nature, kindness across generations and the deep pleasure of the arts. Then get on with enjoying life to the full.

Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Justin, You are rarely good at anything, a fact you know well and worry about. But don't worry - it does not measure who you are. Keep on dreaming of great things, but learn to live in the present, so that you take steps to accomplish them. Above all, more important than anything, don't wait until you are older to find out about Jesus Christ and his love for you. He is not just a name at Chapel, but a person you can know. Christmas is not a fairy story, but the compelling opening of the greatest drama in history, with you as one of millions of players. Life will often be tough, but you will find more love than you can imagine now. With my love to you, Justin

Taki 'High life' columnist My advice to my 14-year-old self would be to read more and play less. If I had paid more attention to my studies rather than trying to impress girls with dumb stunts, I would have written something of value by now. I cannot stress how important the right education is for a 14-year-old. But I wasn't paying attention, despite the brilliant teachers I had. All I thought of was girls and to be captain of sports so I could impress them. Worse, I continue to do this today and have only arthritis to show for it.

David Cameron

Prime Minister

I was a late developer - I only came good academically when I was studying economics and history and history of art, subjects I loved. My advice would be really boring: keep on with science subjects, because understanding of science will be so important in your future life. I've held seminars in No. 10 about graphene and quantum theory, which I love doing. But I have to read up a lot before I get started. So: a little more on the physics and chemistry, please, David.

James Rhodes


The drugs, the drink, the dodgy relationships - it'll be a hell of a mess, so brace yourself.

But hold tight and stay alive for the next 25 years and think of them as a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Then you can relax and start living sanely, promise.

Edwina Currie

Former MP

On the whole, kid, be confident. You're not going to be stuck in Liverpool for much longer. You're right to follow your heroines:

Marie Curie, the great woman scientist, and that other intriguing scientist, Mrs Thatcher - in Parliament and a government minister even with a husband and two small children.

If she can do it, so can you.

Hard work and determination will get you anywhere, especially combined with a total lack of interest in football. Once you escape you'll find rugby players much more to your taste. And don't worry when your mother says: 'Boys don't like clever girls.'

You'll find a clever boy who does. In fact, during a lifetime, you'll find several.

So look up, look forward, and enjoy your life.

Giles Coren


What my 14-year-old self would have wanted for Christmas was comics. Specifically, American superhero comics published by DC, featuring The Flash and dated between 1956 and 1970. He had nearly all of them and was missing only about ten for a full set. The 200-odd he did have he paid about a pound each for, but in total they are now worth something like ten grand. …

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