Let's leave the past, in the past
Published 08/09/2016 | 07:00
It seems that looking backwards is the new looking forward, to my horror. From Facebook's demoralising memories function, that presents you with blasts from the past on a daily basis, to celebrities pouring their hearts out to their former selves in writing, casting the mind back in an attempt to make sense of the present is oh-so hot right now.
Take Victoria Beckham, who has written a letter to her 18-year-old self for British 'Vogue'. It accompanies her cover story in the October edition, and recalls incidents like meeting her husband David for the first time, and her various fashion faux pas and body image issues of yesteryear.
"You have never properly fitted in," she writes. "You have bad acne. You think the principal has put you at the back of the end-of-year show (in a humiliatingly bright purple Lycra leotard) because you are too plump to go at the front. (This may or may not be true. It will never occur to you that you appear ridiculous," she continues. "You will turn up at awards ceremonies resembling a drag queen. But I look back at you and smile. It will add interest to your life."
And this week, former 'Xposé' presenter Peter O'Riordan penned a similar letter to himself as a teenager in the aftermath of his departure from TV3, it got me thinking - do people think that we can actually learn anything from nostalgic introspection, and will this new trend encourage Generation Confession to start spilling their guts online even more?
I'm not sure I can handle seeing an ode to young Joe Bloggs by middle-aged Joe Bloggs on my Facebook newsfeed any more than I could face reading my own teenage diaries. It's just not that interesting. What exactly does this public exercise achieve other than to perhaps make us plebs realise that celebs really are just like us, in the case of Vicky B? They have ups and downs and wear terrible dresses and regret them later in life too.
And while I understand that it might help some people to see that incredibly successful people are human, have been insecure and sometimes think they're tubby, surely we already knew that?
Of course it's nice to sometimes look back on your life thus far, and for magazine editors it's perhaps a welcome change to the usual interview format.
What Victoria is describing in her letter though, is what we all go through in life, times of uncertainty and personal development, of learning just who we are in our formative years at work and in relationships. Yet, while she's now a successful businesswoman, mother, wife and idol to millions, surely 42-year-old VB doesn't exactly have it all figured out now either - let's face it, nobody does.
Instead of talking to past-Vicki in the hope of finding meaning in life, I would instead like past-Vicki to write to me with some pearls of wisdom. Sometimes I think she actually had far more cop-on than I do right now.
I don't know if I'm alone in this, but when Facebook assaults me with images from the past, of me at 20 dancing with a mop in nightclubs, I don't think I look ridiculous at all - in fact, I wish I still had that figure, the undamaged hair, the ability to wear strapless bras without cutting off my circulation.
I never really thought I was hideous back then, certainly not the way I do now in moments of weakness, and I envy the old me. It wasn't conceit on past-Vicki's part, she just worried less and had far more confidence and self-assurance than I do now at 30. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that she wasn't attached to a digital device 18 hours a day?
Sure, I could tell her that fella was a wrong 'un and that college actually won't be any craic at all, but if I'd been told all that as a teenager would it have made a blind bit of difference? We'd like to think that if a vision of ourselves from the future visited us with warnings that we'd heed them, but why would you listen to a wrinkly apparition any more than you would your parents or older siblings?
The point is, while we can learn from the past and sometimes it's nice to be nostalgic, nobody else really cares at all. If you are actually interesting enough and can string a sentence together, someone will commission an autobiography.
Heck, even if you can't string a sentence together, someone will ghostwrite it for you if it's juicy enough. In the event of that happening, spill. Otherwise, just stick to sharing childhood pictures of yourself on social media for #ThrowbackThursday, and leave waffling to non-existent 16-year-olds to the A-list.