Mr WA7T: A Letter To Myself
A Letter To My Younger Self
I often think of you, my seven-year-old self, as existing in a parallel universe; spinning on a less polluted blue sphere. Our timelines are in sync, so I can hop over and give you that hug you so desperately need, give you words of comfort and encouragement.
My life at that age was either, first, my happy place - living in my own secret world in my bedroom, crafting multicoloured paper wings whilst deciding “Who can I become today?”...”Danny Zuko or Sandy Olssen?”, “Adam Ant or Debby Harry?”. The choices were endless and I loved it. Second, the outside…that dark place.
I lived for pop culture, my whole week revolved around Thursday evenings; Top of the Pops followed by Dallas or Dynasty - oh the excitement! Like the famous cartoon hand in A-ha’s “Take On Me “ video, that Top of the Pops theme tune would pull me in. I’d devour every fantasy, look and flashing neon light. That was my world! These freaks and weirdos (my parent’s words not mine) were ruling the fucking universe!
For as long as I can remember, I was filled to the brim with anxiety. Feeling as though I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. Staring across a primary school classroom confused as to why no one else was feeling what I was feeling. Why my imaginary friend wasn’t happy; or happy with me, for that matter. Almost like the TV show Dexter, I had a ‘dark passenger’ (though, thankfully mine wasn’t an axe-wielding serial killer). My passenger was suffocating my head. Somedays I was ok, but looking back, most of the time I wasn’t.
Growing up in a noisy, overcrowded three-bedroom council house in Northern Ireland had few advantages. There was a lot of arguing, a lot of fighting. I was the youngest of five (my little brother came later) and most of my brothers’ mean behaviour was focused on me. He took great delight in ruining things. He was the reason I found out that Santa doesn’t exist; sending me downstairs on Christmas Eve when he knew that my Mum and Dad were wrapping my presents. I was only five years old. What a complete dick!
I needed my home life to be safe and a world away from the outside, but his (and my other brothers’) name-calling, - “queer boy”, “poof”, “fucking nancy boy”-, would cut deep. I was finding the outside difficult enough, but now I had to deal with those bastards at home too. This only fed the dark passenger.
My first adult thought (not that sort, you cheeky lot) came when I saw Japan perform “Ghosts” on Top of the Pops when I was ten. That song was me. Suddenly, someone had put into words how I knew my life would roll out. How anxiety could destroy me. I didn’t think I’d have a bright future, but at least I had someone who understood me. Music and art we’re my way to connect.
Just when I think I’m winning
When I’ve broken every door
The ghosts of my life blow wilder than before
Just when I thought I could not be stopped
When my chance came to be king
The ghosts in my life blew wilder than wind
Nowadays, we are able to discuss, and find help with anxiety and depression. Albeit, in the late 70s and early 80s it felt like a curse. Those early morning walks to school plodding along the red, white and blue kerbs made me feel nauseous. In high school, it only got worse. Idiot bullies (girls and boys) taunting you because you’re not the same as them. English classes filled me with dread (young Ian, you’ll find out this is something called dyslexia when a clever teacher at college notices and helps you; you’ll realise that you’re not stupid).
You can only imagine my horror when I started to realise that I was gay. I thought “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me”. I pushed that to the back of my head. I could deal with that later.
So what is there to say, help guide you - seven-year-old Ian?
Those teenage years will be awkward (though, who isn’t?). Your twenties will be tough. For one, that dark passenger will well and truly be along for the ride. Losing both your Mum and Dad before thirty will hit hard, and continue to throughout your life. They feared that you’d lead a sad and lonely life; never having a family or finding love. I can’t stress this enough, those fears will not come true!
Here’s what you’ll do in your late twenties…seek help for depression and anxiety. Though, don’t listen to that first GP who tells you “you’ve got a social disease and there is no help for you”. He’s the first person you’ll ever tell about your sexuality. His words will lead you into a deep spiral, but you’ll recover - I promise!
Right now, you’re being raised to feel like you’ll always be an underachiever, but you will forge your own way in life. Yes, you’ll make the brave decision, sell your first flat and move to the big city, but it’s the right decision. The first couple of years you’ll spend pulling pints and waiting tables, but you’ll get your music to the right people eventually.
There are many things you thought you could only dream of achieving, like being flown to NYC to DJ for Beyonce and getting to watch her and Jay Z dancing to your remix of her song. You’ll get to travel the world, party with the most fabulous people and make some life-long friends. Those friends are your chosen family and you’ll cherish them.
I think maybe the biggest shock for you is that someone will love you. That you’ll fall in love and be happy. Oh, and that pup you wanted? Well, her name is Missy and she’s the best thing in the world; you both are the best of friends. I know Mum and Dad never hugged or touched you, but you’ll realise later on in life that they did love you. They just didn’t know how to show it.
You’ll learn that recreating music will become your best friend, your therapist (who pisses you off occasionally). Music is an outlet for you to express yourself and heal parts of yourself; music will make you into the person you’ll become. Still flawed, but at least you won’t have turned into your dick of a brother!
Neil Tenant sings in “Being Boring”, “I never dreamt that I would get to be the creature that I always meant to be”. Always try to be both honest and kind - things will turn out just fine.
Words: Ian Watt (MR WA7T)
“Nowadays, we are able to discuss, and find help with anxiety and depression. Albeit, in the late 70s and early 80s it felt like a curse. Those early.”