A couple years ago, Stephen Fry wrote a letter to his 16 year-old self.
I know what you are doing now, young Stephen. It’s early 1973. You are in the library, cross-referencing bibliographies so that you can find more and more examples of queer people in history, art and literature against whom you can hope to validate yourself. Leonardo, Tchaikovsky, Wilde, Barons Corvo and von Gloeden, Robin Maugham, Worsley, “an Englishman”, Jean Genet, Cavafy, Montherlant, Roger Peyrefitte, Mary Renault, Michael Campbell, Michael Davies, Angus Stewart, Gore Vidal, John Rechy, William Burroughs.
So many great spirits really do confirm that hope! It emboldens you to know that such a number of brilliant (if often doomed) souls shared the same impulse and desires as you. I know the index-card waltz of (auto)biographies, poems and novels you are dancing: those same names are still so close to the surface of my mind nearly four decades later.
And now, a second edition of the book “Dear Me: More letters to my 16 year old self” has been released, with letters from Alan Cumming, Gillian Anderson, James Belushi, Stephen King and more.
And here’s some more:
Follow your dreams not your boyfriends.
You will love and be loved and be rich beyond your wildest dreams, and the best thing about this richness is that it has nothing to do with money. It’s all going to be okay.
A teacher at drama school is going to tell you that you’ll never make it as a professional actor. He is wrong. Wrong to say it, and just wrong because you do okay. Try not to let it dent you too much.
You’re never going to have children, Alan. You’re going to try, in relationships with both women and men, but it doesn’t happen, and that’s okay too. Right now you have the happiest family anyone could wish for.
It really is all going to be okay. I’ll see you in 29 years. Enjoy it.
You long for independence and applause, love and celebration.
Patience, my dear Sandy, that is the key to happiness.
Sitting quietly and knowing all good things are on their way.
It appears at times that they aren’t, but it’s just a test of your own inner emergency broadcast system.
My quick note to my 16 year old self would go something like this:
Chill out. It is all going to happen. And more. In 20 years, you are madly in love, well traveled and have no idea what you want to do when you grow up. The love thing may not work out the way you’d imagine right now, but that will be ok too. Might want to start reading up on liberal theologians, actually.
There’s a reason you can’t study and it’s not because you’re lazy so stop beating yourself up over it. You’re going to do something that seems incredibly unwise when you’re 17, but it turns out to be the right decision. Don’t make fun of the awkward kid. Life gets really hard before it gets unimaginably wonderful. You’ll fall in love when you’re not looking. Just follow your heart; it hasn’t failed you yet.
PS: If this note makes you figure things out early, it might be worth approaching Miss F*****, Mlle L******, or Mr D****** for a chat. Or your best friend’s boyfriend.
What would you say to your 16 year old self?