Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #2 

A Preface:

Unfortunately, I’m out with a friend today, and because I had to travel back to Wales yesterday, I didn’t have time to write anything shiny and new. However, I’ve been meaning to post this little article here for a while now.

The following short piece was the first thing that I have ever had published (bar an interview about being emo that I did for Sugar magazine…yup). The article was published in 2015 in Oh Comely magazine, Issue no.24, p.119. The original title was ‘lost: pint-sized indiana jones’. Those of you who have been following this blog for a long time may remember my excitementOh Comely is a great independent magazine, full of thoughtful articles and beautiful images. You can find out more about it here. They stock Oh Comely in W.H. Smith and Waitrose in the UK, or you can by copies from their website. I highly recommend it if you fancy something that goes beyond celeb gossip and TV news.

The Story:

When I was five, I got lost in the wood. It was at a holiday camp; my mother was helping with crafts, my brother was playing football. I was bored, and the thick line of trees that edged the campsite called to me. As an excellent smooth talker, I made short work of convincing two others to join my expedition team.

“We’ll stick to the path,” I told them, “It won’t take long.”

The path was a dirt trail, sign-posted with a series of animal pictures. Eventually, the track disappeared, and we had to rely on the pictures to navigate. That’s when it happened. We couldn’t find the purple octopus and so were lost for good.

My team began to sob, but I was ecstatic. This was exactly what I had hoped for. In my head I was Indiana Jones, trekking through the undergrowth, holding back vines (stinging nettles) for a couple of second-rate explorers who couldn’t find the back of their own hand if it slapped them in the face. I remember the valley of brambles we passed through, the river we hopped across. I feel the surge of triumph that swelled in my chest as we emerged from the bushes unscathed.

The truth, my mum tells me, is that my expedition group was lost for twenty minutes in a patch of fenced woodland less that half a mile square. Still, when I’m nervous, I summon that memory and use it to find my sense of adventure once more.

An Epilogue:

So recently I’ve been thinking about this story again, and I’d like to make a couple of points.

Firstly, the “two others” who were with me were both older than me by a couple of years, yet somehow I not only convinced them to come with me, but got them lost, and then un-lost in the space of twenty minutes. Me, the five-year-old.

Secondly, the purple octopus part of this story is a very distinct memory. However, it makes no sense. The previous day we had, as a group, followed this trail of images and they were all woodland related animals. This means that either I hallucinated the purple octopus when we did our first walk, or I deliberately made it up because I was bored and wanted to get us lost so I could adventure.

I mean, basically, this could be a story about me lying to make myself look like a hero. Which makes me Gilderoy Lockhart.

I mean, to be honest, I’m fine with that. Dude’s fabulous.

 

gilderoy lockhart cosplay

Age 19: Cosplaying school age Gilderoy Lockhart outside the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff (now known as Principality Stadium).

 

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

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Kidiot: Emma ends up in a bush #1

A quick preface:

Over the past week I’ve been jotting down blog ideas in a SNote on my phone. And uh, when I was flicking through them this morning I realised that 1) there are a lot of stories from my childhood…where I am idiot (kid+idiot=kidiot) and 2) many of these involve bushes, or hedgerows, which I’d like to say is a result of me growing up in Wales, but not all of them take place at home.

Oh, also, there is some mild injury related grossness in this one, so you have been warned.

Anyway:

I thought I would start with a tale from the summer of 2004. I was 11, set to start secondary school in September. But the summer had just begun, and I was excited to get out and play with friends.

Now, to set the scene a little bit, my parents house in Wales is part of a relatively modern housing estate built on a hill. It’s not a ridiculously big hill, but it is steep. Yet for some reason, my friends and I decided it was great fun to ride up, down and all around it on bikes and scooters. I was a particular fan of riding from the very top of the hill on my bike. I’d even give myself a run up before throwing myself down it. Momentum is a wonderful thing.

8e038377e3e03cfa2515b75efd20c0daHowever, on this particular day in 2004, I was on my micro-scooter (#90sKid). It was a tiny silver thing with blue wheels, an adjustable handle bar and a little metal thing on the back wheel that functioned as a break. My friends suggested we play “bike-scooter-tag” i.e. chase each other around trying to smack each other on small vehicles. Unfortunately, I was the only one on a scooter. I may as well have just thrown it to one side and run. But that wasn’t the game here.

I was “it” within minutes and remained “it” until one of the lads took pity on me and let me get him. At that point, I decided on a new plan. I would hide. And this is where things start to go horribly wrong.

There were parts of the estate I didn’t go very often, but just a few weeks earlier, someone – I think the parent of a friend in a different housing estate – had walked me home up a very narrow, sloped path tucked down the side of some houses. There was a nice tall fence on one side, and a thick hedge on the other.

A brilliant place to hide! I thought. They’ll never think to look there!

After a few minutes, I located the entrance, and started to scoot down the path. I knew that there were steps at the bottom, followed by a metal barrier, and fairly busy road, so I readied my foot to brake.

I grew a little concerned when I started to go faster. The path was steeper than I remembered, but I wasn’t too worried. I still had a way to go. Then the steps came into view, and I pressed down on my brake.

I slowed for a second, but the scooter didn’t stop. And then it started getting faster again. Too fast.

So there I was, with two options:

  1. Keep going, fly off the steps at the bottom, crash into the barrier and potentially flip and end up in the road.
  2. Throw myself off the scooter…and into the hedge.

I, of course, threw myself into the hedge.

My head ploughed into the foliage, my scooter fell to the floor and slid away. I took a couple of deep breaths, spat a few bits of tree out of my mouth and did an internal assessment of the damage.

I felt alright. I was a bit sore, but there was no real pain…except for my left leg. That kind of hurt.

When I opened my eyes, I discovered that it wasn’t just a hedge I was in. My lower body, had smacked into a chain link fence. There was no blood that I could see and I didn’t appear to be caught on anything, so I slowly pulled myself out and stepped away.

With great difficulty, I rolled up my trouser leg up (I have always been a fan of the skinnier jean), and I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit alarmed to find what looked like a second knee on my leg. Midway down my shin was a large round swelling, with a tiny scratch at its centre. I immediately assumed that I’d broken my leg, but was confused by the fact it could bear weight.

Fortunately, I had a mobile phone. It was a Sony, pre-Ericsson buy out and even pre-sony-cmd-j6-3SonyEricsson. It had a stubby little aerial and a black and white display, like a calculator. It also had a game on it where monkeys threw bananas at each other. Mum had convinced me it was better than a Gameboy, and right there and then, I was inclined to agree.

I phoned her, and explained what had happened. The rescue party (my mum and Alun) arrived quickly. They balanced me on the scooter and wheeled me to the car, then drove to the hospital.

After many hours, the swelling went down and the A and E doctor informed us that my leg wasn’t actually broken. We were all very confused about this…and I was slightly disappointed that I wouldn’t get to have a cast. But I could enjoy my summer, that was the important thing.

Cut to a couple of weeks later:

I was on holiday at a camp in Yorkshire. I woke up in the middle of the night because my leg was hot, really hot. I grabbed my torch from under my pillow, unzipped the sleeping bag a little, and dug myself in a bit. I didn’t want to wake anyone up, so wanted to block as much light as possible with my bedding.

I turned the light on and blinked. A lot. It took a while for my eyes to adjust. When they did, however, I discovered that my leg was VERY red and hot to touch. I sat there, having a prodding it for a bit. Then, as 11-year-olds do, I shrugged, turned off the light and thought, Eh, I’ll tell Mum in the morning.

The next morning, I walked over to Mum’s tent across the field. Not long after I found myself in Doncaster hospital where I was told the tiny scratch on my leg, that had been overlooked by the previous doctors, had resulted in an infection. It was simple enough to resolve (you know, if you overlook the fact I’m allergic to penicillin) and cleared up fairly quickly.

But, Emma, why are you telling us this? What’s the moral of this story?

~Thinks~

Oh, oh! The moral of this story is that sometimes, when you almost kill yourself by mistake, but instead throw yourself in a hedgerow, it means you don’t have to do the cross country run (to sort you into groups for PE) when you start secondary school, because your leg still hurts from the infection. That’s the moral. Yup.

Stay safe kidiots.

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The field school made everyone run round…while I watched 😉

 

 

Get the Idea: Then vs Now

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Get the Idea: Then vs Now

I’ve been thinking recently about how I came up with the concept for The End of Atlas vs how I used to come up with the ideas for previous novel projects.

Before Atlas my usual technique was to build a world around a character, which I think started

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/pokemon/images/d/d6/Lawrence_III_7.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20121028024035
Lawrence III from Pokemon 2000

 when I was 8. Pokemon 2000 had just come out on VHS and I became obsessed with the villain (then nameless, now Lawrence III or Jirarudan). I built a whole world up around him and whenever I was bored or getting ready for bed, I would tell myself a little chunk of his story.

As I got older, I got really good at pulling character ideas out of nothing, from Lily the eccentric coffee shop owner, to Carson a devious criminal psychologist. I would build my story by saying, what if this happened? What would they do? Who would they go to? What are they like? And so the world would branch out around them.

But at some point during university, something else got added to the idea making mix.

Moving Day, EM Harding

Franco the Giraffe from Opportunity Cost

First year, I did the same thing I’d always done. The characters came first, then the plot. At the beginning of second year, I created a Douglas-Adams-esque version of the previously mentioned Carson (Clarence) and put a lot of research into how you would go about stealing a giraffe.

Then, as the year went on, I hit something of an emotion crisis, and found myself thinking:

“For the love of God, I wish people would just do what I want them too!”

Shortly followed by:

“That would be a terrible idea, Emma. Don’t wish that.”

That moment was when Olivia, the female protagonist of Atlas and the original narrator, came to life. Whereas my previous characters had come from “it would be cool if this person existed”, Olivia came out of a necessity to express and idea.

I started with a very short story about a girl rescuing a guy from a mugging using her

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My bed in 2013. Struggle was real.

mysterious ability to influence others. Through a thick, morose monologue, the girl revealed that the guy used to be her best friend, until she fell in love with him and he fell for someone else. Not wanting to be around him, she’d erased his memory and spent her life grumpily avoiding him.

As I said, I was having something of an emotion crisis, but let’s not read into it.

I loved the concept and I liked Olivia, but I struggled a great deal with her voice. It had a monotonous “I hate everything” ring to it and I knew I was never going to be able to sustain that kind of narration for a whole novel.

Still, I knew this was the idea I wanted to use for my dissertation. By the beginning of third year, I’d drafted the opening multiple times. Many drafts were from Olivia’s perspective, but one version was voiced by Alec (male protag and current narrator). Of

921470_10153465515503897_6781846216046113436_o

Section from Alec’s perspective. Good luck reading my handwriting.

course, in that version he was a police officer investigating a vigilante…who was his wife…who he couldn’t remember despite the wedding ring he always wore. We’ll call that an alternate universe and move on.

The important thing about that Alec draft was that I realised Alec was so much easier to write. Without having the burden of ridiculous power to worry about, he can express a wider range of emotion, internally and externally. So I went back through my older (less absurd) drafts and rewrote a couple of scenes from his perspective. Bingo.

Over the years my ideas have gone from, “oh, man this would be cool” and a few questions to drive the plot, to very much emotion driven. The characters, plot and themes of  The End of Atlas all come from a frustration that hit me hard in 2013, and

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Trying to work out how old minor characters need to be.

writing this novel has been a continuous reminder that no matter how tough things get, there’s a way through.  We’ve had our ups and downs, me and Atlas, but my interest in experimenting with it’s core concepts has been enough to bring me back from the verge of quitting multiple times.

For those of you who want to write something longer and who struggle to keep yourself interested (as I do), I strongly recommend finding something that drives you emotionally; something that makes the impulse to pick up a pen (or tap on a keyboard) so strong that even when you’ve fallen out with your fictional characters, and you’re crocodile wrestling with how to make your plot work, you still feel some comfort in sitting down and getting what’s in your brain, out in words.

After all, is it really a good idea if you can’t bring yourself to follow through?

 

 

Featured Image taken by a friend in Amsterdam (2013).

 

 

Growing up Starbucks

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Growing up Starbucks

Over the years, my obsession with Starbucks has been met with raised eyebrows, scoffs and looks of disgust. On a couple of occasions, I’ve been berated for not supporting “local” business (including the 50 store strong chain, Coffee #1), despite the fact that Starbucks is a franchise, and therefore the stores you see are usually owned and run by local people who pay a sum to use the Starbucks branding.Photo-0466

However, the fact is my love of Starbucks has never been political.

As a child, I never really went in coffee shops. My mother can’t stand the smell of coffee, so she avoided them like the plague. So, my relationship with Starbucks – and journey through caffeine addiction – didn’t start until I was 13/14.

My best friend at the time was a sarcastic boy with Tony and Guy hair, limited addition converse and a penchant for caramel macchiatos. He would drag me into the dark gloom of a Starbucks, and I would drag him swiftly out again, intimidated by the noise, smell and complicated menu. I still remember the first time he gave me a sip from his mermaid embossed cup; we were standing in the Virgin Megastore in Cardiff (RIP), and I had to struggle not to spit the sickly sweet coffee all over the CD’s.

It was, by no means, love at first sight. I really didn’t get the appeal, but on one occasion I succumbed to peer pressure. I was desperate for a drink, so asked my friend what he would a_cup_of_history_by_emortrecommend. Something with no coffee. I ended up ordering a Strawberry Cream Frappuccino. It wasn’t great – it tasted like jam and regret –  but we were in there so often that I began experimenting with my order, until I stumbled across the Iced Mocha. My gateway drug, an summer love. The chocolate disguised the coffee just enough that I grew accustomed to the bitterness, and  it wasn’t long until I graduated to unflavoured lattes.

Friendships shifted, and I took to spending almost every Saturday in my local StarbucksDSC00070 (also RIP), tucked up the stairs on a bar stool by the window. There were only two seats, so I could be completely alone and write. First came 20,000 words of a vampire novel, about the teenage vampire with a pulse, that got swiftly abandoned when Twilight became popular. Then came Idiots, the first novel I ever got anywhere near to completing. It involved a fictional retelling of the lives of myself and my two closest friends – tall, lanky heroes who got me through hard times – living and working in a coffee shop in London. I still have my eye on an old fire station, hoping one day it’ll go up for sale and I can convert it into my dream store.

I got older, went to 6th form college, and my social circle expanded. Starbucks became the place I brought people at the end of days spent in town, but only good friends made it up to that balcony seat at the back. It was odd how private I was over a very public space, but it became an in joke. They were my seats, and I would sit with friends and glare at any strangers who dared to take them.

Then the day came for me to head off to university in Birmingham, leaving behind my 11255209_10152987978808897_4982465154794542299_nold home on the high street. My first major concern was establishing which of Birmingham’s vast array would be my Starbucks. You laugh, but I was literally 100 miles away from creature comforts. So the research and dedication I put into this was 100% necessary and I don’t know why you’re looking at me like that.

Fortunately, a couple of friends had provided me with Starbucks gift cards to go away with. Unfortunately, the Starbucks on university campus did not take these cards. Not to mention it was ridiculously busy all of the time, which quickly ruled it out as my new place. However, I lived close to the city centre in first year, so I had options. I took a walk, and found four possibilities on my first try; two in the Bullring, one on New Street and one just off Victoria Square.

I won’t tell you which I chose, but it was a fairly easy decision. After all, my criteria were: height, bar stools, and a view.

My current Starbucks has seen me develop as a writer and build The End of Atlas into what is almost a complete manuscript. It’s also the first Starbucks in which the baristas have learnt my name…and my order. Which was weird, so I dyed my hair just to confuse them. That didn’t work. I have a problem. And I have a gold membership on the app now, which I consider to be all the more impressive since I quit caffeine in 2012.

21034348_10155084615918897_4212018558492282820_nOh. I can also literally find a Starbucks anywhere, from Brighton to Barcelona. I’m a human radar. It’s impressive.

So I guess, what I’m trying to say is, my relationship with Starbucks isn’t political; it’s historical. It’s where I spent a decent portion of my time forming as a writer and a human. Want to take me somewhere else? That’s fine. But if I’m alone, I will always choose to hunker down in a shop with a two tail mermaid in the window.

 

Please note: All of the images in this article are mine. Some of them were taken on a Samsung SGH-D500 from 2005 (hence the quality). Oh, and yes, I made the tiny Starbucks logo on miniature lollipop sticks. It was a graphic design project at AS level. Don’t judge.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

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The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

On the 7th of June, 2014 at 12 am, I posted a super short blog post called “The Sequel” that, to this day, has 1 view. It was my way of drawing a line under the work I had previously done on this blog, and starting afresh.

The way I did that was by creating a schedule and producing some really rigid boxes that I had to tick off every week. In a way, while I was just post graduation and unemployed, it was an excellent idea. It kept me focused and it gave me something to break up the monotony of job applications and failed interviews.

But, when I finally went back to work, it became clear pretty swiftly that I was not going to be able to stick to that routine.

So here I am in early 2018, drawing another line in the sand and starting afresh once again. You find me now doing a Master’s course in Applied Linguistics, something that I have long wanted to do, but finishing my MA is not my only goal.

My plan for this site is to return it to what I always intended it to be. I started this blog in the first year of university with the intention of making it a platform for me and my creative work, and then I got the ususal writer’s paranoia about putting things online, so it turned into something very different. Don’t get me wrong, I still read my old articles and smile, which is why I won’t be privatising them for this reboot (feel free to have a flick through if you fancy). 

Instead, I’ve made a goal to fill this site with actual blog posts about life, thoughts about writing, and *shock horror* samples of my work. Those of you who follow me on Facebook, Tumblr or Instagram already know that I have been working on my novel The End of Atlas (previously known as Rimjhim…don’t ask) since the final year of my degree, and I’m happy to say it’s almost finished. I’m aiming to have a completed first draft by the end of the year, at which point I will be sharing snippets, talking about editing, and moving on to how the hell am I gonna get this thing published.

Basically, I want this blog to reflect who I am and what’s happening in my life. The plan is to post every Saturday, and if I find the time, I may throw in the additional bit here and there. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while now, I hope you’ll enjoy the switch up. For those of you new to the site, hello! I hope you stick around 🙂

Welcome to The Sequel Part 2: Return of the Sequel

Prepare for change!

Tip Tuesday: How to be Smooth as Fudge

smooth as fudge
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How to be Smooth as Fudge

(Flirting tips for awkward folks.)

Up until fairly recently, I was completely incapable of flirting. When I was 19, I signaled to a person that I liked them by pufferfish kissing them, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs style. Then, just in case they didn’t get the message, the next time I saw them I kissed them on the lips and before running off to catch my bus. Fortunately, they found it cute, but in hindsight, if they hadn’t felt the same way, that would have been the creepiest thing I have ever done. However, since then I like to think I’ve got a handle on things. I’m still mahoosively awkward sometimes, but I’ve developed techniques to help keep me smooth as fudge, bae.

1.

I’m so awkward, I don’t even know how to flirt! How would you let someone know that you like them?

smooth as fudge

Address the above to the person that you like. Then not so subtly do what they suggest. If they’re as awkward as you, and so don’t flirt either, look up tips online, and act these out. The beauty of this is, that if they start to get uncomfortable, you can laugh it off as “practicing”, apologise, and then distract them with a question about what they’ve been watching/reading lately.

2.

Are you multiple sea creatures with tentacles, cuz girl, you octopi my thoughts.

smooth as fudge

Go ahead and learn some crazy pick-up lines, the weirder the better. You want them to be so strange, that no-one in their right mind will think you’re using them unironically. That way, whether the person likes you or not, you’ll get a laugh. Laughter is infectious, so even if you don’t get the girl/boy/other, you’ll feel better, and you’ll gain a reputation as a bit of a comedian. Who doesn’t want that?

3.

Hey the weather is nice today, by the way I like you, don’t you think that cloud looks like a lion?

smooth as fudge

Honestly, the best way of finding out if someone likes you, is to tell them how you feel. But of course, this can be terrifying. The trick is to keep it casual, to remind yourself that it’s really no big deal. My favourite way of doing this is to sandwich the words into an ordinary sentence (see above). It makes it seem like you’re just dropping a random fact into conversation. And when they inevitably respond with, “What did you say?!” you can say it again. It’s always easier the second time, because the words are already out there. Stay calm, and ask how they feel. If they feel the same, well then it’s time to get excited! And if they don’t, tell them it’s okay. Because it is okay. Sometimes people won’t like you back, but there will always be someone else.

Lines and techniques aside, however, the main reason I’m able to talk to people now, is because I’ve learnt how to be comfortable with who I am. I’ve learnt that being a nerd is amazing, that needing to be alone is perfectly fine, and that you can get away with doing all kinds of weird stuff (meowing, putting glitter on your flatmate’s nose, lying under the coffee table to think etc. etc.) in the right context. All you have to do is be brave, and remember that, love is not everything in life.

Mort out. xx

smooth as fudge

#Dear Me

Dear Me
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Dear Me (Age 13),

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CALM DOWN. I know, I know, every day you wake up angry and you don’t know why. You lash out at those you love because you can’t stop feeling this way. Well, Dear Mehere’s the thing; you’re bored. You are actually bored out of your skull. Stop watching TV, put down the trashy chick lit, and get a head start on your reading. I highly recommend anything from the turn of the 20th Century; Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Dorothy Richardson. Throw yourself into it and go crazy. Don’t be afraid to approach people and talk about it. BE ENTHUSIASTIC.

Also, stop drinking caffeine. It probably isn’t helping. Oh, and deep breathing is your friend.

There are a few choices you are going to make over the next few years, and I’m going to say it now; you’re doing the right thing. I Dear Memarvel at your ability to go with your gut. Going to sixth form college was the best thing you could have done. Your attendance rate will sky rocket from 63% to almost 100%, because it turns out when you’re not being told off for wearing the wrong colour hair tie, or trousers made out of the wrong fabric, you actually enjoy educational environments.

I know that leaving secondary school, causes a rift in certain friendships, but they weren’t worth it. You may not realise it now, Dear Mebut the one who introduced himself by gyrating in your face, turns out to be a far better friend. Even when he’s gone, you miss him a great deal. Besides that, you will make solid friendships wherever you go. Join Tumblr as soon as you can, go to ALL the Cosplay Cymru meets and NERD THE HELL OUT.

Give people time. You may not be what they expect, but once they realise you’re serious they will grow to respect that. Stick to your guns, and don’t hide who you are, even if you’re not entirely sure who that is yet. You’ll learn more about yourself by answering otherDear Me people’s questions on your sexuality, beliefs, gender etc, than you could ever learn by sitting inside your head all day.

Your skin will clear up. The redness will fade by university. Having to take a pregnancy test every time you need to refill your prescription is hilarious, particularly that tense moment where you know you’ve never had intercourse, but you’re still worried it’ll be positive.

University will be exactly what you hoped it would be, but it will also be entirely different from what you’d imagined. You will learn Dear Meto argue with students studying PhD Physics, about Physics, and you will win. You will often be wrong, but you will still win, because the central skill of an Arts degree is being able to pull connections out of nowhere. Also, you will find a sport that you actually care about!

Finally, graduating will seem like the weirdest thing, and you will spend a great deal of time faffing about, trying to figure out what to do. The answer is, go with that gut. There is only one thing that you’ve ever wanted to do, and you will find a way to do it.

dear me

Best,

Em.

P.S. While creating the main graphic for this, I realised how much we photobomb. Keep doing that.

P.P.S. For those of you wondering #DearMe is a feature currently running on Youtube, in which you write a letter to your younger self. I’m not a big vlogger, so I thought I’d get involved this way.