A Letter to My Younger Self

by George Hatjoullis

Born into abject poverty (not enough food let alone anything else) you were transported to a state of relative poverty (enough food but not much else), but opportunity. London is and has always been a place of opportunity. You recognised from an early age that it was not a level playing field and that you faced more obstacles than most, but still less than some. Despite the best efforts (not always conscious) of many around you to make you feel bad about yourself, you retained an enormous sense of a self-worth. You recognised that, as an outsider, you would always be subject to greater scrutiny so adopted a strategy of being whiter than white in all your interpersonal and official dealings. Scrupulously honest and frank you maintained a spotless record. So scrupulous in fact that you often drew criticism for being too honest and frank.

The opportunity you grasped was education or more precisely, qualifications. You recognised that qualifications gave you power and some capacity to come ‘inside’ society. You were an excellent student. The power of qualifications was so intoxicating that you lingered in the university system a little too long. You were not by nature an academic. The academic life requires specialisation and you preferred to know something about everything rather than everything about very little. Apparently random events took you into banking where you discovered a remarkable talent for seeing things that others missed. This formed the basis of a financially successful career. Given the origins and obstacles you should be pleased. But it was not all as simple as it can be painted.

The conditions in which you had to study were cold, not well-lit, and subject to interruption. You learned to use public libraries. You had no opportunity for learning beyond books and this limited your personal development. You grew up in a family that originated elsewhere. Your father was an invalid and effectively had no interaction with you. Your mother spoke no English and came from a parallel reality. You grew up with a fractured identity. Legally you are British, born to parents that were also born British. This status was imposed on you by Britain (the Empire). It was not a choice. You do not have dual citizenship and no automatic right to dual citizenship in your country of birth. Nevertheless, you can never be wholly British. This is partly because the host community will not allow it. As long as you are dark and have a non anglo-saxon surname it is not fully permitted by the host community. Realisation of this led to a choice of partner that retained an element of your origin. The result however was not to heal your fractured identity but removed all notion of national identity.

The EU seemed to offer a resolution to your lack of national identity. It contained both the UK and your country of origin, although their connection predates the EU and originates in Empire. The decision to withdraw from the EU has triggered an intense identity crisis. You must step back completely from your country of origin and be unequivocally British. You are happy with this except that you are still dark and have a Greek surname and some of the host community will still deny you this privilege. Or perhaps this is less true than it once was. The EU exit is also redefining the concept of Britishness.

There are many lessons from your life. Do not worry too much about national identity. Be where you are and it will ultimately sort itself out. Your pursuit of knowledge is sound but unfocused. A little more focus might have led to more recognised success but would not have been satisfying. Stay unfocused and knowledge hungry as long you can. You pursued financial security rather than wealth. This was wise. You have lived with the wealth seekers and know what they are. They regarded you as having limited ambition. You had broader objectives and you have achieved them. Be pleased. Your uncompromising honesty and frankness earned you a reputation for being difficult. Be proud. The accusation of difficult usually comes from those that are frustrated that you do not unquestioningly support their agenda. You have always set your own standards and objectives and lived by them irrespective of what others are achieving. You envy no one. This is a path to contentment.