Do me a favour. You’ve been expecting this letter. And possibly wondered how it would make you feel.
It’s here now. So switch off your phone. Close the door to your office. Hang that “don’t bother” notice on it so no one dares to enter. You must have started to remember these instructions.
“Ok. That’s interesting,” you must be thinking now. “Who writes letters on paper, by hand, and posts them the old-fashioned way? I bet Jill from PR would have made a photo of it and posted it on Instagram with hashtag #vintagemail.”
I used to write a lot of letters when I was younger. We didn’t have the internet and phones were expensive.
Thanks to Harry, I started again. Even bought a special notebook and a number of pencils with a proper sharpener.
You remember Harry? You probably haven’t heard from him for quite some time. I just met him yesterday. We said goodbye to each other. We hugged and promised to stay in touch. He gave me a present. A really nice one.
I’ll never forget our first meeting. You wouldn’t, either.
I had some problems at work. I wasn’t able to fit in and cope with the pressure. You know the CEOs’s motto no matter where they are placed in control: Aim big. Always deliver.
I heard about a therapist – a d-r Ferguson. “Quite extraordinary,” they said. “You should call him.” And I did.
On the day of the first session I was about to cancel it. What could he tell me that I haven’t already heard? How is he going to treat me? How much will it cost? Those therapies may take years. Who’s to pay for it?
One little quiet voice made its way up into my mind. “You set the meeting. It was your idea. It will be rude not to call him. At least, phone the doctor and apologise.”
“Good morning, d-r Ferguson. I’m sorry I won’t be able to see you today. I have a very important meeting,” I said, trying to sound convincing.
“Ah, good morning, Philip. No worries. I’m just in front of your house. I have a plan. Come downstairs and let’s go to work.”
What? How could he? What on Earth was he thinking?
I grabbed my bag and slammed the door behind me.
D-r Ferguson was waiting for me, patiently, with a smile on his face.
Now that was quite a surprise. I was expecting a middle-aged man, wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches and spectacles on his tired eyes. Looking respectable with a thoughtful expression and crossed arms. Like the shrinks on TV.
Instead, I stumbled upon a young man, in his late twenties, wearing jeans and a white T-shirt with a very big yellow flower on it.
“D-r Ferguson?” I asked.
“Call me Harry. No need to be formal.”
“D-r Ferguson…” He raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry. Harry. I’m afraid I really have to cancel our session. I’m very busy with the quarterly report.”
“No worries,” he said again as if he had thrown all the worries in the world in the ocean during the morning surf. “I’m going with you. Tell your colleagues I’m the new consultant who has to spend time with the team in the next couple of weeks.”
“Is it really necessary? Let’s do this the usual way. I arrange another meeting with you tomorrow. I spend exactly 60 minutes on your couch. We talk about my life and my troubles. We blame my parents for them. You prescribe some pills. I pay and schedule another appointment.”
Harry laughed, obviously enjoying my shrewd perception of shrinks.
“No, Philip. I’m not that kind of doctor. I prefer real-life experience. So I join my clients in their everyday routine. I don’t interfere. I only observe and then give advice. It’s up to you – either you accept it or not.”
The moment Harry stepped into the office my life started to change. He was never intrusive. Always charming and fascinating. Everybody liked him and gladly shared with him their thoughts, desires, ambitions. He would offer to take them out for a coffee or to the cinema. He listened attentively because he was there on a mission. Like a real spy.
I must admit it wasn’t fair to my colleagues but I needed help. I had to find my true self and pursue my dreams.
One day my boss from abroad came and wanted to meet Harry. CEOs love consultants. You can have the brightest idea and the perfect plan to implement it and thus bring profit to the company, not even to yourself, but CEOs won’t listen. They want external advice. They need that 200-page report just to show the shareholders they have it under control and they deserve the annual bonus.
“Philip, send me your plans for the next 5 years,” said Harry. “I’ll talk to your boss and tell him they’re all mine.”
“No way. He’ll figure it out in a minute,” I said.
“You’ll be ok. The whole company will be ok,” said Harry.
I gave him the result of hard work, plenty of coffee and countless sleepless nights.
The next morning Harry met my boss. They only talked for 10 minutes. I saw them as they were going out of the conference room. By the look on my boss’s face and his smile of satisfaction I knew Harry had made it.
“Brilliant job!” My boss turned to me. “Where have you kept him all this time?”
I was thrilled. I felt appreciated, but also very sad. What was wrong with me? What was Harry’s secret for success?
Do you remember all this, my friend? Because you were there, too. That was the moment you were born. Harry made you. My future self.
I expect you are now in a new office. You have found the job of your dreams. Old demons, however, know how to find their way back, so don’t be lazy. Be true to yourself and remember what Harry taught us.
“You are not an ambulance, Philip. Your work is not a matter of life or death. Don’t be a slave to reports and strategies. They are just toys created with one purpose only – to amuse your boss with them, while you make the world better. Just tell them it’s the advice of a top consultant. Invent one if you have to. They love nothing more than consultants who tell them what they want to hear. And everyone knows what they want to hear. Don’t they?”
Philip, the old version of yourself
P.S. And keep it light. No worries.
P.P.S. Don’t forget to water the yellow flower. It brings us luck.
Please, read this:
This was Elena Gancheva’s graduation short story, published here exactly as submitted.