I HAVE a birthday coming up this week. I only mention it because I was thinking about how this time 20 years ago, I was hopping on a plane to visit New York for the first time.

I remember staring wide-eyed at the glittering skyline as we came in to land, the surreal joy of jumping into a yellow taxi and being a little bit scared about the plumes of steam rising from the manhole covers.

The world seemed so big. Conversely, two decades later, it has never felt smaller. I wonder what advice I would give if I was able to go back in time and bump into my 23-year-old self as she skipped through the Manhattan streets in her Topshop faux fur coat, pretending to be Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City.

I would perhaps tell her to buy shares in a start-up called Zoom around 11 years' time from then, which would seem odd given, in 2000, I was barely getting to grips with Google and all the gadgetry on my new-fangled Nokia 3210.

As she sat sipping cocktails in The Plaza, I would explain that Donald Trump – the real estate tycoon who had a cameo in the 1992 film, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, filmed in that very same hotel – would one day become President of the United States.

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Younger me would probably spit out a mouthful of zesty Cosmopolitan and snort with laughter, saying "What like Ronald Reagan?", not quite grasping what a dark period Trump's term would bring, nor the sweet relief when Joe Biden won the US election four years later.

I would gently explain that in less than a year from when we sat, the twin towers of the World Trade Centre would be gone with thousands of lives wiped out in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. By then, my younger self would be living in Glasgow and working for this newspaper.

In 10 years, she would be married. Not to the man she was in New York with but another man she was yet to meet but who will be the love of her life.

There are things I would spare her. I perhaps wouldn't let on that, in a few short years, her father would be diagnosed with terminal cancer. That she would never stop missing him. No matter how much time had passed.

Nor would I divulge the many experiences she will file away under "character building", the kind of encounters that harden you, no matter how much you try not to let them.

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I would tell her not to sweat the small stuff but know that she still would. Watching younger me sitting awkwardly on her bar stool, I would draw comfort that someday she will feel comfortable in her own skin.

Mostly, my message would be to not feel defeated and that even in the darkest hours of this pandemic there are still heart-soaring moments of hope.

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