A letter to 16-year-old me
Dear younger self,
Alhamdulillah, congratulations on completing secondary school! And I know what you’re thinking, yes, it was a pretty awful journey, with the racist jokes and body shaming from the people around you, classmates, friends, and seniors; it was bad. And unfortunately, you won’t look back at it with pleasant memories either, it’ll stay a bitter memory of yours. You may be embarrassed about certain actions you did, because all you wanted to do was to fit in, but it’s okay because it’ll all become less important in the future, in the grand scheme of things. In less than 10 years they’ll all seem so small you won’t even remember the stress it put you through, so don’t lose hope.
You’ve experienced some heartbreaks so far (I mean, it’s secondary school, let me be dramatic) but there’ll be more to come. It's okay to want to love, but when you peg love for yourself onto the love you receive from others, pleasing others to the extent of losing yourself, that won’t help you very much. How much people love you, or how much you want them to, won’t even matter if you don’t love yourself to begin with, so keep that in mind. At 23, you’ll still have no clue how to manage loving yourself and loving others, but you’re on the right track, and that’s a start! Experiences ahead may be painful, but with every painful experience, you will grow. You will grow and grow into someone you can’t even imagine blooming into right now, so don’t lose hope.
Remember when mum and dad didn’t allow you to make a Facebook account or how you had to fight to download WhatsApp just to stay connected with your friends in Secondary 4? Well, social media is everything now: with Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and Netflix (not exactly a social medium, but you’ll learn a lot here too). And the interesting thing is, remember your friends in secondary school who just wanted to fit in, did what the majority did and talked about what everyone talked about? Well, they’ll all grow into beautiful individuals who fight for the causes they’re passionate about. Social media is what you’ll use to share about things you care about too, hoping to spread some awareness in this world. There’s a Tamil movie dialogue that goes like this: “People who do bad, even though very little, are together so they do bad very easily. People who want to do good, even though many, are all scattered everywhere.” The world you will come to live in yearns for that brotherhood because sometimes it will seem hard to find light in all this darkness. Always have the intention of wanting to do even the smallest thing to help someone in need and to ease their suffering because it was people’s kind nature that helped you too. There’s so much light in this world, so don’t lose hope.
In other news, at 23, we’ve graduated from university! That feeling of accomplishment is amazing and when you wear the graduation coat, you’ll feel so proud of yourself for coming this far. But... it will also kind of seem like a buy-one-free-one offer, ‘cause everyone’s next focus for you will be marriage. It will feel like everyone has expectations of you: you haven’t found someone yet? Can you cook well? Well, it’s time to learn. Talk less, laugh smaller, you don’t want to embarrass yourself and your family at your future in-laws, right? It will get tiring, and you will start to realise some of the things wrong in your culture, in your society and that may burden you. You may end up being faulted for every guy who rejects you or for every guy you rejected, but don’t give up. You deserve to be happy, for yourself and not just for the people around you. There is a guy out there who will give you that happiness as much as being with you gives him happiness. The change you want to see in your culture may or may not happen with your generation, but you’ll plan to work on it with your kids InshaAllah, so don’t lose hope.
Life will knock you down, flip you around and pin you down till you can’t get up; but you know what got you through all of it? Allah SWT and the family He blessed you with. They will believe in you when you can’t believe in yourself and it will take you a while to realise their importance, but when no one else is by your side, they will be, constantly. Sometimes it will get hard, especially when your views don’t match theirs, but remember that they’re trying and it’s not easy for them to get accustomed to how people behave now compared to how it was when they were younger, and they only ever want the best for you. Talk to them, share your fears and feelings, cause they will always be the biggest constants in your life, so don’t lose hope.
You know what everyone says they love about you? Your smile, your cheery nature, and your love for others MashaAllah. So never, ever, let go of these traits because that’s what makes you special. You have flaws, you do, but that’s okay. Keep working on them, not for others to love you more, but for Allah SWT to love you more, because you want to be a good wife to your future spouse and a good mother your kids will look up to – focus on that, and don’t ever, ever lose hope.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: keep trying, keep pushing to be a better version of yourself and live with no regrets. Now’s the time you have the drive to do good AND the energy to do it, so go for it! Also, of course (if you didn’t catch it already), don’t lose hope, and I really love this quote, “‘cause if you lose hope, you’re really losing faith in Allah SWT”. Hope you’ll remember that, always.
Your Version 23 ☺