What is it about approaching birthdays that make us suddenly introspective about life? It is a great idea to look back sometimes and appreciate how far you’ve come. Don’t you sometimes wish you could get in a time machine and go back to the past and change some things? I sure do. It’s exactly a month to my birthday and I’ve had these really sober moments when I reflect on anything and everything. What’s this about sometimes feeling like I’m still sixteen, and other times feeling like I’m already forty? I have a tendency to write things, and so I wrote this letter to my much younger self. This almost made it to the pile of things I write which never get published, but somehow it got here. A lot of water has passed this bridge, surely. I hope it’s worth your time.
First of all, loosen up. You’re just fourteen! Why do you worry so much? You worry that you’re not going to make straight A’s in WAEC, that you won’t make it to medical school, that you may not be found worthy of the religious life. You are abashed when you have to say that your father is a bookstore owner and your mother a restaurant owner; you are worried that your parents may die and you and Kembu will be left with the task of raising all five little ones alone just like in the nollywood films, and that the world may end before you get a chance to do anything. Girl, hold up. It’s not that serious! And no, I’m not laughing at you, just rolling my eyes. I still remember how you feel, but can you quit the drama already?
First of all, guess what? In a year’s time, you’re going to write WAEC and even though you promised Father straight A’s, you’re going to come home with something more like straight B’s and Father’s going to be extremely proud of you anyway. As for medical school, well, you won’t make it then, but it won’t be the end of the world. That same bookstore you hide from people, will be your first work experience and you’re gonna love it! You think you’re some quiet, nondescript girl whom nobody knows, but you’ll find out in good time that you were quite known and admired at school. Two years from now too, you’ll realize that you were in the running for the religious life for all the wrong reasons, and change your mind about it even though it’ll also break Father’s heart. And yeah, Father and Mother are alive and strong, grandparents too! Ha!
You worry too much for someone so young. A smile once in a while wouldn’t hurt, you know. Remember, you’re just sixteen. Your life lies ahead of you like a map spread on the table. You worry that you’re not as beautiful as your sisters, you ask Father why your eyes are so big; you’re happiest playing with your siblings and wonder if you’ll be a good enough mother when the time comes; you are a bit afraid of boys, and hide your pimply face behind a different book everyday. Honey, listen. Wouldn’t beauty be boring if it was of one kind? Trust me, you ain’t so bad. And like Father responded, people pay money to get eyes like yours. Best believe him. And boys! I wish you were not so wary of them! Believe me, they’re not the evil demons Mother made you believe they were. What would you expect? She has six daughters and is trying to protect them. You will come to meet all kinds, and you will love them and they will love you right back. University will make you aggressive, for that is where you will find your voice.
You hide yourself in the pages of books, and you dream great dreams; and that’s fine. You have made awesome imaginary friends in Achebe, Dickens, Emecheta, Amadi, Ike, Nwapa, Ekwensi and a host of others. You will make more friends in Adichie, Cole and Shoneyin, and you will come to be indifferent to poetry which was your first love. That’s okay. Keep dreaming. It will inspire you to push hard in difficult times.
You’re eighteen now, and you question everything. Does God really exist? Why is the world so evil? Why do we even have to die at all if God loves us so much? Why did I have to be born a girl anyway? Things changed so much ever since my chest stopped being so flat. Why do boys look at me like I’m something edible whenever I dress nice and I’ve got makeup on, but zone out when I start a smart conversation? Why do I ignore cute boys and have huge crushes on nerds? Does that mean something’s wrong with me? Why does nobody understand me?
Well, you are one big bag of questions now. Don’t sweat it chica, you’ll come to find that indeed God exists, and most boys your age at that time, aren’t really interested in smart conversation. You wonder why God didn’t create you a boy. Being a girl is so much work. And you’re sure Father would be pleased to have a grown son. Well, you’re here already, and you are enough. Your dreams are valid, and the earlier you began working on them, the better. Remember that resolution you wrote in your diary, that you and your sisters would make your parents prouder than parents of ten sons? You were right on track.
So here’s to you. You’re imperfectly perfect, and born to inspire. You took the name Theresa at confirmation because you wanted to imitate Mother Theresa. Guess what? She will be canonized this year, half a dozen years into the future. The years ahead are full of rough roads. You will have several boy crushes and recover from them all. You will survive a fatal accident too, and your outlook of life will change from then. I do not know if you will be wealthy, but you’ll survive.
You won’t suddenly become some cool and glamorous diva, nope. So crush those dreams of suddenly waking up to find that you had morphed into something like Omotola or Genevieve. You’re going to be more like the regular jeans and T-shirt girl next door 🙂 and you’ll be perfectly fine with it. Now listen and listen good: the next time you travel from school to pay a visit to aunt Fidelia, share as many jokes as possible with her, play, laugh and hug her really tight. Memorize the sound of her voice, the color of her skin, and the cadence of her laugh. She won’t survive that pregnancy, and everyone will be devastated. You will hurt terribly in places no one can see, but you, and the rest of the family, will live through it.
Go on, dear girl; grab another book and lose yourself in it. Bear the title “Bookworm” proudly. Remember that readers are leaders. Write, write, and don’t stop writing. I wish you would not try so hard to stifle your overactive imagination. Worrying about your future will get you nowhere, but I can tell you that to the best of my knowledge, it’s going to be fantastically awesome. You’re going to meet great new people and make great new friends, travel to new lands and learn new things. Remember to Whom you belong and trust in Him. He has a great masterplan. Stay strong, and remember to smile more often.
Sincerely, (and with great nostalgia and fondness),
Your future(and hopefully wiser) self.
I don’t know about you reading this, but writing it was especially therapeutic for me, and if you’ve read to this point, then I owe you a really big hug. It’s weird how things that felt so insurmountable years ago seem so laughable now. Haha. If you ever get to write your “letter to your much younger self”, don’t hesitate to tag me or reach out to me via any social medium.
What advice would you give your younger self? Let ’em loose in the comments!
Regret not that which is past; and trust not to thine own righteousness. – Saint Anthony of Padua