How the hell do I start this? Oops. Shouldn’t say hell, that’s probably a bad word right now. Uhm. Ignore that sentence.
Right now, we are 16. (Do I say we? Are we the same person or different individuals? Who knows?) We could have avoided so many problems right now if I’d have written this to you earlier. I just want to try to correct what should have been corrected about 8 years ago, but I was unable to tell you, being 8 and all, because I didn’t know the things I know now.
I know this won’t change anything but let’s pretend that this will. These are some really important things that you have to listen to, okay?
Firstly, please love yourself. Don’t let people trample all over you. Don’t let people bully you or tell you that you are worth any less than you have been taught to believe. It will take you many more years to learn to love yourself if you don’t right now, and you don’t need all the drama of self-acceptance and self-confidence. Really. You don’t. Understand that you matter, that you have a voice and that you can use it. Understand that nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.
Understand that you are beautiful. Just because your hair isn’t blonde and you don’t have freckles and your eyes aren’t blue, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t beautiful. You will learn later that the way you wanted to look was just society telling you how you should. But embrace the way you look. It doesn’t matter whether everyone else teases you for your hair and your butt and your height. You are a beautiful black girl and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And if they do, don’t believe them. They are taught to believe that you cannot be beautiful, but you can be, and you are.
Keep working hard. People will call you a nerd, and a geek and whatever other offensive words they can find to use. Don’t cry, they don’t matter, because in a few years when you are going to sit your exams and they are the ones asking you for help with revision, you will smile at the reversal of fortune. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re ‘too’ smart, that you’re ‘too’ intelligent, that you’re ‘too’ anything. You are just right. Put effort into the things that you do, and I promise you, it will pay off.
Stay strong in what you believe. It will take you a while to fully embrace and understand everything you believe, but make sure you believe it for yourself. Right now, some of what you believe is what you’ve been taught to. Understand everything for yourself, and don’t just let people tell you right and wrong; learn it for yourself. In about two years you will want to be baptised, and you will, with your best friend. Keep the enthusiasm you have for God, and don’t let anyone take it away from you. Don’t be ashamed of what you believe in. It will become harder to express your beliefs when you get older, but the more you do it and stand up for what you believe in, the better it will be.
Keep being sociable and friendly. Everywhere you go, you will make lots of friends and lots of acquaintances. The difficult thing is learning to differentiate between the two. Don’t just give your phone number out to everyone that you meet, because you will end up with lots of phone numbers of people you don’t even speak to anymore, and you’re too scared to delete their contacts. Also, you will get a smartphone one day. I won’t tell you when, that’s a surprise. But keep waiting in anticipation. Your waiting will one day pay off.
Act, dream, write, sing, dance, do the things that you’re good at. The more you do them now, the easier it will become for you to do them when you get to where I am. You won’t be able to do Street Dance, even though I know you really wanted to, but there are other things you can do. Keep up all your talents and hobbies. Keep drawing! Don’t stop because the moment you do is the moment you might lose your ability. Don’t rip up your drawings when you’re mad or when you’re upset. Don’t make hasty decisions when you’re mad or upset. Try and manage your emotions properly. Channel them. Talk to people, never, EVER bottle your emotions. It will only cause more damage and pain than you can begin to fathom. (I know you know what fathom means, don’t worry).
Don’t stop reading or dreaming. Sometimes they can be the same things. Keep reading, but PLEASE I beg you, stop reading Jacqueline Wilson. (I think you’ve probably grown out of her by now). Also, don’t read romances. They won’t get you anywhere and will fuel this entirely unrealistic romanticist nature in your teenage years. And don’t read manga either, no matter who tries to get you to. Read historical fiction. I have a hunch that you’ll really like reading about the Tudors, and Ancient Greece and Rome. Learn about the world around you. Learn about the past, and the present. Learn about your heritage, your culture, where you came from. Ask questions. Never stop dreaming.
What you can stop, however, is relying on your friends. The sooner you grow out of being a follower, the better. Your friends will try and make you do things that you don’t want to do. Sometimes, if you let them, they will succeed. But you have to be independent. You have to learn how to cope for yourself and make your own decisions. Sorry to disappoint you, but none of your ‘best friends’ from primary school will even talk to you by Year 11. The people you will find as your friends will surprise you. And popularity doesn’t matter. Friends aren’t about how many you have, or how popular they make you. Friends are about the people who are there for you time and time again.
You’ve probably got a huge crush on someone right now, I don’t know who, and it would probably make me laugh just remembering. But if you can (the key word here being ‘if’) just leave off boys for a couple years. Say… 52? Wait until you’re 60. That’ll probably make your life a lot easier. Obviously this is unrealistic, but just try and be patient. Not every boy that you like is going to be your future husband LOOOL. Don’t mistake liking the attention someone gives you for liking someone. Have expectations and standards. I mean, I know you’re only 8, but boys are barely all that and a bag of chips.
No matter what happens, no matter what you achieve or where you go, remember where you’ve come from. You will go on to do great things. You will change your life goals 4 times, probably even more, seeing as I haven’t quite settled yet. You will be a Queen and then an Empress, you will rule nations and empires, you will advocate for Black History Month and slowly evolve into a social justice warrior. (I know that doesn’t exist just yet, but I promise you, it’s as worthwhile as it sounds). You will experience things you have never experienced before, you will have your expectations reached and exceeded.
Believe in yourself. Trust that you can, and will, do amazing things.
And, one last thing, for your near-future: I’d appreciate if you could lay off the Disney please. The soundtracks take up an awful amount of phone (and mind) space, and they’re too catchy. Be into them, by all means, but don’t be such a die-hard fan.
Lots of love,
16-year-old You (aka. The Faerie Squad Mother) x