It’s our birthday.
Have no idea who I’m referring to? Don’t worry about that. I’m referring to all you other 22 versions of me, also celebrating your birthday today. You’re probably surprised to find out we made it to 24, and some of you are wondering how we managed to get this far.
Well, that’s beside the point. I felt I had to write to each of you. Pour out my heart about some things. Things you probably need to know. It might be a bit too late, but it’s better than never. I mean, hopefully we still have a whole lifetime ahead of us.
4 year old me.
You’re definitely the cutest of us all. I wish I was as bold and bubbly as you are. So happy and content with life. Not having a care in the world. I’m grateful for the things I’ve learnt over the years, but I wish I was as ignorant about a lot of things as you are, because it was truly bliss. I wish I felt as beautiful about myself as you do. You think you’re an amazing person, and the confidence you exude is really admirable to look at.
I wish you wouldn’t take it for granted whenever your mother tells you what a smart girl you are. How you grasp everything in school so effortlessly. You have two great best friends, and other close friends as well, whose parents also happen to be close to yours. You’ll be moving to another town soon, and I was hoping you’d know at that age how to keep holding on to all those beautiful relationships, despite the distance.
9 year old me.
I wish you would be more curious about a lot more things. I wish you would be less complacent and realize that your grades getting worse means you’ll have to try a little harder. And I wish you were more attentive in class — or at least I hope you’ve realized at this point that you have a really short attention span. Maybe I’m being too hard on you. But I can’t blame myself. I’m like this because it most likely started from you.
One thing I’ve noticed about you though. You’ve grown more timid. Your friends are growing and you’re not sure whether to sink deeper into your shell or try to come out of it. I wish you knew how to capitalize on your creative side at this age. You’d be able to express yourself a whole lot better that way. But hey, you still have amazing friends, and a family that understands you and tries to help you, and I think you’re a very lucky girl.
13 year old me.
You’ve grown a whole lot. The timidity has definitely developed a lot more, but so has your body. I see you have acne now, and you wear glasses. You’ve grown more insecure about everything, and I wish you wouldn’t call yourself ugly whenever you look at yourself in the mirror. You’ve started comparing yourself to a lot of the people your age, and it hurts to see how inferior you feel to everyone else. I wish you would stop feeling like everybody hates you or doesn’t like you because of your personality — that’s what your mind keeps telling you, but trust me, everyone is too busy dealing with their own adolescence to even have time to think about hating you. Also, stop trying to change yourself so you can fit in, because it looks like too much work. In my opinion, the only thing you need to change now is how timid you are, and learn to be able to speak up or voice out as and when you need to. But when people tell you about how different your personality is from theirs, I wish it would stop sounding like an insult in your ears.
There’s also anxiety — for exams, now that boarding school is almost here, and how you’re going to cope. You’re afraid you’re going to get picked on because of how timid you are. Take things one day at a time, that’s going to be the least of your worries when you get there.
16 year old me.
I’m really glad to see you’ve learnt how to make friends all on your own — you’re actually forming conversation without anyone having to force you to. You’ve made a couple of new friends over the past year, but you’ve finally realized friendships can get complicated, haven’t you? I see you blaming yourself whenever anything goes wrong, and apologizing even when you know you’re right. It’s good to try, but most times I wish you would stop trying so hard. You’re still bent on getting everyone’s acceptance, so you need to know now that, trying to get everyone to like you is impossible, and also pointless. Learn to move on from situations you can’t control. Stop trying so hard to tolerate all the people bringing bad energy into your life. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll eventually learn how to do it. But don’t let go of all your friendships — there are a lot of people who are willing to help you grow, and who’ll be there for you when you least expect it.
I hate to spoil the experience for you though, but you eventually stop caring about a lot of things you’re currently bothering your head about. It might feel strange to you when it happens, but that’s actually where a lot of the growth starts. It’s where you start trying to live for yourself and not for anyone else.
Also, I’m happy to see how creative you’re getting. It’s interesting the kinds of things extreme boredom can bring out of a person.
19 year old me.
I was hoping I would know what exactly to say to you once it got to your turn. I know how overwhelmed you are now with a whole different set of emotions. You’re more on your own now that you’ve ever been before, trying to be dependent and make sane decisions. School is kicking your ass, and every single day you ask yourself whether that’s where you actually belong. Your mind keeps racing, and you’re always thinking and overthinking. You’re almost a full adult, but you definitely don’t feel like one. There’s so many things you can’t do, and so much you feel you don’t know. On some days the sadness is so deep you’ll just want to put yourself out of your own misery and end it once and for all.
I wish I could tell you the feelings of inadequacy stop eventually. I wish I could assure you that you don’t get any more suicidal thoughts. That your sadness doesn’t escalate to the point where you start crying every time you have to vent to someone. And that you’re able to go for therapy and your mind stops being so chaotic. But those would all be lies. I wish I could tell you it gets better. But it actually gets a lot worse…before it gets better.
I wish I could tell you you’ll have no regrets. But you’ll have a lot of them. Good thing is, you learn from them. You definitely don’t stop blaming yourself for them though. Maybe one day we’ll figure out how that works.
I’m glad I reached out to you. Didn’t think I needed to before, but when the usual wave of sadness and doubt hit earlier this year, I was on Google trying to find out whether it was normal for an adult to feel so afraid. That’s when I found out the part of me that was afraid was the younger, equally fearful part of me that needed to be heard and reassured.
Before the 24th version of us starts to experience the world, I needed to make sure we acknowledged each other’s existence, and recognized our fears. We might not be able to control the experiences of the versions ahead of us, but we’ll definitely be here for each other if any of us feels afraid or alone. The future will only continue to write itself out, and all we can do is try to live through the rest of it.