A letter to my childhood self
When I think about being a kid, the first thing that comes to mind is the wallpaper of my childhood bedroom. It’s difficult to describe the colour of the walls, a strange mixture of reds and browns with a hint of purple in the mix. An image of you remains vivid in my mind, curled up in a fetal position on the bed and staring into the walls of that bedroom; the safest place.
I have no idea how I survived that harsh and ruthless time. In case no one has told you this lately —you’re doing such a fantastic job. You have so little agency and the powers at large dismiss your perspective; they say you don’t know what you’re talking about, say you’re too young to feel your feelings. You’re reliant on parents, guardians, and other authorities who choose not to listen to you, who choose to neglect you, who choose you as a target for their rages, who choose to do awful things and because there are so few options available, you just deal with it.
You live in a world that refuses to acknowledge you as a human being. You’re putting up with so much bullshit it’s incredible. You are so brave and so strong, it’s amazing. I want you to know—you don’t have to maintain this strength forever.
Adulthood is fantastic and with it comes so many hopeful things for you to look forward to.
You will transition into adulthood smoothly. People always make a big deal out of turning eighteen, how it comes with all these new responsibilities. Not for you though, you’re already so responsible. Adulthood will grant you some returns on that investment.
You won’t have to stay in this place anymore. There are lots of different places in the world and you’ll get to take your pick of them. If you find yourself in a bad place you don’t have to stay long—pack your things into boxes and buy a plane ticket on the cheap, or a train ticket for cheaper. You can leave and no one has the power to call you back.
You don’t have to live in survival mode anymore. Once you’re out of that mindset, you’ll have the capacity to experiment, to discover the things that are important to you and what makes life feel worth living. You can look forward to having disposable income. It’s freeing to have choices, and nice food is always the right choice. Loaves of sourdough from the Sunday market, summer salads stacked with seasonal vegetables, glass bottles of juice filled with fancy stuff, like guava and passionfruit; carrot and ginger. There are so many lovely things to discover.
You put an incredible amount of energy into just surviving each day, you’ll achieve amazing things once that capacity is freed up. You can start moving through the world accompanied by the feeling that you’re working towards something instead of just running away. You can start wanting things.
Small things like the occasional new book, the latest clothes, or a specific brand of coffee in the morning. Big things like a home that is restful, a university degree, or friends you feel at ease with, even on bad days. Nothing is guaranteed in life, but when you wake up each morning you can choose to move yourself closer to the good things, and further away from the bad ones.
You are more than someone else’s child; you always have been, it’s just that people will start to recognize that. It’s frustrating how people filter their perception of you through another person, a person who you have no control over, a person who does not adequately represent you and what you stand for. Your parents’ anger isn’t the first thing people see when they look at you anymore.
There are some wonderfully complicated and kind people in the world, and as an adult, you’ll get the opportunity to spend time with many of them. There will be people who want you to be present in their lives, who will want you, specifically you, to be with them. To come to their graduations and their birthdays. That doesn’t mean there won’t sometimes be people who are harsh and uncaring, but you won’t be tied to them, you can choose not to inhabit their space.
You know how sometimes you like to crawl into bed?
Pulling the covers over your head and burrowing underneath, the duvet cover pressing down heavy and snug, sealing you in? The humidity of your breath filling the space and sticking to your face, in a way that is not unpleasant but grounding?
How lying there is the only way that you get some relief from the tension that you carry in your shoulders and your chest? Because whenever you’re outside this space, the air feels charged and hostile.
What if I told you, that feeling of security can exist outside of yourself? That safety that you have cultivated there in the darkness is capable of stretching outside of your body. Will expand out to encompass an entire room, sometimes an entire house, where you’ll feel able to move freely.
You can have safety. It’s so much easier to move through the world when you have the knowledge that it will always be there to return to.
You will discover that your words have power. You are used to having your ideas disrespected. It happens so frequently that it is a defining experience for you, in some ways, it’s a waiting game. As an adult people take the time to listen to your ideas. There is no longer any excuse to systematically deny your experiences.
So, continue collecting your notebooks. You love them so much, the printed covers patterned with pink leopard print or tessellating floral patterns. The matching fancy pens, with transparent chambers filled with glitter or little shards of gemstone. Continue to write your stories. Do not let anyone convince you to stop; pursue every opportunity to share your truth. I can assure you that there are others out there, and one day you will reach them.
You have so much to look forward to. But part of me fears that I have not been able to convince you of that. Adulthood is so wonderful but it’s wonderful in a way that you aren’t capable of comprehending right now. I need you to trust me. I know what a big ask that is, trusting hasn’t always gone well for you, but I promise, I pinky swear, things are going to get better.
Featured photo courtesy of author.