A Letter to My Sixteen Year Old Self

Hey Girl,

I bet you have a lot of questions. No, I know you have a lot of questions. The overall uncertainty you feel is a given considering where you are in your journey. I know that right now your life is pretty good, stable to say the least. I also know it also feels like it is something that is just outside of your control. You aren’t quite in the driver’s seat yet, and that is OK. This life is all about using the time we have here to come into the fullness of our being. If that concept scares you, it should. There is no blue print or instruction manual for precisely how that is done. There is a lot of room for failure. Instead of letting that fear of failure paralyze you (as it regularly does), understand that room for failure is just another expression for room for growth. Growth is painful, but if you are lucky the results will be formidable. I know I said there is no instruction manual to this growth business, but here are  a few things I’ve picked up in the past decade or so to help you along:

  • Don’t listen to the boys. Most of them are ill-informed and overly confident. You can learn something from that though. Most of the people you interact with on a day-to-day basis are just faking it till they make it anyway.
  • Practice walking through the world with the confidence of grown white men. If you need good examples of faking it till you make it, look no further.
  • Raise your hand more when you are struggling in class. It’s OK to not be stellar at every subject. Seek help when you need it.
  • Ask your grandmother’s more questions. Your family history and lineage are absolutely fascinating. You get so caught up in absorbing and prioritizing the world around you, that you don’t spend nearly enough time being curious about the world you are. Your very DNA is volumes of unexplored material.
  • In fact, learn to cook more Bajan and Nigerian foods, because when those cravings hit, sis…
  • College is going to whoop your ass in more ways than one. Remember that your health is your primary job. This includes your mental health. I know you don’t have all of the language to contend with the things you feel yet, but just because you can’t name it yet doesn’t mean it’s not real. Get familiar with the terms “anxiety” and “depression”. You will receive no rewards for muscling your way through life, and buying into the expectations for Black women to be super human in their ability to cope will drain you faster than you know. Also, go to the mental health center regularly (see my prior point about seeking help when you need it).
  • You feel better when you exercise.
  • No romantic relationship is worth your comfort or happiness. Men are like buses. If you stand still in the same place long enough, another one will come along.
  • You are an introvert. People drain you. Needing to spend time alone in the quiet is not a character flaw, it is integral to your ability to function like a normal human being in the world. Prioritize quiet alone time. This helps you organize your spirit and your mind. Sometimes this will mean not going out when all of your friends are. Don’t worry, you are not missing anything.
  • Some friends are in your life for a season. Some friends are in your life for the long haul. Both are important in the shaping of who you are, but those long haul friendships are the buttresses of your life. Invest in them.
  • Always take off your make up and tie your hair up before bed. Seriously, do you know how much harder you are making your life right now?
  • Be nicer to your parents and call on them more often for advice. There is nothing new under the sun, and they’ve been around it a few more times than you have. Trust that they know a few things.
  • You think your sister is the absolute worst right now (and you might be correct), but that relationship will ultimately mean the world to you. You only can’t stand each other at the moment because you are two very similar people who are also polar opposites. You will always have each other’s backs.
  • Read more books by and about Black women. Learn African history. Learn more Black history. Learn Queer history. Learn about the movements and the cultural traditions that put you where you are today. This world and the educational systems you will matriculate through will not center you or your experiences in any way, and that’s not a mistake. The work of de-colonizing your mind begins now. It never ends.
  • You don’t have to laugh at jokes, or along in situations that make you uncomfortable. You don’t even have to be agreeable in all scenarios. Your pain and your anger are just as valid as anyone else’s.
  • Drink more water.
  • “No” is a complete sentence. So is “Go fuck yourself”.
  • Trust in your capabilities more. Trust yourself.

The next ten years is a wild ride. You are fortunate enough to live a very rich and privileged life. You will travel interesting places, and get to do many enviable things. You join the actual Army (nobody saw that coming)! You will also hit several low points (Donald Trump is president now and I can’t even begin to explain that to you here), that will test your resolve and commitment to yourself and the life you’ve built. Throughout all of those big and small life moments, one thing will consistently prove itself to be true; no one on this earth will take care of you like you can. You are never really alone,  but when you feel that you are take comfort in the fact that you’ve got this. You are someone worth knowing, so get to know yourself. You are also someone worth loving, so fall in love with yourself over and over again. Don’t be afraid of change either in circumstance or who you are. Change is as exciting as it is scary. It opens up whole entire new worlds of possibility. Change is blossoming and also decay; all of it is living.

The future is all yours and it’s pretty dope. It rests in your own capable hands.

Love,

A

 

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