Dear 16-Year-Old Me

Adrienne Salinger, In My Room: Teenagers In Their Bedrooms

You’re insecure and scared of the girls at school who have been mean to you for the last 3 years, I get it, but to be honest, this is the happiest you’re going to feel for a while. I know you want to know, because all you seem to do is think about the future.

You are going to put on a lot of weight. But not before you lose most of the 45 kg you had on your 1.59 metre frame to begin with. And it’s going to start because he said your thighs were fat. Yeah, that guy you think you’re spending forever with breaks up with you and you lose your shit and he tells you your thighs are fat after you lose your virginity to him. You marry someone completely different, by the way.

On that, you’re going to get divorced. You’re going to convince yourself that the guy you married is the one, but by 22 you pretty much know that he’s not, but you settle. He ticks the boxes and your family love him. You settle because you think that’s what an Indian female with a law degree and a 6-year relationship under her belt is expected to do. He’s great, honestly, but it’s just not enough and your itch for more becomes a scratch you start gnawing at, and it eventually bleeds. By 28, you’re going to have enough of rolling rotis and silencing your voice for him and his family, and you’re going to leave. Even though he is as well-intentioned as the next Indian male, and an engineer who also likes the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

You’re going to feel guilty for breaking his heart because you know he didn’t have it easy growing up. There’s going to be many a time you believe you should have waited it out. You’re going to terrorise yourself with questions about why you couldn’t just live with the life everyone seems to be content with. You’re going to internalise a lot of your pain, pain you don’t even understand yet, and you develop a binge drinking problem to escape the thoughts of your perceived failures.

You’re going to be diagnosed with Panic Disorder. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to start at the end of your matric year and it’s not ending anytime soon. In fact, you’re going to quit being a lawyer because you can’t handle the stress, and you feel super uncomfortable being the only woman of colour in the firm, subject to constant race jokes about curry. You’re going to freak out because the mindless white privilege is going to drive you crazy and make you panic right out of your skin. Side bar, you’re going to develop an issue with white males and not trust them because of this.

You’re going to move back to your parents’ house and shout for your dad from your old bedroom in the middle of the night just so he can help you regulate your blood pressure. The tears are going to be uncontrollable.

You’re going to listen to your inner voice and become a writer but not before you take a corporate job that you loved, but that slowly eats away your soul for 5 years. You’re going to start small because you think that’s what you’re capable of, but your voice is going to be so damn loud. After a while, you get used to it. And when people finally start noticing your writing, those people who thought you were extra because you used to make those socially conscious Facebook statuses back when it was uncool to post anything but pictures from the wild Friday night at the club are all going to suddenly be nice to you, but you’ll be nice right back. Because you start exercising this skill called “empathy”. It sounds foreign, right?

You’re going to go to therapy. You’re going to fight it for a long time. You’re going to be stubborn and lose yourself in excessive, toxic relationships, but you’ll get there. You learn these mad cool coping mechanisms that help you sleep better and form better relationships. The best one is with yourself.

You’re going to start taking solace in your power as a woman. You get stronger in time with the help of some great female authors at your bedside. You’re going to start trusting yourself. I know that sounds like a lie because self-doubt rules your existence right now, but you’re not going to give into it. Not every day at least.

You’re going to get so much healthier with your perception of yourself. Wow, you’re really going to gain that confidence you once had at 12-years-old when you used to stare at yourself in the mirror, convinced you’d be the President because you read The Long Walk To Freedom so many times.

You’re going to have the same friends you had at 16. I know you’re thinking, “What friends?” But there’s this group of girls you’re probably don’t realise actually really like you. They stick by you even when you sometimes give up on them. Pay attention. You may be really self-involved right now but you’re actually not as lonely as you think.

People are probably telling you that you’re taking yourself too seriously, because you’re pushing to achieve all those academic goals, and you’re so concerned with ticking boxes. I’m not going to tell you that you should do anything differently, because it all moulds you into this complex woman you are, but don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re actually doing pretty great.

Don’t worry though, by the time you are 30, you’ll start thinking you’re pretty again. But more than that, it doesn’t really define you as much.

Wanna know something else? You figure out that every person you felt you needed to save was only because you didn’t know how to save yourself. You kind of do now. I promise it gets easier every day.

By Mayuri Govender


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