Letter to Myself

Friday, July 10, 2020

Dear Me, 

I remember you. The girl with the unruly hair and wide brown eyes always asking too many questions. You are the one with the wildest imagination always ready to plan every little detail out regarding your future. Everything appeared to be straightforward, and you knew what you needed to do. As your Pakistani parents implored upon you, study, become a doctor, and get married. So simple. Oh wait, don't forget your moral values along the way. No boy distractions allowed and it will limit the choice because as you very well know you will have to marry within your religion and culture preferably. The funny thing is my dear, that it does not matter what age you find this letter, this plan will not be news for you. 

    What will be news is that nothing will go as planned? Your goal to have a full-fledged career and husband by twenty-five, have a child by twenty-eight, will not happen. This sounds frightening, doesn't it? At some points, it was. Many things could have theoretically gone in a different direction. However, you will not give up. You will continue trying to pursue all those things you love. Yes, you will find love. I wish I could write back to you and say you did everything exactly the way you were supposed to and made your parents proud because their happiness, especially our mother's, is what fueled your soul. I am sure you are not entirely shocked to read this either. It already presents you with a myriad of challenges. So let me give you the advice you are so desperately seeking. 

    You are too young to protect your mother. I know your parents seem as if they are embroiled in one continuous, never-ending battle. There have been screaming matches, shouts of leaving, tears, disappearances. Your parents are first-generation immigrants from Pakistan. They arrived in Canada not knowing anyone or what to expect. Even before arriving, they were not provided the opportunity to bond or to get to know each other before your father left the country in hopes of better prospects for you and your mother. The distance between your parents will remain greater than the ocean that divides their home from their past. They arrived in their mid-twenties with their education rejected and their values challenged. Yet they fought to create and provide a future for you and your siblings while trying to hold a family together. Your mother sacrificed her time with you to earn a degree in nursing so you will never want for anything. Your father will spend a few years trying to gain his license to be allowed to practice in Canada. You, however, will feel abandoned. But you understand that they did what they thought was best at the time with the limited resources they had. You may disagree with their methods, but you will see them change themselves as the years pass by. The times and society around them will force them to view situations differently from what they were taught in Pakistan. But they will instill their values in their children hoping when they grow up, they will make better choices on the foundation they set. 

    I know you love your sisters and your brother, but you do not have to be their replacement mother to show it. You are the oldest. They transported you from a large family in Pakistan containing cousins, aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents to being alone with your busy parents. You were the youngest grandchild. They spoiled you. I know they constantly remind you of this through stories of your early years, which you do not remember. When your sister arrives at four, you once again felt abandoned. Your sister became a rival for attention. She is quiet and you are loud. I know it is difficult, but she looks up to you., you will wish you could return to the time to strengthen the bond between both of you. There is far too much competition wedging and widening the crack which creates a distance between the both of you. You are eight years old when your brother enters your world like a firecracker. Loud, stubborn, and red-faced. I know you adore him. The last addition to the family arrives at twelve, and it overwhelms you with the love you feel for this little bundle of life. However, there is a detachment you also feel towards her as you care for her at night because your mother works the night shift. Your father does not hear the baby's cries at night, so you are always there to soothe her back to sleep in the early hours. Although you cannot form a close bond with them, they will slowly learn to understand and appreciate the role you played in their lives. Please do not blame yourself for not doing "better." Believe it or not, they do not expect you to know everything at your age. 

    Please try to form some study habits. Yes, I know you breezed through elementary school without doing much homework. This will definitely come back to haunt you once you reach the grades of 11 and 12. You love writing and working on projects, but you assume you will retain all other subjects by absorbing them in class and never studying after school. You are trying to escape reality in those novels you hide within your textbooks. Your parents are right when they say that the effort you put in now will save you anguish. But you need an escape.  You have such a colorful imagination that overflows into your dreams at night. Your dreams transport you into different dimensions of reality filled with adventures and laughter. You wished that you could dream forever. Mother always reminded you that you are blessed with an excellent memory and that if you applied yourself, you could achieve amazing things. It always felt that you were disappointing her. She was trying to push you to be the best you could be, but it was difficult then to see that. Even now I must admit, sometimes her advice will bring back those overwhelming feelings, but you will be better able to understand why she pushes you so hard. 

    Falling in love should not require the total sacrifice of your pursuits in life. Falling in love is beautiful, but it does not mean that you should forget everything else in your life. The feeling of having someone give you their attention and time will feel addictive to you because it is unusual for you to receive it but it will lead you down a death spiral if you are not careful. Let him prove to you he is worth it. Some of those well-known cliches are right. If he appreciates and truly loves you, he will give you the space you need to spread your wings and fly. He will stand by you and take your side when it is needed. You will definitely not find it in that teenage boy you obsess over. Give yourself the time to grow as a woman. You are fighting many battles here and your vulnerability will be fully exposed. Your parents cannot educate you on how to navigate your teenage years in Canada and how to deal with your changing hormones. They cannot help you learn the dangers of the internet and how to avoid predators that may lurk there. But you know what? You will find him. Perhaps a little later than expected, he will pop out of nowhere when you least expect it. Although even if he had not, you would be alright because you have learned to pave your way in this world. 

I think this is enough advice for now Little Me. I just want you to know that it will be okay. We are going to make mistakes because that is how we learn. You know you made it through. There will be points that will feel you will never make it out alive, but you will. Because here I am writing this letter to you. You have formed friendships that will last your lifetime, experienced adventures you would not have dreamt in your wildest dreams. Life is beautiful and painful. Let's see what else is in store. 

With love,

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

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