Earlier this year, I sat down and wrote a letter to my future child. I am not expecting a child any time soon but this presumptuous and arguably crazy activity taught me much about love and hope.
I write this letter with the intention of giving it to you on your 16th birthday.
The year is 2012, I am 24-years-old, writing to you on a cold night in my room. I have been dating a wonderful man for the past five years, whom I hope with all my heart will be your adoring father. If so, by now you must know he has a heart of gold.
Currently, I myself am at crossroads professionally. I have mixed feelings about teaching but writing is my one big love. I really hope by the time you read this, you can recall one memorable piece of writing I’ve done; if not, push me to write one.
So, you must be asking yourself what the point of this letter is. It might sound silly, but I want to share with you an insight in my own youth and give you some pointers before I am a crazy, melodramatic mother. I can’t recall receiving any memorable motherly advice, so I will not copy my mother’s mistakes.
Before we get to teenage life, I want you to know one thing.
I love you. I haven’t seen you or met you or held you – but I love you. That will never change. Last year I went through an elongated depression over my fertility. I might struggle to conceive a child naturally, which frightens me so much. I have so much love and nurturing to give, so it is my utmost hope that you know how wanted you are. No matter how flawed I am or how damaged I am, I love you. You are a continuation of me – where I end, you will begin. Know that you are loved and don’t run into the arms of the first boy who shows you the slightest attention – trust me.
I have not had an easy life emotionally. I have been a foreigner, an outcast, someone perpetually melancholy. I have lived in a household where I have felt worthless. I have starved for my parents’ affection. As I get older, I realise how tortured they are themselves and I forgive them. As soon as you forgive, a new realm opens – a realm of healing and happiness. Forgiveness is magnanimous. I have come to realise they love me, no matter how they show it.
I am thankful for all they have given me, how they uprooted their lives and came to a strange new country, which has given me so much. If I didn’t migrate, I wouldn’t write, be as educated, know what I know, nor would I have met the love of my life.
So, my darling one, what lessons can I teach you?
Firstly, this is important – so remember this one. Never, ever compromise your vision or yourself to make men happy or comfortable. Men sadly come and go, while you are stuck with yourself for a lifetime. So, never sacrifice your grades, compromise your opinion, change your ambitions or base your worth on a man. Never compromise your identity.
Secondly, love yourself. You are an individual and not a sheep. Be proud and be the best version of yourself. Be tenacious, be determined and care for yourself.
Find the gift you can offer the world; for me, that is writing. It’s my tool. It helps me reflect, share and empower. I still remember the first poem I wrote in grade one. Find your passion: music, sport, art, science and so on and do it with love. ( I secretly hope you are more like me rather than your sport enthusiast father.)
Next, never stop learning. Man learns until he stops living. When you stop being inquisitive, you rust out. Knowledge leads to confidence and knowledge leads to power.
When it comes to friends, never befriend anyone you might consider ‘toxic’, meaning someone who constantly brings you down with their negativity, self-hate, self-pity and general bullshit. Don’t waste your time on people who don’t help themselves and blame the world for their problems. Seek friends who uplift you, encourage you to try your best and make you happy. Reflect to see if you do the same for them. Never try to compare to a friend or base your worth on their accomplishments.
At 16, you must be rampant and boy-crazy – I know I was. I wished for a grand love to sweep me away. I idealised teenage love. Sadly, boys between ages 16-21are selfish, horny clueless bastards… well, 90% of them. My current boyfriend wasn’t perfect when I met him. He put me through a lot of crap until we entered our relationship. That doesn’t mean you should pardon a man’s behaviour and wait for him to ‘change.’
Never date a boy who has 10 other girls after him. Never date a boy who talks to you in secret but doesn’t acknowledge you in public. Never date a boy with whom you can’t have a conversation for longer than 20 minutes, although the kissing might be fleetingly fun. Never, ever date a boy who doesn’t respect you for your mind – I’m sure he’ll love your body, though. Never date a boy who will criticize you, belittle you and make you feel less than you are. NEVER date a boy who will harm you physically or emotionally or verbally. All three types are abuse and if it happens once, it will happen again and again. Never be foolish enough to think you can ‘save’ or change a man. If he is troubled, while it might look chic now, it’s most likely he will remain troubled. Ten years later, you will be knocked up while he steals your money and wastes it on dog races. Troubled is not ‘cool’ or ‘mysterious.’ Never date a boy who doesn’t even offer to pay for a date and whose idea of a real date is ‘going for a drive.’ That pervert has one thing on his mind – don’t do it.
Never compromise your self or your better judgement to make a man happy (sex).
As clichéd as it sounds, if he loves you, he will wait. Sex will not make a man love you or stick by your side. It is a temporary euphoria. Wait as long as you can; there isn’t a reason to rush that is worth justifying. Try to wait for a boy who loves you and whom you love.
Date a man who will ask, “How are you feeling?” and stick around to listen to your response. Date a man who will support you unconditionally with whatever dream you may have, no matter how silly. Date a man who is ambitious, who has goals and a future. Date a man who is self-assured and knows himself. Date a man who treats his mother with respect.
When a relationship works, you feel it. It is effortless and it fits. When a relationship works, you are happy. If it isn’t working, don’t be afraid to be alone. Be alone, instead of being with someone who doesn’t make you happy. Solitude can be empowering. It makes you brave.
That was enough about boys. Never lose yourself in them, although it can be hard at times. Always be aware of where you come from. Be proud of your heritage. It’s your identity – it’s a part of your story. I came to this country, age 10, not speaking a word of English, and don’t forget my roots. Learn Macedonian, learn about Macedonia. Ask your grandparents to tell you some folk stories; they would enjoy that.
Be proud, yet try not to listen to your ego. It’s a false wall we all put up. Be compassionate – there is suffering all around us and we can help. Be an idealist, that’s what youth is for. Think you can change the world because you can. Every little action counts. If there is a cause you believe in raise awareness, tell people, fundraise and change our actions. Never be oblivious to the world around you, it is beautiful and flawed but it is our home.
Read! Ask me for suggestions. Reading is a portal to another dimension and a step closer to enlightenment. From reading, we learn, we grow and we understand humanity and our past. Never be ashamed to admit you read.
And finally… love your parents, ha ha. I long to meet you and watch you grow. I want you to be my very own Minerva (Roman goddess of wisdom). It’s kind of crazy writing to a person who doesn’t yet exist and I hope this isn’t overly presumptuous. I hope and pray I do have a beautiful child.
By reading this, know that I am currently writing to you as more of a friend than protective mother.
I don’t know your name but I love you.