Dear 12-Year-old Nissa,
You are perfect just the way you are. It’s okay to be sensitive. Don’t let anyone tell you that there is something wrong with you because you feel things deeply. You may feel that you are a weak person because you cry a lot – on the contrary – your tears are your strength. You dare to be vulnerable and feel things fully and that’s what makes you special. You will not understand this now, but your ability to empathize and understand emotions will serve you well. It will fortify you in ways you are currently unaware of. Don’t worry about being seen as popular, pretty or smart. There is a reason you are the way you are. There is nothing wrong with you.
Popularity is overrated. Meaningful connections with people are underrated. You’re lucky to already know this at your age even if you haven’t yet developed the language to articulate it. Cultivate friendships that are genuine and not based on your desire to fit in. You will connect with great friends along the way who like you for you. Learn to accept your friends as they are just as they accept you for who you are. They will not always live up to your (too) high expectations. Give them room to be human but don’t let them take advantage of your easy going and sometimes passive nature. You will not always be the perfect friend. Always take responsibility for your wrongdoing but don’t spend years beating yourself up for being shitty. Good people can be shitty sometimes. Learn from your mistakes and aim to do better in future friendships. You will not have a lot of close friends but the ones you have will be incredible. Even if you don’t talk to them all the time, the connections will be so strong and deep that you will be able to call on them out of the blue and they will be there for you.
You may think you’re too ugly to live now but I promise you-you won’t always feel this way. Puberty is the devil and you’re currently in hell – but it gets better boo. Try not to attach so much of your self-worth to the way you look. You are more than your appearance…You are more than your appearance…You are more than your appearance. The braces are temporary and so are your pimples. You’re taller than all the boys now but that will change in a few years and one day you will look back in disgust at how much of your value you placed in the hands of your peers.’ I wish you didn’t hate your hair so much – but I understand where it comes from. I want you to know that your hair is beautiful just as it is. You don’t have to try to beat it into submission with relaxers and curling irons for it to be cute. I know you want to have hair like your white friends but it’s not gonna happen, girl. One day you will see the beauty in your natural hair texture and there will be so much information available to help you love it and take care of it in its natural state that you will never desire another person’s hair texture ever again…Don’t believe me? You wait and see. Love your blackness…Love your brown skin…Don’t let others (black, white, or other) dictate to you who you are based on their limited perceptions of you. You are a multi-dimensional girl with so many thoughts and opinions and interests. Most people won’t realize this about you until they get to know you. You will get better at speaking up for yourself. Try not to let your introverted nature govern your experiences. Push boundaries and get uncomfortable. You will realize that the more you put yourself out there the more confident you will feel and the more you allow yourself to experience things that will enrich your life. You will not see many girls who look like you in movies, TV, magazines or books. This doesn’t mean that girls who look like you aren’t beautiful. It means that society is tragically unevolved. It means that pop-culture and popular literature lacks nuance and believes in a very narrow standard of beauty and that only people who look a certain way have complex stories worthy of being told. Your understanding and definition of beauty will expand the older you get. You will still struggle with conforming to society’s accepted beauty standards as you get older, but you won’t be as tied to them as you are now. Be gentle with yourself. Self-love is a process. Be proud of your Guyanese heritage and learn as much as you can about it from your parents. You don’t appreciate it now but one day you will have a deep appreciation for your parent’s unapologetic love of their culture. Your rich cultural heritage is part of what makes you beautiful.
You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. It will take you a long time to accept this and you will struggle with this in other stages of your life but you will slowly start to realize that there are many forms of intelligence. Try not to compare yourself to others. Your journey is your own. It’s okay that you have to put in more effort to get an ‘A’ on a test than some of your classmates. It doesn’t mean you’re dumb. It just means you process information differently than they do. And just because you don’t get an ‘A’ or you struggle to pass math tests it doesn’t mean you are worthless. You’ll be fine – You will even go on to finish a Masters degree. One day you will stop giving so much weight to academic achievements because you will realize that they don’t define you or speak to the kind of intelligence you truly value. Formal education is a tool you use to give you more clarity and agency – It’s not what makes you great. You will discover that there are many dummies with Masters and PhD’s. Please continue to write in your journal. Continue to write your poems and don’t ever stop. Writing is your release. It’s how you best express yourself. You will realize later on in life how necessary it is for you to write your thoughts down.
Be soft. Be strong. Be happy. Be sad. Be angry. Be opinionated. Be quiet. Be loud. Allow yourself to just be. You are worthy of everything beautiful and great this life has to offer – but this life is also beautiful and great because you are in it.
Apologize to your body. Maybe that’s where the healing begins. ~Nayyirah Waheed…08 March 2018