Dear 20 year old me,
You see we’re tuning 36 (!!!) and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the past decade and half, attempting in my own way to make some sense of it all.
I’m currently sitting in our two bedroom apartment in Douala (yes, we made it — and I can probably imagine what you might be doing… surfing the internet especially Hi5 in search of friends or school for courses and scholarships? Ditching courses to travel to Douala? You’ve just turned 20. You’re living in Molyko Buea a final year university student with great prospects yet you almost rushed into marriage with a man you barely knew because you felt it was the obvious way out and boy your ticket to the USA! You’ve made some huge mistakes and will still make them, most stemming from your own lack of self worth and uncertainty about who you are but you’ll move on, fast. I know that there’s little point in me telling you what to think or do differently, because I have come to know the mercy and grace of God which is able to renew all things and I know He has been faithful even in your mistakes. But am going to do so anyways: You are still young, consider pursuing your education some more, it will Come in handy a few years from now. Jobs will be available more for those who went further than a bachelor's degree.
Read more literature. Not just mill and boons and all the romantic stuff. It's good because you learnt a lot when it comes to English and grammar but you need to educate yourself by reading widely. You don’t have to choose between your head and your heart, your intelligence and your intuition. Use both.
Keep exploring this creative, passionate, energetic and eclectic side of your personality — somedays you will feel so alone and so different but I’m cheering you on from here, okay? I know how much you can’t stand the skin you’re in — your not so flat belly, tiny breasts,chubby cheeks, hairy body, large tighs… The thing is you aren't slim and smooth as many of your mates are and It hurts my heart to think about how much time and energy you spend obsessing over and hating on your body. The hatred for food, the laxatives, vomiting and wrapping it all up in a lie of “involuntary anorexia !” when it’s really all about bringing that number on the scales down, down, down. Soon you’ll realise that this doesn't really matter!
Put a stop the relationships with older or married men.You will soon realize also that the void created by the loss of your father you have been trying so hard to fill with these relationships could only be filled by God himself and when He does you will find peace. You’re funny and clever and lovely with or without men! Embrace the part of yourself that is a little quieter than the rest of the room, a little softer, a little more introverted. I know you think these qualities point to your lack of conviction but it turns out that quiet confidence is actually quite attractive. Just. Be. You. Keep pressing on, you are going to enter a phase of depression which you won't be able to explain but that is when you will discover that you need to take better care of yourself — physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Its not going to be an easy journey to self discovery but for every mistake, Forgive yourself, forgive yourself, forgive yourself, forgive others. Keep doing that. You’re going to do things that you thought you’d never do. Some will suck, life is going to crumble, shatter, implode in a cluster of pain and sadness and grief and you’ll be forced to do the work on yourself that you’ll avoid for the next few years.…Some of these will be amazing, like following your intuition and inner witness and choosing to forgo a comfortable life abroad to dedicate yourself the service of God. It will prove to be the best decision you ever made. Many things about who you will become in your 30’s will be birth here.
Things are good at 35 going on 36! I have figured out for the most part the “career thing”. It turns out that there are far more pathways to choose from (or create) than we ever saw growing up. What I’m doing is what I love, mostly. The repetitive query of “what am I doing with my life?” is going to create endless turmoil for you over the next few years and I wish I could take it away from you but Just keep being committed to what you are doing, keep studying, being curious about who you are. I know there are things that you think you should be doing, but seriously, let them go. Let other people do their thing and you do yours. Others will want the house and the big car and the kids and the salary and… you won’t. At least not yet. The world is going to change so much over the next ten to fifteen years. What else can I tell you about being 36? You love people and want to help them in whatever way you can. that dream you’re secretly harbouring about writing a book, running an organization that help others feel good and value themselves, feels like its actually happening…
Being a woman is really amazing. Your skin clears up and your body morphs and shapes up. Self doubt comes and goes but we’ve got a better handle on it; trusting God and yourself is key.
Romantic relationships don’t seem to get any easier but the one you’re in now is GREAT. You have your ups and downs, doubts and desires but he’s patient and kind and loving and willing. You’ll learn that running away doesn’t cultivate growth in a relationship and that the relationship you have with yourself is EVERYTHING. I’m sure that in a few years I’ll be able to write a letter to my 40-45year-old self that’s not terribly different from the one I’ve written here. I’ll probably look back on myself at 20,30 and be amazed at how naive I was and how little I knew. But that’s okay. Now that I have a sense of who I am and how much I have yet to learn, hopefully the lessons will be a little easier to swallow.
If I could wrap all of this up it will go thus: give less thought about what other people think and continue to pursue the things that you love and bring you to life. Take note of what those things are and follow them with diligence because my darling, another thing we’re slowly realising is that our time is indeed finite. We do get older and I have nothing g against growing old gracefully after all age to me is in the mind. So be kind, kind, kind, kind. Kindness towards yourself and those around you.
You are extraordinary and I love you. Leila K