Today is my 25th birthday. I thought about marking it on my blog with a letter to my younger self. I wrote a letter to her a couple of years ago and it was really therapeutic, and so much has happened in the years since I was sure the letter would be really wise and deep and stuff. The only problem is that my life right now is a colourful mess. A glorious, colourful, at times painful, but ultimately exciting mess. I can’t make head or tail of it for my 25 year old self, let alone for a younger version, so I left the letter idea alone.
It’s weird looking back and trying to make sense of the progress that you’ve made, wondering if you’ve made any progress at all because the path has turned into a maze and there are no signposts in this part of town. While I’m excited about turning 25, I feel like a small child in some ways waiting for someone to explain all this to me. All the answers I was so sure of at 21 or 22 have melted away in the harsh glare of life.
This was my mental state when my 14 year old sister (in law) handed me her phone one night and told me to read the group conversation she was in. Out of nowhere one of the girls in the conversation announced that she didn’t like my sister: "I’m just being real yeah, I just don’t like you." Immediately a boy chimed in "OMDZZ, (endless emoji’s) I respect you though, cos I don’t like her either, just being real (100% emoji)." These two went back and forth about all the reasons why they didn’t like my sister, punctuated by the occasional "Oh my gosh, you guys are too raw!" or something similar from other participants in the group, but no one directly called either of them out or stuck up for my sister.
I was having flashbacks to secondary school: I was angry, I was hurting for my sister and I was wondering “what the hell can I say to make her realise that this doesn’t matter?” I just didn’t have the words, so I gave her back the phone and I said something along the lines of “they’re dumb and cowardly, don’t worry about it, they don’t matter”. I sat in the car in silence for the rest of the journey trying to come up with something a bit more substantial.
When we got home I finally worked out what I wanted to say, and what I wished someone had said to me when I was in similar situations in school. I told her that she was talented and confident and some people can’t handle that. I told her that right now it would hurt but in a few years she’d look back and she’d understand that some people can’t feel good about themselves without tearing others down. I told her that one day she would understand that to be extraordinary in life was a challenge to everyone else who was happy with being mediocre, and that she should never let anyone else try and intimidate her out of being great. I told her that it was all part and parcel of the road to greatness, but that she was destined to be amazing. She grinned at me wildly and went to bed.
My sister had just completed a two week programme called Junior Apprenticeship, modelled on the Donald Trump/Alan Sugar TV show. The group conversation was her team. One by one everyone had been fired until my sister and just one other contestant were left. My sister came second and won money and other prizes, everyone else in her group didn’t chart on the scale. I’m proud of her, but I’m not surprised. She’s fourteen years old and stays winning.
During the course of the programme one of her ideas was to design and sell t-shirts. She told my mother-in-law that she decided to do it because a couple years ago I tried my hand at designing and selling t-shirts. For me the results were mixed, but for her it was all part of her winning formula. After our little conversation I remembered this and immediately stopped regretting my previous foray into streetwear. If it inspired her and helped her succeed in her programme then it was all worth it. I also realised that as I gave her that pep talk I was also talking to myself, my sixteen year old self and the woman as I am now.
I write a letter to my younger self every second I spend talking to my younger sister. All the pain, drama and mistakes now make sense when I’m able to guide, advise and support her through her stuff. And the child-like Jendella that sits inside this 25-year-old Jendella, confused, sometimes scared and still trying to make sense of the colourful mess around her, she really needs to know that: "One day, you’ll look back and it will all make sense, I promise you."
Jendella (then known as Diamond-Eyez lol) at 15 years old.