A letter to the younger me

Dear Me

You are such a blossoming young teenager full of hope and promise. You came to this world with a purpose in life, and you are set to fulfill that purpose with grace, courage and tenacity. Circumstances and conditions are right for you to thrive as a human being with the capacity to achieve ultimate realization, and though you were not born with a silver spoon, you are blessed enough to be born as a middle class kid with parents that place emphasis on education. As a child, your mother reads to you all the time, constantly feed you with the excitement of knowledge acquisition, and the curiosity of knowing the world. You grew up with Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. Their stories form a big part of an ideal fantasy world for a young passionate girl full of wonders and dreams.

At the tender age of 16, you start to question authority and challenge the status quo. You have lots of fun with new found soulmates in high school. You would keep in touch with them for the rest of your life. You would go on many solo trips to discover life beyond your small hometown, and find joy from prolonged independence and solitude. You harbour hopes and aspirations to make this world a better place. You are angry with how injustice and discrimination take place in a world that you have always thought to be nice. Then you are suddenly exposed to the world of LGBT the first time in your life. It shook you up completely - in a positive way! The LGBT narratives and struggles would later form a significant part of your life. Your life is starting to be nuanced and interesting, but you are ignorant about the challenges that are ensuing.

Then something happen. You fail two scholarship applications consecutively within a span of two years, and you are exasperated. You think the world is unfair, and yes, it is indeed unfair. You would pursue a less desired path - studying in a local public university, which is arguably the best in the country, but not the place where you want to be. You look to your friends who land overseas with envy and jealousy, and ask yourself why you are not endowed with the same opportunity, albeit trying your very best.

Of course, you choose the conventional path of studying in a university, landing on jobs, studying again, every now and then, pushing your boundaries. You eventually venture overseas, and at one point, land on a prestigious university. That would be a high point in your life, you would feel as someone worthy of confidence, intellect and opportunity again, but you would also reach a life stage where you would mellow down and such high point may not have impacted you as much as compared to a younger you.

But I want you to consider rewriting your life story.....And constructing a story with a braver version of yourself, a more compassionate, resilient and creative versions of yourself....

Here's something for your consideration.

You can afford to fail multiple times. Failing scholarship applications twice is really nothing. Let me repeat, NOTHING AT ALL! Cry if you want to for therapeutic purposes. But every time after you wipe away your tears, give yourself a hug and a pat on your shoulders, smile at yourself and give yourself permission to rise again. Failures are not the end of the world, and while it is okay to cry, you should not be depressed about it. In fact, failure is good for your growth. And failure should be embraced. It makes you stronger, and makes you tougher. Failing something simply means that you have to try other alternatives, and try with more creativity rather than keep banging your head against the wall.

Also, you do not have to conform to what the mainstream society is telling you to pursue. You do not have to conform to a notion that bright students should be pursuing certain majors in their life just because if they do not, it is a waste of their talents. These are noises, you have to differentiate them with what your heart is telling you to pursue. Of course a little bit of research helps. Do not be afraid to ask, and do not be afraid to talk to someone older than you, whom you aspire to become. Reach out to them for mentorship and guidance. Do not be afraid to ask and try. What is the worst thing that could happen? Rejection. That's it! Nothing worse than that. And you can take rejections.

Be exceptionally courageous and resilient. Don't let someone put you down and tell you that you cannot do something in life just because you are not equipped with certain qualities or conditions. Prove them wrong. You can be anybody that you want to be, given that you put in the right effort. You can become a successful writer like Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the epic "Eat, Pray, Love", if you want to; you can become a health expert and advocate like Paul Farmer who devote his life to improving the health of rural African communities if you want to; you can also found a movement or society like BERSIH in Malaysia if you want to; you can travel across the world if you want to; you can become as great as the spiritual scholar monk like Bikkhu Bodhi or Pema Chodron  or Ajahn Sucitto if you want to - YOU CAN BE ANYBODY YOU WANT TO BE. You have the capacity to do great things and change lives if you want to. Maybe someone has never told you this, but talents are not given, talents can be built and cultivated (thanks to Carol Dweck's life changing work - the growth mindset!). You need not be afraid. Be very open to ideas and failures, and be as malleable as you can. Go do cross-disciplinary studies, go do hiking and yoga, go start a society or project in other countries. But each time when you do something, you do it with an open heart and open mind, and you give your very best.

And you can also be a thoughtful daughter and a compassionate sister. Do not let the childhood undesirable memories be an obstacle to showing love and care to your parents and siblings. Show them that you care about them. Call them always, and have many long talks. Do activities together. And on top of that, be emotionally independent. Do not expect returns, do not. Showing love and care is supposed to be unconditional.

On top of that, compromise at times if you can. Compromise because life is not perfect, life is essentially full of dukkha. Compromise means having lighter burden and happier emotional state, without having to forgo your aspirations.

Perhaps, if it is not too late for you, consider reversing some of your trajectories? A beautiful, noble and fruitful life still awaits.

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