Dear teen Zehra
Dear teen Zehra,
I can’t imagine being in your shoes again, and I definitely don’t ever want to have to make the choices you will have to, again. Looking back at things that I would have liked the opportunity to make informed decisions on, there are numerous things that I would have liked to have known in my teen years. So here goes.
Listen to your gut. Trust those uneasy feelings and your body, it’s your best friend and has only your best interest in mind.
Hang out with nanny (grandma) as much as possible. Visit her, take her out, spend time with her, ask her questions, record her talking, cooking, eating, walking, everything. Laugh with her, take her advice, ask her what she thinks of everything (even if it’s offensive). She is the most precious human being that you will ever know. She is your past, present and future, she holds you and builds your history. She is home. Take out even one day a week, get her used to seeing you at the same time because when she hits 80, you are going to wish you didn’t wait so long to connect with her. Every. Single. Minute. Counts.
Your body is beautiful. Honour, love and cherish everything about it. Screw what your parents, friends and strangers are telling you about it and what they are projecting onto it, know that you are a magnificent heir to flat bottoms, round hips, large tummies, tiny breasts, hairy everything, stretch marks galore and the most perfect deep brown skin. Skin that was gifted to you by the sun, brought up by the gods and protected by the most loving of ancestors.
Start reading Audre Lorde, Vijay Prashad, bell hooks, Katherine McKittrick, Angela Davis, Shani Mootoo, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarahinsa, Gloria Anzuldua and start going to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore before it’s gone - you will end up there eventually.
Mom is the key to life. She is, literally, everything. I know right now she seems like a menace to your freedom, love, sex and relationships, but everything she does, she does to protect and love you. When it comes to her, her intention matters. Put yourself in her shoes for a second, think about her relationship with dad and how your actions adds to the harm that could come to her because of choices you are making. She is hurting and surviving in ways you couldn’t imagine. Support her in being strong. She literally lives for you. She is a force to be reckoned with that you should start learning from now. She also wants to learn from you too, share your life with her.
Your sisters, yes, your younger sisters, will be/are your greatest teachers. Start building something solid with them, get over yourself, your ego, your big sister complexes and your resentment and channel that energy into supporting them to thrive. You will leave for university and come back to grown up women who don’t need you anymore. Be someone that they want to share their worlds with, not the overbearing, jerk-face older sister who they can’t connect with. They will literally save your life on many occasions and will always be the people you fall back on when “friends” leave you behind.
Don’t stop playing music. Hold onto that love you have for playing the saxophone, piano and other instruments. Join a band, challenge yourself, don’t get caught up in “being cool.” The “cool” kids in high school aren’t going to be “cool” for very long. Apologize to the ones you consider your enemy. Those people that hurt you, speak to them kindly and wish them all the goodness that this life has to offer. Holding that bad/negative energy is and will be harmful to you, it will lead to you always wanting to please people instead of taking care of yourself. You deserve better.
Remember that you were gifted this abundance (our body and fighting spirit), you were gifted the opportunity to think outside of colonial confines, fight and maintain the resilience of your ancestors. They made it possible for you to start to (un)learn what colonialism did to us, for you to connect with our traditional practices, land, home, our people and everything that was once named as savage, ugly, obscene and backwards.
Don’t be afraid of your power, and do what you do best, bring people together and watch the magic happen.
Be kind to yourself, take time to develop a healing and spiritual practice and prepare yourself for the Whiteness of the world that exists beyond your Scarborough bubble in the most jarring, terrifying ways. Know that the anger, sadness and horror you feel is warranted, but think twice about conveniently forgetting that you weren’t always as hardcore as you will think you are. Humble yourself. Remind yourself that you are only a small drop in a huge ocean of people who came before you and have laid the seeds that you are sowing now. You are exactly where you were meant to be and doing exactly what you were meant to be doing. Thrive, flourish, resist and hold on.
While this isn’t all I could offer you - I also don’t want to say too much more that would change the path we took, the lessons we learned or the mistakes we made. I wouldn’t have all of this to share with you if we didn’t do all those things. Where you will end up is a magical place, with a lot of pain and sadness, but even more happiness, sweetness, endless love and strength. You have so much coming, and so much to look forward to. Until then…
Love, Zehra from 2014