Dear Teenage Michelle
Photo: Michelle Kay
Illustration: Erin McPhee
This series is inspired by Editorial Director Sheila Sampath’s book Letters Lived: Radical reflections, revolutionary paths.
Dear Teenage Michelle,
I hope you’ll find what I’m going to tell you in this letter to be helpful. It’ll take a few years and some hard lessons before they sink in, but I hope a bit of what I’m about to tell you will stick.
I’ll start with the most important thing: There is nothing wrong with you – there is nothing ugly about the way you look or the colour of your skin. There is nothing shameful about your family, where you came from, your humour, your interests.
Despite this deeply rooted and toxic belief, I repeat there really is nothing wrong with you. It will take time to realize this, but you have to try and understand that you are who you are and that is fine. Eventually you’ll shake off that bogus idea. It will be from sheer exhaustion and being fed up of trying to live up to impossible standards of perfection. Don’t waste your time listening to what messages the mainstream media is trying to tell you. Trust.
Unfortunately we live in a world that puts absurd demands on girls and women. I’m sad to say that some 15 years later, while some things have improved, we still have a lot of work to do in terms of creating a just world.
It doesn’t feel that way right now, but things work themselves out eventually. A writer named Junot Diaz, whose work you’ll discover and love later on, wrote, “If you wait long enough, everything changes.” He’s right. Good or bad, nothing stays the same. Try not to cling onto hurt and sadness so tightly. If you’re open and flexible, you’ll discover that life oscillates between positive and negative and you’ll meet wonderful people who will motivate you.
Also, you’ll find your fans. What I mean by this is that you’ll find people who love you for who you are, so try not to waste your time with those who don’t make you feel good about yourself. You have the energy and enthusiasm, so find and focus on what you care about. It’ll put you in contact with people who share your passions and create a strong supportive network. It will help you discover your strengths, creativity and find inspiration.
Finally, consider the idea of kindness. I don’t necessarily mean towards others. What I mean is kindness towards yourself. Having compassion for yourself is just as important as outward kindness. It’s this kindness for yourself translates into kindness towards others. It’s okay to mess up and be imperfect. It’s what makes you, you.