Dear Little Chetha,
It’s you from the future. I just wanted to let you know that life is good. It’s not always rainbows and sparkles, but it’s good. I’m happy – even though the thought of university makes me stressed, and it always feels like I’m running out of time – I’m happy despite it all.
Nowadays I say yes to spontaneous activities because I know life will never feel as free and liberating as it does right now. I make mistakes but it’s okay, because I try to grow from them – it’s not always easy, but it’s been working so far.
I still hold onto our friendships from home but I now understand that sometimes people grow up and apart. I love every new person I meet here, which isn’t surprising because you and I always fell in love with strangers. Every day I wake up and learn something new. I am learning how to be an adult and how to be a better person. I make an effort to be good and kind. I’m discovering my true self and it’s really fun. You would love to see it.
I try not to worry about the little things, remembering that embarrassment is merely a social construct. Still, sometimes those self-critical voices in my head get a little too loud and it gets hard to ignore them.
I’m still anxious about the future, even though our Buddhist background taught us to be present; I’m always trying to plan ahead. That used to be the only way you knew how to get work done, to complete all of it a few days early. Do not procrastinate. Reward yourself only after all the hard work is done.
Now I’m realising that maybe that only worked when I had the safety and stability of being at home with that clean and strict routine of being at school for six and a half hours and coming home just to be taken care of. I take care of myself now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
I just wish you, my younger self, knew that you didn’t always have to know the right answers. Remember what Mum always says, “you never know what will happen tomorrow”. Why do you still feel uneasy about your career? If you believed that, why did you always feel uneasy about the future?
Maybe it’s because no one ever told you that growing up is tough, or maybe they did and you didn’t believe them. You didn’t know if there would be a safety net waiting for you when you fell down the rabbit hole. You could never think past getting into university, and now that you’re here you still don’t know what’ll happen once you get your degree. But now I know it is okay not to know. You don’t know that life is a cycle of trial and error, but I do.
I love you, my younger self, but sometimes I think you may have conditioned me to be an over-ambitious perfectionist. You made me dream big and want to change the world and, while a part of me still wants those things, I’m worried that if I fail I will be disappointing all the people counting on me. That seems unfair, right? To have the burden of the expectations of everyone I care about and love.
You still have lots of dreams, but the pathway just seems a bit unclear. I think that’s what scares me: the unknown and the lack of clarity. To dream as big as I have is a scary thing. That irresistible drive to achieve every dream you ever dared to have is what’s driving me to keep going now.
I wish you had learnt not to compare yourself to others at a younger age. I would tell you, “you don’t have to be doing the most all the time and that you’re allowed to take things slow and go at your own pace”. I know it’s easier said than done, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
The thing is, I keep comparing myself to you too. I keep thinking about how productive you are compared to me now. I’m fearful of losing motivation and of giving up. I don’t want to disappoint you, little Chetha, but I don’t want to be exhausted either. I am trying to maintain that balance but it feels like walking on a tightrope. If I concentrate on moving one foot in front of the other, I know I’ll be okay.
Life is uncertain and dreams are expensive. But I wanted to tell you that I now know it’s okay to change plans. I know that I’m worth more than the grade I get on an assignment. I know that I can make decisions and pursue my dreams at my own pace. I don’t want you to be worried about me, I promise I’ll be someone you’re proud of.
Lots of love, always and forever,
Chetha (from today) xx
PS. When overwhelmed, listen to the lyrics of this song. I think you’d appreciate it.
Originally published in Woroni Vol. 72 Issue 2 ‘To Be Confirmed’
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