Have you ever wondered how your life would have turned out if you could write to your younger self about things they would encounter, and events they would experience at a certain age? I have dreamed about it a few times, and instead of erasing the thoughts and memories, I decided to write them in letter form. This is the first letter that I wrote to myself back in 2013 and begins the series: Letters to My Younger Self.
1990 (younger self is 5 years of age)
My name is the same as yours, though we are no longer anything alike. When you read this, you will be four years old, getting ready to celebrate your fifth year in this world. I want you to know that whatever happens in the coming days, things will be all right. Though you will be among strangers of different skin, of different tongue, and of different culture, you will be safe among them. You will find your home away from home among the sick and the healing. Your second home will be in a hospital, and your first friends will be the friends of your parents, and they will treat as if you were their own.
The coming days will be scary and exciting. You will get a chance to ride the biggest airplane you will ever see, and you will reach the clouds and feel as if you could really touch the sun. The food in the air will be strange, but I promise you, once your feet touch the ground again, you will be welcomed with food that you are familiar with. Yes, there will be pain from within, and you will hurt immensely, but the loneliness will pass. You will learn about fear and hate all at once, and you will turn it all against the one person who loves you, because you will not understand why that person took you away from everything and everyone you know and love. That person will take you to a place that will not understand that your unique differences are not something to destroy but something to grow on.
You are probably asking who this person is, but I know that deep down you already know who it is. I’m writing you now to give you a little insight on what you will bear witness to at your young age, and I want you to know that it will truly be okay. You will learn what true hatred is, what it really means to feel pain, but most importantly, you will learn how to be alone. I want to you to pay attention, as this may lead to another future; for better or for worse.
My primary advice is simple: Don’t read the dictionary that’s given to you. Let it be something to turn to when you don’t know the answer to something. Don’t let it be your teacher to the English language. It will separate you from the rest of the class when you start school, and the kids will automatically pick on you. Do not argue with the teacher when she says the vowels as “aye, ee, eye, ou, you.” It is insulting if you try to correct her by saying the vowels the way you were originally taught: “Ah, eh, ee, oh, ooo.” Also, the letter Y is – at times – considered a vowel. Accept it as fact, and you won’t get in trouble.
They don’t use a tabo in America. Learn how to wipe, so the kids at the daycare won’t laugh and point their fingers at you, because you tried to clean yourself without the nanny’s help. Your parents won’t get mad at you about previously mentioned situation, but the laughter of the kids will haunt you for a while. Thinking about the nanny; she is a joke. If anything, listen to the nanny’s daughter and nephew. They are the ones who are really taking care of you, and they are the ones who are on your side.
There’s also nothing scary about the basement. I know the stairs creak, and it’s dark until you get to the switch at the bottom of the stairs, but honestly, there’s nothing to be scared of. The only time you should be scared of the basement is when you get that crazy cat, Sweety. He’s not so sweet when he’s hiding under the stairs and makes a grab for your feet as you’re heading down to see him.
Now that I’ve started on the topic of pets, I want you to heed my next words: Do not ask for any pets until you’re thirteen!
Here’s a brief recap of what’s going to happen to your pets in the future I know: Sweety is a devil’s cat, and the family ends up giving him to a family friend. You will find a baby Robin at the base of the Dogwood tree, and you will also find a snake that’s trying to eat the baby Robin. You will save the baby Robin and feed it and nurse it until mommy Robin is seen flying around the Dogwood tree, frantically looking for her baby. You will set baby Robin back at the base of the Dogwood tree, and it will seem like the baby Robin and mommy Robin live happily ever after. The truth is that a month or so after you return the baby Robin to the base of the tree; you will find little bones hidden in the grass. You won’t realize it then, but those are the baby Robin’s bones. As much as you beg for a horse, you will never get one. You will get to ride them, but after a while, you’ll learn that your parents are right and that the responsibilities of having a horse are way too much for you. When your dad introduces you to Tim and Sally, and they ask if you want to pick a puppy – and they will ask you, not your dad – IMMEDIATELY choose the big, fluffy one. This is the one pet that I will not let you miss out on.
Polgas Apo will be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you in your childhood. He will fill the void that will come and knock you to the ground. However, I will warn you. You best take better care of him than I did. Don’t let anyone else take full responsibility of him. You stick to your promise of feeding him, walking him, cleaning him, and playing with him. Because in the end, he will be the sibling you never had, and he will protect you from everything and everyone.
Moving on to school before I get all emotional over Pol…. That kid Adam, who asks you if you’re Chinese, is going to be a good friend to you. Don’t laugh at him or give him a snooty answer. He’s a really smart guy in the long haul. That redheaded kid who keeps eyeing you… stay clear of him. He’s going to show you what racism is, and it’s going to hurt. For every kid who approaches you with a cautious look, smile at them and introduce yourself. Don’t wait for them to say their name. Beat them to the punch, and once you do, they’ll open up and smile back, and they’ll be good company for you as you grow up.
Enjoy Mrs. Gilley’s company. (She’s your first grade teacher.) She’s going to challenge you in reading. Don’t give up on Oliver Twist. You’ll understand the novel soon enough. She gave it to you to read because you reminded her of him: A child lost in a strange world that learns to adapt and adopt the ways taught to him/her; only to discover his/her true self identity after suffering pain and more loss. Mrs. Rounge (your second grade teacher) will show you how to enjoy math, even though it won’t be until you meet Mrs. Knick in high school that you’ll open up to the subject. Mrs. Smith is going to be your best friend when it comes to teachers. She’s going to open up a whole new world for you through books and writing. Absorb everything you can from her, because she will be the one to light the fuse inside of you; the spark in your creative mind.
This next topic will be a hard one. I hope I can get through it without crying. You have never faced this before, but you will never be able to get away from it once you’ve known it. I am so sorry that you have to meet this demon at such a young age, but I promise you, you will be stronger than it will ever be. Your first taste of racism will be at Splash Country USA.
You will be pinched by some random boy on the left arm until it bleeds, and you crawl the wrong way out of the tunnels to show your mom and dad, and the other adults around the park will pay no mind to you or your angry mom. When your mom tells you to go back in the tunnels, you will have your right arm pinched by the same boy until it bleeds and you will again crawl the wrong way out of the tunnels and show your parents. Before you crawl back out of those tunnels, I want you to look at that boy and memorize his face, his eyes, and his swimming trunks. When security comes to ask why your mom’s yelling, I want you look for that boy and scream at the top of your lungs that he pinched you twice and made you bleed. When you mom tells you to fight when someone hurts you, engrave those words in your head and heart and never let it go.
You will face many racist people in your coming years, and you will be left battered and bruised. The racist people will do this to you, because you are different. Your skin is not like theirs, your eyes are shaped wrong, your hair is too black, you’re too short, you can speak two languages, your parents work at the hospital, you’re a “latch key kid,” and though many people will see what is done to you, only a few will come to your help. You will need to collect your strength and stand firm against those who push you, spit at you, and hurt you. It will seem as if you are alone in doing this, and for the most part, you will be alone. I want you – no, I need you – to stand as tall as you can with your head high and fight back, not with your fists or with pencils but with your words. Tell a teacher, tell the principal; don’t just tell your parents, because the school teachers need to hear it from you, their student, because while you’re in their classroom, they are responsible for you.
It breaks my heart to tell you that you will grow up so fast because of racism. Just know that in the future there will be people standing by your side when you face some of the situations. Last thing to remember, don’t freak out the first time you see snow (the white stuff that falls from the sky and sticks to the ground), and don’t eat the snow that’s shoveled from the street and driveway! There’s oil, gas, and gross stuff mixed in with the snow. Only eat snow when it’s the second fall of the season, and please! Wear the thick gloves, even if you can’t move your fingers in them. It’ll keep you from getting near frost bite!
© GMDG 2013