My dear vava,
At the time that I write this letter to you, I’m 26. The world around me asks why I haven’t given birth yet. I should have had you by now, they say. This is unfortunately the world that I live in today – one that tells me what to do and what not to. I hope will be better by the time you are here, but if not, I hope this letter will come in handy as a cheat sheet to brave this world.
I do not intend to scare you, but I do want to tell you what reality is really like and prepare you for the world that lies ahead of you. I want to tell you about the hopes I have about being a loving, supportive and nurturing parent to you and I want to make promises to you that I intend to keep till my very last breath.
Everyone tells me what to do, vava. People always seem to think that they know what is best for me and they make it a point that I know it. “Oh, you should shed a few kilos from your hip”. “Oh, you should be getting married by now”. “Oh, you can’t be so ambitious. Who’ll look after your husband and kids?”
Early on in my life, I believed that they knew what is best for me. But their advice was often against what I believed my life was supposed to look like. This made me question myself a lot, and worse, I started to despise myself for being chubby, unmarried and ambitious. Much later, I unlearned these and realised that I’m perfect just the way I am and that I belong in this world even if I did not fit into what society expects me to be. It is my hope that you will be able to step out into this world, fully owning yourself, without an iota of doubt about who you are and whether you belong. I promise to make you feel every day that you’re beautiful and deserving of every bit of love and respect.
Believe in yourself
Growing up, I always felt different. I was more outspoken and ambitious than most people. I chased my dreams and dared to stick out because I truly enjoyed owning myself. This did not come easy, though. Each time I told my mum that I wanted to be this and that, she shot me down. She told me I did not have it in me to do what I want to do. Although years later she changed, I had internalised her voice far too much by then. It took me years to prove to myself that I can do anything that I set my mind to. It is my hope that you will always believe in yourself and your capabilities, no matter what the world tells you. I promise to make sure to tell you that you can be anything you want to be. That the recipe for success lies in your self-belief and hard work. That it is the mark of a strong woman to be able to hold her own when the world tries to knock her down.
As I look back, I see one thing that always held me in good stead even through moments of doubt, fear and loneliness. These are my values of authenticity, courage and empathy. The ability to be brutally honest with me and to wear my personality on my sleeve is what I think authenticity is. The guts to live my life the way I want to, the guts to believe in myself and face all my fears and pain is what courage is to me. And finally, being able to understand what your fellow beings must be going through to find common ground in our shared experiences and to be compassionate to them is what I consider empathy. I have made it a point to live a life of values and it has always shown me what to do. It is my hope that you will discover your core values and be able to use them as your inner guiding compass to navigate life. It is my promise to help shape these without coercion so that you may truly discover your own unique self.
Stay true to yourself
Mind you, a life of principles doesn’t come easy. When you live true to yourself, you will be met with disrespect, challenges and opposition. I have had to walk out of relationships, workplaces and friendships that did not sit well with the person I want to be. Should you be like me, know that this will cause an enormous amount of pain in you and it will be your fate to look that pain in the eye and make peace with it. It is my hope that you will willingly choose what pain you endure – the one that comes from being true to yourself or the one that comes from living a life that others dictate. I promise to not bullshit you when you’re caught up in your dilemmas and to compassionately support you as you make choices that serve you.
Finally, I hope that the world you will be born into will be far better than mine. Believe me, we are all working hard to make this place more human and hospitable. I promise to do my bit to make it better for you and I hope that you will grow up to do YOUR BIT to make it better than you found it for your daughter to come.
Can’t wait to meet you soon, learn from you and grow with you.
PS: I was inspired to write this by the BBC initiative – https://www.bbc.co.uk/send/u88700662