LETTER TO MY 16 YEAR OLD SELF


Dear 16 year old Kevin,

It saddens me to think of you with the anxiety of any 16 year old trying to find themself, made a thousand times harder because who you are has been shaped by racism. It has become part of you. It runs so deep that you will learn to split your personality to fit in, be normal, be acceptable, be white. 

I wish I could tell you that racism, the unpicking of it and putting yourself back together, understanding it and healing from it, will be painful but ultimately rewarding work. Work that you will come to love. 

I wish I could tell you that dyslexia doesn’t make you stupid and that your mediocre exam results won’t matter. That much what you were taught was perception, not truth. That you weren’t taught much of what you needed to know to face the world with genuine confidence, and that ‘front’ you showed was not of your making. 

I wish I could tell you that being all of yourself is okay, that being black is okay, really okay. Not just because you’ve heard it said and because you were told that’s how you should feel. But because you understood the truth of it and the truth in it: that we are all the same. That we are all human, even though sometimes we can be inhumane.

That it all turns out okay and that I wouldn’t have done it any differently.

I wish I could tell you that you are ready for it all and that most of the battle for happiness and contentment is learning to love yourself and trusting your instincts. Trite as it sounds, it’s true.

I know, from watching Back to the Future, that tampering with my past would risk changing the present. So, I wouldn’t tell you any of this for fear of it taking you down a different path. But I do wish that somehow I could be there to ease the pain, just a little. 

Without you, there would be no me. Thank you for your resilience, for being a dreamer, for staying optimistic and for believing the world might be better one day, even though you didn’t know when and how. This resilience and dreaming have stayed with me. So, thank you. Keep dreaming.