A Letter to My Younger Self

A Letter to My Younger Self

This essay was originally published by Irene Karthik on her blog.

The words that I have longed, long to hear from people I have loved, love, and will love:

“I see you. I care about you. I’m here for you.”

I chanced upon an old picture of myself at four years old. The initial thought that loudly exclaimed in my head was, “Oh my goodness, that’s so me!”

I could still identify with the child who stood looking somewhat lost, their expression revealing a mixture of confusion and curiosity. I have faint memories of that day as a flower girl at my uncle’s marriage. I remember that the dress I wore was pink. I have faint memories of walking into the church.

The girl was looking for comfort in an utterly busy scene—the part where the photos were being taken in the studio. I looked at the photo and wondered what was going on in her tiny mind. How did she want to be comforted? How did she make sense of the unfolding life? My father doesn’t have many memories of how I was as a child. I knew that while my intentions were noble, I was a brat before I got quieter. There was a time when I tried to sell a lamp to buy a gift for my parents. I had an entrepreneurial phase where I imagined running a local library of comics from my grandmother’s one-room house. I’d like to think I was a free spirit before I got quieter and shy.

As I looked at the photograph, I sighed, knowing the little girl then and the woman today are somewhere waiting to meet each other—the girl wanting comfort that life turned out well, and the woman wanting to tell her that indeed, it is better than what she imagined. As I write this, I am asking myself if it sounds frivolous to have spent years trying to send comfort and warmth to this little one. I guess it is not.

Dear Tiny Me,

Today, I see you more clearly than ever before. I thank you for navigating life with the wisdom your young mind could muster during your younger years. Thank you for finding joy in the tiniest of things, even when the world seemed bleak. I will be forever grateful that you tried to flourish amidst scarcity and honoured your quietness as a gift. That quietness has helped me see more deeply. Thank you for embracing the weirdness within you and having fun imagining that you could dim the sun with the blink of your eye. I had lost that superpower for a while, but as I chase the shadows and try to dim the sun with my dreamy eyes, I think of you and smile.

Your fascination with shadows is miraculously still alive, captured in the countless photographs lying in my phone’s storage. The comics and books that kept you awake are still a large part of your life. Thank you for trying to hold tight to compassion and love during the difficult times.

The world you entered was a dance of light and shadow, with imagined figures of light amid lurking ghouls. It was no fairy tale, nor will it ever be. A hope for a better tomorrow was the litany of your survival. Now, it’s time to change the script—to fill the rest of your days with joyous survival and rebellious hope.

I remember the school days, filled with both excitement and dread. The pressure to fit in, the struggle to find your place as a scrawny, hunchbacked teenager—those were tricky times. You learned that it’s okay not to fit into the box.

Your dreams weren’t grand adventures of becoming someone who could change the world. Your dreams were strung together with people you loved around your life. It took time for me to find you back. I’m here to tell you that love is indeed what you shared most of your life. Now is the time to give back to yourself and believe—a love like Rilke’s shared.

“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

An inheritance, saved in the depths of your being, for you. Love — a divine blessing, a holy sacrament of grace. To love yourself without judgement like you do for the ones who you love, your love for the clouds, the robins, the falling leaves. A love so deep and holy that will baptize the moments of grief you encounter in life.

Tiny one, you’ve guided me all along. You’ve given me faith to keep moving ahead even when tomorrow is not a guarantee. You taught me to hold on to love as the gatekeeper of the inner sanctuary.

I’ve tended to the old wounds with warmth and forgiveness. It’s time for you to trust and step out.

I see you. I care for you and I am here for you.

The past nor the future was your cross to bear. The love that has surfaced after all this time feels like your first embrace as a baby when you were born. Your best gift to me is your astounding ability to dance toward the light, even after the darkest nights.

Hug yourself and be grateful, for you have built a beautiful world. Be kind to yourself, little one.

Let the tenderness behind your fearful eyes shine brightly. Don’t let the parts of you painted with joy and curiosity ever grow up. The weakness you thought you nurtured is embodied tenderness. Your wild imaginings are gifts, finally free from the dungeons of conformity. The attention at times you long from people you love and cherish is what you owe to yourself. Stay soaked in gentle awareness of your tender soul. The love you longed for is abundant within you.

Love yourself a little more, Putul. You’ve done well.

Forever in gratitude and love,

Your older self

This was long due and am glad that I finally wrote this letter. These days I find myself looking at everyone around me who is upset, angry or agitated through the lens of the little girl in me. As a child, I never held anger for a long time and to this day, it’s difficult for me to hold grudges or be angry for a long time. But somewhere I had not found the courage to confront the little me. I felt it was time to embrace the mostly shy yet inner rebellious girl to move ahead and work with her to work hard with joy on all difficult things in life. I am on the equator of my life. If not now, it won’t be forever. To arrive at this juncture and be brave enough to share a filtered version here has taken me long enough. I’ve been healing for a long time.

There are days when I feel like a hamster on the healing wheel.

There are days when I feel healing is thy name for life.

 As for me, I remember a quote that I saw in one of the meme excursions from a movie. It was about gardening.

The problem starts when the gardener wants to be a flower. The zen is in perhaps recognising that the gardeners do need rest. I think I have finally got the rest and can slowly resume my gardening duty.

Healing the wounded soul and others is a communal process. One cannot heal in isolation. I was brave enough to be a part of the social healing project prototype. The process was partly individual and partly communal. The journey has been interesting as I got introduced to audio diaries and communicating with a stranger as a part of the communal process. The voice from the other end whom I had never met heard my ramblings and offered solace. I was seen. The audio diaries have always felt like a deep human soul excavation. I do record them and have found it helpful.

To be heard and acknowledged accelerates the process. Thank you to each of you for being a witness to my stories. I am truly grateful.

I want to end this post with one poem that I love by Raymond Carver.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

I do feel myself loved on this earth. The song in my head is, Now I See The Light.

May I learn to become a gardener of loving tenderness for the younger, present and future me. May I heal everything that needs healing with this wand of love.

Some reflections for you,

  • If you had to write a letter to your younger self, what would you write ?
  • When was the last time you allowed yourself to see the world through the lens of childlike wonder and curiosity? What might you rediscover by nurturing that perspective?

Until next time,

Much love xx

PS : Here is the pic of me as a flower girl. I am the one in the center.