Education will provide you with a strong sense of purpose.
Dearest Thirteen-Year-Old Aelya,
I almost didn’t write to you. Not because I didn’t think you’d benefit from a letter like this, but because nothing I had to say as an adult felt good enough. In all honesty, this is the fourth letter I’ve composed and the only letter I’ve had the strength to complete. Here goes…
I want you to imagine me as your fairy god-sister who looks like a mix of Fiona Apple and Madhubala wearing black silk trousers and fitted blazer. I am only going to give you a glimpse of your future by holding the crystal ball in front of your face. Once the fog lifts, you’ll see a handful of things that may be useful to you.
Education – or rather, being enrolled in an education system – will provide you with a strong sense of camaraderie and purpose. You have a lot of things that weigh heavily on your chest, but with the safety net of university health insurance, familiar food stations, the warm thickness of socks in the dead of winter right before your final exam, and even the smell of cigarettes from the jackets of your favorite people, what started off as foreign and frightening will became familiar and welcome. These regular comforts will also give you the opportunity to learn how to forgive people for things that have happened to you in your past. It will be a valuable lesson.
I know you’re worried about being beautiful (or not being beautiful enough), being loved, and being all the things you think are important. Don’t worry – I promise you that you will experience it all. In fact, you will be lucky enough to experience a love so whole and pure, that talking about it is difficult for me even now. Love and beauty will leave their mark, I promise you. But know that there will also be times when you are left licking your wounds. This is a part of the process.
Again, I don’t want to reveal too much, but know that you will never lose your gentleness, your patience, and your unwavering resilience. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. There will come a day when you truly stop caring what other people think. And you might not become the most religious person, but you’ll also never stop praying. In all honesty, looking back, I can say that who you are at thirteen – slightly bruised, open, hurt, kind, funny, and hopeful – is more or less who you will be from where I stand at twenty-two. The only difference is that you will have had more time to reflect on your life and a deep well of experience to dip your hands in.
I love you, Aelya. I’ve always loved you, even if I behaved otherwise. At some point I will start caring for you the way you should have always been cared for. Truth is, you were worth it all along. I wish I had realized it sooner.
Chin up, champ. You have no idea how much beauty lies ahead.
Aelya Salman is the kind of person who interrupts a conversation to point out the arrival of a pet. She cooks a lot, reads a lot, and has a singing voice good enough for a campfire. Her other hobbies include planning elaborate hypothetical trips, volunteering with educational organizations, and remaining hydrated. She is a twenty-two year old from Toronto.