Dear Young Ashy Akakpo,
I write this letter to you after looking through my photo album and reminiscing the past. A lot of things are different now, technology keeps on evolving, BBM’s gone extinct and CBBC no longer finish at 6pm but at 8pm, I know – it’s crazy! But alas, I thought it upon myself to give you some advice for the upcoming future. It is your choice, and yours alone to follow through with whatever advice I give, because I know you may not heed to everything I say. In fact, knowing us, you may not even be able to finish this letter as your attention span – still needs some work, even now. But regardless, your journey through life is still going to be one you will not forget (especially when you turn 16, jot that down). As we’re quite visual I thought, the best way for the words I am about to tell you to become absorbed into that head of yours, is to use bullet points. So here goes…
· Don’t let people’s subjectivity define your identity. People will always have something to say, it is your choice if you allow their words to impact you or not. Yes, we’re quite sensitive, however everyone is entitled to their own opinion, you do not need to be defined by their truths.
· Be yourself without apology. A lot of the time we put on this facade, pretending to be someone we’re not to gain acceptance or approval. You mustn’t ever be someone who you are not! Your hyper, creative, bubbly character is what makes you a bundle of snowflakes and cotton candy. When they tell you to tone down on your crazy, turn the volume all the way up! You do you and do you without apology. If everyone was the same, this world wouldn’t be boring – it’d be drier than someone’s big right toe! Don’t copy everything you see on TV, or what you see your friends doing or saying – girl you better work with what you already have and be you without apology!
· Choose your friends wisely! Yes, I know we’re quite sociable, we like to be around people. In fact, we thrive off the energy of others, and so as a result we attach ourselves too quickly and too soon to whoever and whomever. Slow down. Instead of hopping unto anyone who makes you feel ‘happy’, observe them from afar first, figure out who’s genuine and who is not, because not everyone is your best friend. Trust me when I say, that’s going to save you a whole lot of trouble.
· Your body is amazing! You may not see it now, but you’ve got the ideal body type. Not too big, not too small. Just right. And certain girls who you are close to won’t like it – especially in Year 7. Don’t listen to them, you’re not skinny, and just because you have a smaller frame than everyone else or you don’t have the stereotypical black girl kind of figure – doesn’t mean you’re not black. You are still growing and maturing. Ignorance breeds foolishness, don’t listen to what they say. Listen, the weight gain hits you in your first year at uni, so trust me when I say just wait on the process. You keep rocking that body because soon enough the same guys that ridiculed us, will be hollering at us. Jot that down.
· The fallen soon must rise! Secondary school is going to be one of your greatest moments, you’re going to be pushed, pulled and trampled under but remember, it’s all worth it. Don’t you ever succumb to your pain, everything gets much sweeter in Year 12, all you have to do is believe in yourself. Remember you are loved, you are smart, you are unique, you are great and remember, jealousy causes people to say and do things that they would rather not do. So, don’t be caught up feeling sorry for yourself or holding things against others. It’s best to let it go.
· Be grateful, even for the little things. We learnt that lesson later than we should have so, I ask you from today after you read this letter, to write down three things you are grateful for every day. Gratitude is a way of life, always be grateful especially before you start year 4, do not take your physical abilities for granted. Also, be grateful for the bad things too, look for the silver lining amongst all the chaos.
· You are beautiful. Listen to me and believe me when I say this, you are beautiful, and I’m not being cliche. Your forehead really isn’t as big as everyone tells you it is, you’ll come to realise that in Year 12. Negative perception can sometimes alter the smallest imperfections, especially if those thoughts have been drilled into your mind by the people you feel closest to. You need to realise that the same people that degrade your appearance are the same ones who try to move to us later on, so remember that. Beauty isn’t skin deep, the more you shine from the inside the more it will compass the outside. It’s best you believe that now, rather than later.
· You are smarter than you think. I know you’re really struggling when it comes to Maths, Spelling, Science, History, Reading, Maths, Maths, mmm Maths – or anything in general that involves focusing, retaining or not being creative but trust me you’re not stupid. All will be revealed come Year 13, two weeks before your A Level exams – I know how convenient. And when your teachers offer to help you, or give you ‘extra support’ don’t feel like you’re being penalised, they’re just trying to help you. The secret is to stay positive, keep smiling and remind yourself that you can do it! School’s tough but you’re tougher!
· You don’t owe anybody anything! So what if it’s someone’s birthday – you’re 8 years old and you’re not working, don’t feel like it is your duty to gift someone something on their birthday. Yes, we’re quite considerate and always like seeing others happy but, if you don’t have, don’t go all crazy to find a way of getting that friend a present. Trust me. It’s not worth it.
· Be persistent in everything you do. There are going to be times when, the goals you make for yourself seem out of reach but I promise you, if you keep pushing and working hard, it will all pay off in the end. Work hard, go to the library, and if you get distracted remove that distraction or just remove yourself from the distraction. Don’t give up so damn easily, if you don’t get something you just keep on trying until you do. Instead of staring at your long division homework, and expecting it to complete itself, be persistent! Work hard even if you still don’t get it! It’s better to say you tried 20 times than just attempting to try it once.
· Love yourself! You don’t know how amazing you are! Seriously, you’re the strongest person I know and you will grow into the most driven, inspiring person ever! I know right now it doesn’t look that way, the people who are meant to be there for you just keep hurting you, causing you to hate yourself but don’t. Don’t give them the satisfaction that they’ve won and you’ve lost. Instead, hold your head up high, smile even when you don’t feel like smiling, know your worth baby girl. You are a jewel. Believe it. Learn to love yourself, every inch of yourself. Learn to love your flaws, your imperfections and your uniqueness, because that’s what makes you Ashy.
· Take some risks, don’t be so uptight. I’m not saying you should but – do not be afraid of your teachers! If they call you stupid, useless or dumb – because they will. Especially in Year 7 and Year 10, you better tell them your worth and not just sit down in a corner, taking it all in. Come out of your comfort zone. Do new things, go new places. Take part in plays and more performances, trust me you’re going to need to learn how to have confidence on stage when singing, it’s going to come useful in the long run. Oh, and also don’t stop YouTubing, even when certain people discourage you, you need to understand that sometimes reaching your dreams means taking risks and trust me it’s going to be all worth it by the time you’re 19.
· Confidence is always key. Don’t walk around with your head in the ground like an Ostrich stand up tall, walk around with your back straight, and with your eyes on the prize. Don’t be afraid to seize whatever you want, even when your so-called friends tell you not to. If you have something to say, say it. If you want to be the one singing during assembly, then you better sing. If you want to read out in class but feel like you’re going to mess up – girl! You better still read, so what if you mess up. Baby steps, baby steps. Confidence in everything. Remember that.
· Don’t release your anger on those you love. I get it, I do. You’ve been bottling up a lot of things, because of school and you don’t know how to release it. But don’t ever release it on the ones you love, find another way. I’d say the next time you go and visit that boxing club after school, join it. Not only will you release the built-up emotions, but you’ll also really, really enjoy it!
· Let it out! Don’t bottle it up! Believe me when I say, it’s better out than in. Listen, crying doesn’t mean you’re weak. Crying means you recognise how you feel, and you’re strong enough to confront it and release it. I know you’re afraid but trust me it’s best you release it all now than releasing it when you’re 17. I did that, don’t you dare do that too! If you don’t want to cry it out then find another way, use poetry as an outlet, turns out we’re quite good at that. Try even singing it out, go in the bathroom, turn the shower on, use a bubble bath bottle as a mic and sing to your heart’s content. Well, not too loud. You’re loud enough as it is already.
· Take advantage of your singleness. Yes, everyone is getting into relationships and you’re still on your ones. Honey, listen to me – you’re not in any rush! Focus on your GCSEs. Right now, instead of rushing into heartbreak, focus on yourself. Use this time to find your place, to find your purpose, to cultivate that purpose, to keep on striving on becoming the woman of God you are destined to be and when God’s ready you will receive one fine, fine brother. Trust me on that one. Mark my words. You shouldn’t even be thinking about guys right now, you should be thinking about your books – or well audio books anyway. Girl you need to focus on what’s more worth focusing on, and guys at your age – should never be one of them.
· Stop trying so hard to impress everybody. So, you like them, and you really want them to like you too? Well, here’s some real good advice, stop trying to please them. There’s enough people pleasers in this world, so you shouldn’t be one of them. Make friends with people who know your worth, who know your value and know you are a girl of substance. It may not seem like it right now but, the same people you’ll try to impress are the same people who are going to depress you. Literally – not metaphorically speaking. So, don’t do it, be your best self. Don’t be like everybody else.
· You are amazing! Knowing your worth in this world, especially at a young age really stops you from believing what other people think or say about you. Listen to me, everyone who has ever told you that you will never amount to anything lied, because guess what? On our first year at uni we get a first! I know! You’re probably surprised but trust me when I say it’s true. This just shows you that your future is bright and that anyone who undermines your ability – really aren’t right.
I love you so much and I don’t want you to forget that! You are going to become someone extraordinary when you grow up. And I still haven’t finished growing up, I’m still discovering things about myself I didn’t know I had, I knew or I could do. We’ve got this! We made it this far! You’ll be amazing! I have faith in you.