I don’t know if you’re going to exist, but I’ve grown a few maternal bones over the years. Whether you will be born from me or another woman, or even at all, I now often daydream about you.
There was once a time I didn’t want any children. It was in my later teenage years when I first saw how horrible the world was, when depression grabbed hold of me, when I knew what it was like to be purposely misunderstood. I couldn’t bear the thought of bringing anybody else into these feelings of helplessness. Then I got older and wanted to kill myself.
Children still weren’t a thought, but this time it was because every day that I lived was a day that wasn’t even meant to come, so I really took it one day at a time. I didn’t look further ahead because there was nothing there; I literally woke up thinking ‘nice, another day. Here we go again’. It’s only now that I can see a future in which I can almost see old-age. I have love to thank for that.
I realised that my mind and heart had sustained way too much for me to not pass on what I’d learnt. I had too much love to give, I had masses in reserve. Some for a lover. Some for his family. Some for friends… and some for those I will call my own. I learnt what love for a child was through learning what it wasn’t, and I suddenly felt that part of my purpose in life was to give it. It may be selfish of me to want you to exist simply so I can give you what I didn’t have. Is it bad to desperately want to give the good to someone else so that they never have to feel like they should just.. jump? Maybe. Everything I once thought I knew about family had been destroyed, and the concept of it no longer exists to me. I want you to love, not because you have to, but because you want to. It is my responsibility to teach you that.
Let me start by telling you the objective truth.
The world is horrible for us right now, and I don’t know if that’s going to change by the time you come to be. The world has been horrible for as long as I can remember, for as long as generations before me can remember; in fact, I don’t think it has ever not been horrible, so I can’t say I have too much hope for the future. It is with this knowledge that I will teach you that you must be strong despite it, you must create your own world within the one you share with everyone else. Nothing is going to change to accommodate for you, people are going to be horrible and scary and it will remain largely unsafe. Women are working tirelessly to give you your safety, but, in reality, the torch will simply be passed to you and then to your daughters. People naively think that the world will just change for them, that we should all simply course through life vulnerable because other people should respect us, but the harsh reality is that… this is life and it will stay this way. People are shit and you cannot rely on others to make your own world better; I wish it weren’t that way, but it is, and you can only protect yourself. If it isn’t someone getting physically attacked on the street, it’s the media brainwashing you into hating yourself and making you feel like you’re never enough.
People will tell you that you’re imperfect. They will whisper ‘you’re beautiful’ in your right ear and ‘you’re too fat’ in your left ear. You’re going to be born into a new age of social media and I don’t even want to imagine how much worse it’s going to be. There isn’t much I can say on this except beauty is very much subjective, and that’s the bottom line. There will be boys you crush on that your friends will grimace at, there will be supermodels whose faces you just… can’t understand. Then you’ll meet someone who catches your eye, and even though they’re the most beautiful thing you ever laid eyes on, they suddenly turn into this transcendent being and you identify with their soul more than their perfect face and body; you won’t know where they end and you begin. You will have friends who radiate beauty when they’re cracking horrible jokes or being hungover in Nando’s, and one day you’ll be sitting by the river under the scorching sun with a cider in your hands, laughing about old memories, and you will be content. Keep your girls close and don’t ever be the one who says ‘guys are better friends’. I promise, no male friend will ever show you the companionship and empathy you will get from other women.
Of course, not everybody is beautiful, and I don’t mean physically. I don’t believe there is such a thing as physical beauty on its own, and that is what I will always teach you. The mind is the only thing that’s beautiful, even when you don’t think it is. There is beauty in madness, as long as it isn’t malevolent, as long as you choose your own definition of good and stick by it. You will inevitably hurt people, and they will call you horrible, selfish, rude, and every other name under the sun – none of that matters as long as you know who you are. Choose what is best for you and those you love, and don’t hurt people who don’t deserve it. Don’t ever explain yourself to people who are committed to tarnishing your name, to people who have a vendetta against you. Let people talk. They will say whatever they need to say to shine you in a bad light and nothing you can say will change their minds. Let them talk.
Sometimes, this will come from people you’re supposed to be able to trust, and I’ve learnt that family isn’t who you grew up with. I am not necessarily your family unless you feel that I am, and if I don’t make you feel it then I have failed. Family isn’t just your parents and your siblings; family includes your friends, it includes your partner. It includes whoever loves you, whoever is there for you. It includes those who want the best for you, those who defend you in your presence and your absence, those who will fight for you when you need it and when you think you don’t. Those who care for you, those who hurt when you hurt. Blood does not exist in the equation. This is a strange thing for someone to say to their child, but I’m committed to making sure you feel like you choose to have me in your life. You choose who you consider family, and sometimes your friends will have your best interests at heart more than relatives ever will. Snakey cousins and disrespectful uncles are not ever your family. I will never make you uphold a facade of happiness, and I will never place any relatives in the same boat of importance as I do my children. There is no such thing as keeping the peace. They are nobody.
Then there are boys.
I’m not going to tell you to not get trapped in talking stages because I know you will. Just remember: if they wanted to, they would. If the answer isn’t yes, it is no. If you have to question it, walk away. If you feel confused, if all you have are mixed signals, if you don’t know where you stand, leave it alone. Trust me. Never ever ‘go with the flow’ when you know you want a relationship and don’t ever try to be the laid-back girl in an attempt to lure him in with your reverse psychology; you’ll only pull him back temporarily and then he’ll run away again when he realises, again, that you just aren’t what he wants. When the right one comes along, you will both know from the get-go and there will be zero confusion, there will be no limbo, there will be no ‘so what are we? What do you mean you don’t like labels?’. People will tell you otherwise, but there is definitely someone who will be everything you want without compromise. But nobody ever takes this advice; we all know it already and we never realise what a sucker we were until we later find someone who makes us think ‘I can’t believe I wasted my time on these ugly idiots when I had this waiting for me.’ For whatever reason, we women like to think we can change men, but we can’t; a man is not a child who needs to be trained, and if he is, why do you want him?
But, again, much like the rest of us, you’re going to be an idiot regardless. It’s a rite of passage for all girls looking for love – you have to have your heart bruised a few times before your prince comes to rescue you from yourself, from your old notions about love. It’s only when this man appears, all handsome and rugged and everything you’d ever dreamed of, that you look back briefly at your past and want to vomit all over yourself. I just hope you learn it sooner rather than later. You will find one who makes you feel the excitement, comfort and security all in one. If you don’t feel that, he isn’t the one and you’re wasting your time. When everything feels perfect and exactly where it’s meant to be, you will know. You’ll audibly sigh.
The final thing is this: love is everything. First and foremost, love yourself. Love yourself enough to feel whatever you need to feel, and feel it deeply. Feel every emotion; be angry, be happy, be in love. We live for companionship and we live for friendships; there is nothing to life without love. Love with every fibre of your being.
Love yourself enough to look after your mind and your body. Be with nature as much as you can, learn to love the world you live in, find a hobby and work on it. Find an art through which you can express yourself, because sometimes you can’t or you just don’t want to talk to people, and you need to enjoy the time you have alone. You are the one person you will spend all of your time with. Cultivate her; make sure she’s someone you love and in turn other people will also love her. The most important thing is that you stay authentic. Be entirely yourself and you will attract only what’s meant for you. You will be left with friends who will fight for you to the death, you will be left with a partner you will go to the ends of the earth for, you will be left in a room alone for hours and still be happy because you love your own company, even when your mind tries to convince you otherwise.
Be entirely, unapologetically you. Only then will everything fall into place.