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A letter to my younger self…

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Every issue, a Pride reader writes a letter to herself as a teenage girl, filled with advice, hot tips and hints for the future. Here, Cambridge student and published poet Imani Shola gives her teen self a heads-up for all that she has to look forward to.

Paris, November 30th, 2017.

To my beautiful younger self (and the reader who is like her),

Where should I begin?

I’m trying to remember what you’re like.

Not what you look like—I can see that from (all) the selfies. Not your favourite food, either, because curry goat will always be the plug.

No—I’m more trying to recall what you think like.

Your fears and dreams. What you’re going through. I haven’t changed there; neither of us hesitates to dive into that deep stuff.

You’re in London, but I’m in Paris. In my mind’s eye, I see you aged 13-15, just trying to figure things out.

Trying to find stability and a balance between your studies, a developing body, flourishing dreams, confusing boys and the somewhat unexciting everyday. That’s okay.

I know that your single mama and you are doing your best despite it all—the family breakdown, the mental illness, the hospital visits and the court visits—all the visits—despite them all. Spoiler alert: even during those drought years, your focus on your studies will bring you success that’ll win you awards and pay bills. You’re a stereotype-smasher, baby girl, and you’ll soon be equipping thousands of online followers to be the same.

You’re a figure-outer, too, and you process things a lot. Please stop despising this. Being reflective is a part of you that not everyone understands, but it’ll move Cambridge scholars to offer you a place at their university full of thinkers. And as soon as you make it into Cambridge University, you’ll set your focus on equipping other black girls and boys to get there, too.

God has blessed you with a loving, gentle heart, but I don’t think you quite know how to guard it yet. Over time, you’ll learn to steward it; then you’ll pour it out healthily to the many who cherish it.

It’ll fuse with those academic grades to birth a YouTube channel to which thousands will subscribe for your academic wisdom, and you’ll serenade them with those songs you’re writing, and that voice of yours that’s blossoming, and that piano you’re teaching yourself to play at every free moment. You’ll encourage them with faith-filled, authenticity-rooted content.

You’ll blossom into an independent young woman, multilingual and multifaceted, and travel to East Africa at age 19 to serve the locals. You’ll spend a year abroad on your own at 21, building businesses and banking in French. You’ll meet awe-inspiring, inspirational friends. Your faith in Jesus will be your anchor.

And your dream of becoming a writer will come true when, at 20, you publish that self-care poetry collection, Heart Shards and Lip Balm; love, in a book, for those reading this letter facing emotional pain.

So, younger me: know that all of your figuring out will serve you generously in the end. And, crucially, it’ll serve others, too, as you grow, love, stay kind, give back, and pursue your God-given dreams.

Imani’s book, ‘Heart Shards and Lip Balm: 100 Self-care Poems and Affirmative Notes for your Journey’ is out now.

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