By Saniya Rizwan
A year has passed since I stood at the same threshold as you. A year since I felt the fears that are roaming in your clogged mind right now. A year since I walked past the gates of my campus. The person who entered the building would probably not recognize the individual she metamorphosed into, the moment she was at the other side of that door. I know you’ve heard enough about the glamour and dullness of adulthood, hence this letter is not going to add to the noise. Instead, I ask you to unlearn, not just the hearsay about the future that awaits you, but also the past that you’ve lived.
What you dread right now is the novelty splashing all over your face with every new day and every new University announcement. You’re possibly confused over every word a college student puts on their Instagram story, or your senior from school tells you about. Have you ever wondered though, why do we hate this novelty?
Maybe it’s not the unfamiliarity but the fear of making mistakes in a new place. The anxiety of not doing the right thing. However, what is the right thing? Why is it so bad to be wrong?
Why are you expecting yourself to be an expert on life when you’re barely 2 decades into this world? You are supposed to be confused, to be clueless. How else are you ever going to experience anything as new and exciting unless your decisions don’t take you to patchy roads?
So, the first thing you should unlearn is this binary of right and wrong, good and bad, success and failure. Get comfortable with the art of not knowing, of being stuck, of being lost. It’s going to be a long ride with many questions. Might as well get so acquainted with having no answers, that every inquiry becomes normal.
Become so independent of all the things you’ve packed in your “adulthood starter pack” that you depend on yourself to find a new tool everyday.
Moving on, if I predict it right, you aren’t just scared of the naissance of new chapters, but also the ending of many old ones. Tomorrow scares you, but at the same time, yesterday seems to be slipping away.
Here’s where comes the second piece of anecdote: The snippets of your past that you want to hold, stay with you forever. They tangibilise in the form of sleepovers with your old friends, in the fresh aroma of songs you associate with your middle school Taylor Swift phase, in the memories you recall every now and then.
Your childhood goes nowhere, it just modifies; what leaves, however, are parts that are supposed to end. Here comes, the barely-into adulthood version of my grandma’s story. I entered the gates as the most adaptive person in my mind, someone who took pride in my patience, and adjustment. I took pride in my ability to repress my conflicts. “Resilience” they called it. ”Obedient” was the other term. Fortunately, yet painfully I couldn’t accept agreeableness, friendliness, diplomacy towards the world one should necessarily disagree with.
Anger is what filled me. The rage that made me feel weak, the rage that helped me understand, I wasn’t the one failing to fit in, rather some places were never meant for me. The rage that made me relocate myself to spaces I built for me, the rage that made me stumble on my people after a long lonely journey, way later than I expected my “extrovert” self to do, the rage was what made the new me.
So when adulthood makes you feel an emotion every time you talk to a group of people, or when you don’t find your voice visible in a conversation, when things that once calmed you no matter act as an escape, when things you thought you were good at, no more seems effortless; hold on to that thought so tight that it guides you to the new roads you need for the new life you have. Things change because they should. Appreciate your growth, even if it is disguised as discomfort.
I am sure right now every person in your perceptual field seems more adequate than you, more trained, more learned, and more prepared. Everyone will push you to be as sufficient as someone else. They will preach hard work, focus, commitment, and ambition. However, no one will remind you, that this process is ongoing, dynamic, and never-ending. Beware of this race they will hound you into. Remind yourself: they did not ask for your consent before putting you on the track, nor the type of various races you would want to choose from, you didn’t get to decide who you run the race against, or if you both even start at the same point, even the end is not clear.
Hence, you have all rational reasons to not adhere to it.
So, unlearning lesson number three: Not only the notions of right or wrong but who decides them is also flawed. The only right decision is yours. Your work is hard enough when it is done without compromising on the happiness and peace you deserve. Because the latter is what makes you adequate.
Lastly, before they drill you to believe, your stress, your capabilities, and your performances are isolated within you, before they deceive you into believing in some pure version of personal control, acknowledge that you are not in a free, fair, egalitarian system. Unlearn complacency. Start from shedding off the blame you will be eager to put on yourself. Put it on the systems that are made to fail you.
Locate your distress where it is actually coming from.
When you will feel unheard, it won’t be because you are voiceless, but because you are silenced. When you are not fulfilling their standards of productivity, it is not because you are doing less, but because the system is ableist. When they blame you for being too opinionated, too talkative, or too angry, be proud of your anger. Your anger is your protest.
I hope my words add to your journey, So in the years that await you, you wash off the rules drilled inside you; rules about what matters and what doesn’t. I hope you know that everyone starts with the 0 you feel you are at, that it’s okay to not be the best, even be miserable when you begin something because of the fact that you had the courage to step into something new matters more. I hope you realize it’s okay to fall because there’s always going to be a point where you will pick yourself up.
A former fresher.