To My 20-Year-Old Self (Youth Day Special)

To mark Youth Day which falls on 4 July this year, we invite our social worker Chia Xin Yi to pen a letter to her younger self.

To mark Youth Day which falls on 4 July this year, we invite our social worker Chia Xin Yi to pen a letter to her younger self. Enjoy the read and Happy Youth Day to all.

Dear younger self,

Congratulations, it is the start of your university life! To be honest, I found it hard to know what to pen down. I dug up some of my best and worst memories trying to imagine you and what wisdom I would bestow upon you. Truth be told, I am still learning and this might just be another cathartic writing but here are some of the things I have learned along the way, and maybe some of the things I wish you had known earlier.

So, the first thing I want to tell you is this: take in as much as you can, but know how to let go. As cliché as it may sound, the four years of university life will fly by as this journey is so valuable yet fleeting. When you introduce yourself to new friends, keep in mind that goodbyes can sneak up on you at any time and to relish the time in between.

Next, cut yourself some slack. It is not your job to make everyone happy, or to make choices for yourself that satisfy others around you. Yes, you were born with the curse of needing to please people but you are not their doormat. Be who you want to be, do whatever you want and be authentic in all that you do. You thrive when you live passionately for yourself and what you stand for, rather than live to be desired and loved by others. It is likely that deep down, you know your worth and that you see and do things differently. So do not let those who are afraid of your difference try to dim your light. Be a maverick.

You are also going to grow more cynical about the world around you – and that is great. It is easy for others to dismiss cynicism as bad, because being optimistic is usually thought of as good. But there is always room for both and your natural cynicism is the safety net for optimism. Start to embrace the balancing act of being a cynical optimist – in the end, good things prevail but be cynical and grounded enough to understand that it sometimes requires a lot of work and sacrifice.

As you grow, you will get the feeling of inadequacy and come to learn and relate to this quote. You will hunger for more experiences that your existence grants you, and you may never be satisfied that your life is exciting and diverse enough. Like Plath’s character in The Bell Jar, as you compare your life to others, you will want to experience the whole spectrum of human life. But bear in mind that you are not limited. When you step away from the comparisons, you will begin to notice the unique beauty and richness of your own life.

Trust me, it gets worse and do not expect things to always make sense. There will be times when your life is messy and unpredictable. You will question it all, but you will pull through because your life is a series of waves. You will never be able to control or predict them but you can learn to ride the waves.

There is so much more I could say to you, but you have to fumble and navigate through these years on your own. Remember, you are always in a constant state of becoming who you need to be, and you will.

See you,

Your older, a-bit-wiser self