Lakshmi Sadhu. Photo: Michael Barker.
A letter to my 18-year-old self
Stop worrying about awkwardness. It’s relative, temporary—and useful.
I regret to inform you that you are not going to magically wake up one day and start having “grown-up thoughts.” Turns out those don’t exist. And even if they did, you sure as hell won’t have them.
While you’re anxiously awaiting the results of your 12th-grade exams, spend as much time as possible with your high school friends. University will change you (and them), and two years from now you will all be too different to be able to really relate to each other again. Hang out with your brother more. I know he doesn’t express his emotions outright, but it’s going to be very hard on him when you leave.
Please take an interest in fitness, effective immediately, instead of spending your summer watching East Asian TV shows. You’ll understand why when you turn 19. And stop stuffing your face with all that junk; savour Ma’s home cooking instead. You’re going to miss her food like crazy, especially mudda pappu and rasam.
Move-in day at your dorm will be a nerve-racking experience. Everything will look scarily unfamiliar—the people, the culture, the environment. But you’re going to fit right in, don’t be afraid. You and your first roommate are not going to be best friends, but you are going to get along perfectly well, and that’s more than enough. The friends you’ll make in the first year of university will not be the same friends you’ll have in your second year, let alone the last year—friends come and go.
Don’t laugh at something if it’s not funny. Don’t agree with someone just to get along with them. Be true to your feelings, ideals and opinions. People don’t realize that every time they dance to the tunes of someone else, even if they don’t want to, a small part of them inside dies a permanent death.
The first year of university is the easiest academically, so don’t do your assignments last minute. I know it’s hard to enjoy your courses when you’re so busy trying to pass them, but try your best to relish every moment. You’ll realize just how much you love philosophy when you’re my age and will wish you could do all your courses again—but this time with reverence for the beautiful art that philosophy really is.
In your second year, you will move out of your dorm and live alone for the first time in your life. It will be a very emotionally challenging two years. You will struggle with the sudden independence and burden of living alone, of learning how to care for yourself without any solid support structure. Don’t push people away when this happens; that’s counter to actually coping with loneliness, depression and anxiety. Stress is in your mind, not out in the world. Some of the hardest times you go through will be ones you give yourself. You will gain a few emotional scars during this whole ordeal, but you will make it through, I promise.
You need to know that you are fiercely resilient. You always have been. Trust yourself.
You’ll also meet a boy during this challenging time in your life. He’ll be smitten with you. Don’t turn him away so quickly. When inebriation allows him to muster enough courage to ask you out for a movie on Valentine’s Day, say yes.
Stop worrying so much about your future. You don’t need to feel pressured when you’re asked what you want to pursue as a career. Tell them you don’t know. Tell them you’ll think about it when the time comes. It’s OK not to know.
Your personal life will take a turn for the worse in fifth year. I need you to be kind when that happens. Everyone’s just trying their best, so cut your family some slack. If you only spend your time lamenting what you don’t have, you’re going to miss out on all the ways you’re blessed.
Life can pull the rug right out from under you when you least expect it. You don’t need to live in fear of those moments, because when they do arrive, you can trust your spirit to keep you from losing your footing.
Stop worrying about awkwardness. It’s relative, temporary—and useful. It’ll show you where your insecurities are. Lean into it, not away from it. Only then can you transcend your vulnerabilities. Colour your hair weird hues. Get a piercing. Get a tattoo. It’s not a big deal; I know you want to. Self-image is an illusion—mould yourself however you want. Get out of your bubble of fear. You know all those things that make you feel confident and alive? All those are outside your comfort zone.
Why do you constantly question yourself? There are no such things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ decisions! There are only decisions.
As Carlos Castaneda said: “In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.”
Pray more. Meditate more. Love more. Be fearless. Nothing is going to be the same ever again. But you’re going to be just fine, kiddo.
Your 22-year-old self
Lakshmi Sadhu (New ’17) graduated with a specialist in Philosophy and is now pursuing a master’s degree in Journalism at the University of British Columbia. Readers may be familiar with Lakshmi’s writing from her spirited contributions to The New blog in 2016–2017.