This letter was originally published on 31 March 2016 on my former blog, The Feminist Unfairytales of an African Mother.
Darling, everything feels like the end of the world when you’re fifteen. By the time you’re twenty-one, you will have learnt that nothing really is. You’re such a sharp, charming, ambitious girl; I promise you, you can not be stopped. Not by the horrible girls who set you up for heartbreak by getting your crush to prank-call you and ask you out, not by the damning B on your report card, and certainly not by the fact that your breasts haven’t come in yet. Breasts are the least of your worries, as you will soon learn.
The world is a hard place; its rough edges are designed to sand girls like you down into submission and meek conformity. You must resist this. Your voice is powerful and necessary. You must not let those people who say your age means you have nothing to offer silence you. You must certainly not let the gender police keep you from asserting yourself in all of your complexity and humanity. You are deserving of your own life, and your dreams are valid.
Acknowledge your body. Remember that it is first and foremost your own; not a debt you owe the men who seek to prey on you, not an apology to those who accuse you of seduction when you are merely existing, not a pile of inadequacies that you must compensate for. Your body is your home in this world. Be grateful for and to it. Use it. Dance, laugh, run, swim. Let the air and the sun and the water kiss it and remind you that God lives in every crack and corner of it, of you.
Forgive yourself for believing that you are to blame for the people who invited themselves into your body and did not wait for your permission. One day you will be strong enough to stare the trauma of the break-ins in the face, but for now, hug yourself and love yourself and forgive yourself. There are people who will take what they have not been offered. That is not your fault. Take your showers; let your tears lance the wound and help you towards wholeness. You will find support when you are ready to lay their violence down. Do not doubt this: when the time comes, there will be loving hands to help you unburden yourself. I cannot wait for you to experience the indescribable lightness that awaits you.
Never forget that you are so much more than a body. You are a force; invincible, rising, here. The world has never seen anything like you, so it will fight hard against you. You are strong enough to push back, to claim your space and to make room for the others who will follow. You can not be broken; you will learn this for sure because life will try.
Listen to yourself. Trust yourself. You are so much more than you realise; so much of what you need is already within you. Give yourself time, especially when you are sad. Don’t let anyone tell you you cry too much. All of the sorrow that you experience is fashioning within you compassion, a heart that is too soft to break, that swells with love for people like you who are told that they are unworthy.
You are a date palm, dancing in the desert, bending in the wind, majestic and life giving and undeniable. You are the first of your name, and the world will say it. Oh, darling, it will.