*Hey Petunia, it’s me, the future you! Sometimes it’s good to take stock of everything in life, so I’m writing a letter to you. Having had the benefit of a few years of experience, there’s some things I’d like to share. I overshare my opinion with everyone else, so why not you too, right?*
To Petunia, age 6:
You have a supportive family who gives you all the love you can possibly imagine. You are loving life, playing in the back yard and making up songs and stories and finding four leaf clovers . Yes, sure, you and your little brother fight like cats and dogs, and everyone tells you both how different you are, but that’s all a ruse because you will grow up and find out that even though you like reading and he likes math, your characters are more alike than you ever thought. He can be a good friend to you, just wait and see. Oh, and don’t be disappointed that you won’t get a little sister this year, another brother can be just as good. Be kind to him. And keep saving all the postcards your Dad sends from far off lands, they will be an inspiration for your travels later on.
To Petunia, age 13
Give your parents a break. They are not moving the family just to spite you. They are trying to create a better environment for you and your brothers to grow up in. You know you could be doing better in school the last couple years, but things will get better, much better. You will be sent to boarding school, and you will be very angry about it, but again, don’t spend so much time hating your parents. This will turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to you. You will meet some of your best friends of your whole life, love school, learn important lessons about life, and these will be very special years. Oh, and don’t spend so much time obsessing over boys. They really aren’t worth the effort at this point!
To Petunia, age 16
Ditch the boyfriend. Seriously, I’m not even joking. Ditch him NOW before he goes off to college! Or at least before YOU go to college! Just because it hurts to think about breaking up is not a good enough reason to stay together. It will save a lot of heartache and money later on. The world will still go on and you will be strong. Also, don’t be bitter about not getting into the colleges you wanted. What’s meant to be is meant to be, and you will be able to study abroad not once but twice, take a semester off and still graduate on time based on where you will end up. Looking back you will see college was great, even if you claim to hate it at the time.
To Petunia, age 22
Congratulations on getting that job! This organization is perfect for you – I mean, come on, they considered the fact that you took 8 months off after graduating to travel the world a sign of a strong character. You will get to see most of the countries in Southern Africa, experience weddings, funerals and births there, and your eyes will be opened to the potential you have to make a mark on the world. Cherish the experience. You will have several extremely supportive supervisors who will help you along – enjoy it now, because it won’t stay this way forever. Don’t shortchange or doubt yourself. Just because you are younger than everyone else in the office and have less experience doesn’t mean you are any less capable of doing jobs you aren’t technically qualified for. Don’t stress about your relationship or moving in with your boyfriend, things will take their natural course. It will allow you to move into a fabulous house and meet wonderful friends. Enjoy your early 20’s!
To Petunia, age 25
You’ve been in Sudan now for almost a year now, and things are going well, but they are about to get really tough. You can help this by not being stubborn and deciding to stop taking your antidepressants! I can’t tell you not to be hurt and confused when people you thought were friends become vindictive and toxic, but I can tell you that it is not your fault. Stop beating yourself up over it, it’s not worth the emotional turmoil, and don’t let other people take out their own issues on you. You have a right to be treated with respect and supported in the workplace. It’s okay to let friendships go, some things aren’t meant to last forever. Having a working relationship with friends, especially when friends become your boss, is never easy. Take the time to smell the roses. Take more pictures of Sudan, you will regret being timid about cameras later on! Get to know your staff more, they have stories that will amaze you. You know that guy who you’ve been dating for a few months now? He’s great. Trust me. The party boy persona is just a facade to help him cope with Juba and will fade with time. Stand firm about boundaries though, they will be pushed time and time again. Oh, and don’t hate on Nairobi so much. It can be a good place.
To Petunia, age 26/27
Get out of the house, laugh, enjoy all that London has to offer! Stop bitching about the weather and then darkness and go out and fun. Don’t be cautious about meeting people at school, they are only shy around you because they are intimidated by your experience, not because they don’t like you. You are about to have the most amazing experience at LSHTM, take advantage of it all! For your relationship, remember that the little things don’t matter. I promise. Not everyone can be strong all the time, but remember the boundaries advice from a few years before! A few months from now you will look back and wonder why you were so angry all the time. Talk to people about what is going on in your head, don’t keep it in all the time, and don’t take it out on Simba. It’s okay to ask for support.
To Petunia, now
Be true to yourself, relax and keep smiling, continue to remember what is important in life. Don’t be scared of milestones, these are the best things in life. There is so much more waiting out there for you!