When I was seven or eight years old I recall memories of writing short stories about mystical lands and spiteful wizards with my brother. We used to build our own little dens, almost like sanctuaries, where we’d scribble messy notes, filling notebooks with plots and characters for the novels we dreamed of publishing in the future. I remember my first story, ‘Dolls in Love’, and I laugh at how cliché and grammatically shocking it was.
I retrospect spending many hours exploring our local library, living thousands of lives, only for our mother to sigh with that warming smile of hers and that flicker of adoration and pride in her eyes, at the heaps of books we’d be carrying in our skinny arms. I recollect coming home after school, scoffing our dinner like wild animals, just so we could go outside and play with the other children on our street. The neighbourhood held a communal atmosphere, lively and rich with laughter and carelessness. Yet I wistfully stare out of the window now and find nothing but empty crisps packets and the sound of our neighbour’s front door slamming shut.
When I was fifteen years old I remember feeling lost, disconnected with myself and the big wide world. Not a clue who I was or where I was heading. Secluding myself from my so-called friends, it was almost like I went into hibernation and had no intention, or rather no idea how to, come out. I was hateful, miserable, confused.
There was a certain period of time where I despised myself for feeling this way. There was a time span of about two or three months where I’d come home, exhausted and numb, and breakdown. Muffling my sobs until I fell asleep, only to wake up with chapped cheeks and the realisation that I was still here, alive but paralysed by my very own thoughts. Everywhere was a battlefield, fighting a war against something that to this day I still can’t explain.
The rosy glow from my cheeks disappeared and the lip gloss faded along with my smile. At lunchtime I’d sometimes disappear inside the school toilets, doing nothing but staring at the ugly cubicle walls with only my strange thoughts to keep me company. It’s weird now that I think about it, I genuinely thought that the entire world was evil and that everyone was out to get me.
Now, I am seventeen years old and my mirror seems to hold the reflection of someone new. I have finally discovered the one thing that makes me feel secure and invincible all at once: writing. I have gone full circle and concluded that this is who I was destined to be. I’m not so hateful anymore, I’m finding myself trying harder to be kinder to people and myself. I’m illuminating the greatness in my life, showing gratitude and respecting myself, despite my many flaws. Starting college has completely changed my outlook, I now look forward to every day knowing that I have the most wonderful friends and that I’m studying subjects that I feel so buoyant and passionate about. I’m starting to understand people more and though it has taken a lot of growing up and maturing, I’ve learnt that we’re all perfect and flawed all at the same time. We’re all on the same journey, yes there are different pit stops and we hit different bumps at different times, but we’re all trying to make our way through this insane crowd of remarkable humans. It’s become reassuring, almost like the strength that keeps me fighting, the strength that keeps me coming back.
I have friends, true friends. I have mature conversations with my parents, ones that were impossible to have before. I have this little space on the internet and the bewildering freedom to say and be whoever I want to be without any suppression.
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Because of you I’m in a stronger and surer position to advise my little sisters on education, what’s morally right and wrong, how to be the best version of themselves and to express who they are without constraint. I, Nabeela, can feel brave enough to say that I am becoming more and more independent and I could not be more proud of myself.
And yes, I’m not going to deny that a part of me wishes to go back to when I was a child, when I’d come home from school and excitedly share adventurous stories with my parents. Welcomed by my beautiful home and the smell of the glorious flavours of my mother’s cooking. God, I miss it. I miss the simplicity of it.
Change, in the next few months you are going to affect my life in scary ways. And if I’m honest, I don’t know if I’m ready. My little sisters will soon become strong independent women. I want to see that light in their eyes when they talk about their dreams and passions, I want to hold them tight the first time they cry over a hopeless friendship, I want to see it all. I want them to feel confident, assertive and brave in their skin. To not stress about the things that won’t matter in a few years’ time. And I’m so glad that I’m here, to steer them straight and fill their world with promises that I was too naïve or stubborn to ever believe myself. My brother will be moving out to achieve his dreams at university, he’ll no longer be here to give me sincere advice, to have our late philosophical chats at 2am and to uncontrollably laugh at how childish we can be.
How did we all grow up so fast? How did we get here?
Tomorrow lies within the deep depths of the unknown but with the events that have taken place in my life as of late, I’ve decided to stop looking back at all the metamorphoses and start looking forward. Change, you are so cruel for reminding me of what used to be, but my God are you phenomenal for helping me grow and be closer to the person I know I can be.
It’s mind-blowing to even try to imagine what my future’s going to be like. The people I’m going to meet, the places I’m going to explore, everything. I wonder who I’m going to drift from and who I’m going to grow even closer to. I don’t know and I’ll never know until the time is right but I know that I’m ready.
If you ask me who I was two years ago I wouldn’t be able to tell you, because that girl back then feels so distant. And in another two years, I’m sure that the person who I am today will feel pretty distant too. Two things are inevitable in life: death and change. I used to fear both but not so much anymore because I’ve got you, my companion and teacher.