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A letter to my future self on the pursuit of contentment

30 Dec 2019

Illustration by Jess Nash

In August 2019, we published our first book: I Will Not Be Erased: Our stories about growing up as people of colour. A life-affirming, moving and joyous collection of 14 essays, gal-dem’s talented writers used raw material from their teenage years to give advice to their younger selves and those growing up today.

We also launched a competition to find the next generation of young writers and encourage them to write essays to their future selves. Today, we’re publishing the three winning essays in full. In this letter, Amina, age 14, writes on an imagined, fantastical future and why she wants her future self to stay sensible and kind.


Dear Amina (age 25),

I’m writing this for a competition but I wonder if I’m really doing this for the prize or for a way to leave a little bit of myself for you. This is me spilling my words onto a page as a reminder to my future self as well as anyone else who may read this.

I wonder what the future holds for an ordinary girl like me. Nothing extraordinary, I’m sure. Reality is nothing like the fantasy worlds I read about. I doubt humankind will develop awesome powers anytime soon or discover intriguing portals into alternate universes promising exhilarating fun and brimming with beautiful chaos and magic. I suppose we have books for that reason specifically. To give us a taste of what isn’t and may never be. A quote from Jhumpa is that “That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet”. Well said. I’m glad we have them because there isn’t much excitement in the world unless you get up and go searching for it.

The world changes every day. New technology, rights and all sorts of things are established on a daily basis. All I can think is… progress. And finally. I imagine the future could be bigger, better and brighter than ever imagined but only if we do the right things. I’ve never received trouble for being Muslim but that doesn’t mean that people don’t. Acceptance is a flower blooming more and more every day. People take some of it and spread it through words and actions like bees who take the pollen and sprinkle it. More flowers grow. It’s getting easier and my heart soars, my lips curve with a smile at the thought of the equality that may reign among us.

Once upon a time, being a woman was the epitome of difficulty. We were mere objects and pawns to be used and then discarded. But now women are not only breaking through the glass ceiling but making no more are even made. Women have established their rights and know now their worth which is no more or less than a man’s. No one, not anyone, gay, straight, white, black, a person of faith or person without should be made to feel lesser. We are all equal. Like the colours of the rainbow. Different but all part of the same magnificent spectrum.

Basically, future me don’t do anything stupid. That doesn’t just imply reckless activity that may cause harm to you and others. It implies everything. Be happy and spread kindness. Celebrate not only your success but that of those around you. People are going through things that you have no knowledge about, so offer a smile and a caring word wherever you go. Search for the silver lining, if not the gold, in every situation.

Instead of pursuing trouble, I’d rather you pursue contentment, happiness and self-fulfilment. Remain true to yourself and remember that only you have the power to carve your destiny.

– Sincerely, Amina