Letter to my childhood self:

Shruti Koundinya

Dear Shruti,

I’ve been thinking of you a lot recently, grasping at loose strings. Desperately trying to rummage through a hole in my brain, reaching for the smallest of details, faintest of memories, blurriest of faces. Because lately, it feels like I’ve been forgetting you.

I was walking home one day from driving class and I saw our school bus. The one in which you played ‘atlas’ with your friends, ate breakfast for almost ten years of your life, puked once because you ate too fast. It truly feels like I’m talking about somebody else. I have no connection to you anymore and I think that without it, I will always feel incomplete.

Remember the first time you moved to this city? You were four years old, and it was the first time you had ever lived somewhere long enough to have friends. You were always the enthusiastic and overly happy child, never the shy type. But it was at this time that you truly understood how it felt to be left out.

When people ask me about you, my mind goes blank. As if I have no recollection of who you are and how I got here. But there are some memories that are engraved and imprinted in my brain. Ones that I will never forget nor try to, because to some extent, they made me who I am today.

The first time we were acquainted with the word “fat”. It was never part of your vocabulary until then. But I remember clearly, you were five, and riding the school bus home, and heard some of your friends talking about you, using that word to describe you, and laughing about it. You were confused until you realized, “Fat” was not a good thing.

You went home and cried to mom about what had happened, and she grew concerned. “You’re not fat” she said reassuringly, “you’re just healthy”. You quickly realized that this was not a good thing either.

After the first time, the word was a frequent and uninvited guest in your life, soon to become a recurring theme in all your conversations and thoughts. It was then that you looked in the mirror and had an opinion of what you saw, for once. Not a good one, at that.

You spent all your time trying to hide what you thought needed to be hidden, trying to eat as little as you possibly could and trying to do everything in your power to look more like the kids around you.

This, of course, backfired. A growing child could only go a certain amount of time without eating. And when you ate, you ate like you had been starving for ages. This would go on for many years, as your body changed and morphed everyday into creatures no one else seemed to be morphing into. The only constant in your life had become that word. Or rather, you had become it.

Looking back at everything now I can’t help but laugh at the irony of our situation. I wish you had known some of the things that I know now. But I also know that these are things I would have never known if it weren’t for you. It’s a vicious cycle.

I had started writing to you hoping for answers from you. Hoping you could tell me some of the things that might make me feel as though we’re one person.

But the truth is, we’re not.

No one really is the person they used to be so long ago. Well actually, no one really is the person they were yesterday. I may not remember how you felt when you topped in class for the first time, or how you cried when you fell in the pool fully clothed in front of all your friends. But I do know, without a single doubt in my mind, that I am proud of everything you were and everything you’ve done to make me the way I am.

So maybe instead of besieging you with questions, I’d tell you a few things I wish you’d known.

Well for starters, you are not alone. You were never alone. The bullies in your life and in your mind can make you feel isolated. But you should know that even the people you look up to the most feel the same way. It’s a little bittersweet, but if everyone feels alone, then no one really is, right?

Secondly, that word we had talked about, it’s still a recurring theme. It’s, actually, a universal theme, which is unfortunate but a sad reality. What is different, though, is how we feel about that word now. And how we see ourselves. I wish you’d known that you were never the problem because you are not. The problem lies in what we did to try and fix something that never needed fixing. So, you should know that you are enough, and you can be anything you want to be, but you cannot be so unkind to yourself. You don’t deserve it, no matter how much you think you do.

And lastly, but most importantly, everything will be okay. And when it isn’t, you will be okay.  You may feel like the world around you is spinning, which it is, but that’s how the world works. I know you feel the constant need to please people and be the way they want you to be. I will not tell you to stop because, eventually we do, on our own. But I will tell you that it is not selfish to be kind to yourself. It is not conceited to love yourself. And it is especially not foolish, to love yourself when people think there is nothing there to be loved.

You are growing, constantly changing, and improving- and I am grateful that the way it all started was through you. Because despite what you may believe, I know now, that you are so strong. And in a world that prospers from your weakness, that is the only thing that matters.

So, thank you. I can’t wait for you to see how things unfold. Believe it or not, it’s all worth it in the end. And please eat your food, maybe a little slower, this time.

Your well wisher,