Dear 16 year old me,
You're in high school now and you're ready to make these the best years of your life. You've already set out a plan for how the next two years will go; from all your classes preparing you for university to some exciting adventures with friends. But what happens next, you could have never planned for. You are about to go through the hardest part of your life, ever.
You won't tell anyone about this. And no one will ask you if you're okay. But they all know. They all know that something is wrong. Word spreads fast in this little city, and if you feel like people are talking about you because they feed bad for you, they are. You will lose your way, your plans will have to change, your school life won't be so exciting anymore and you will lose friends - let it happen. You're going to have to grow up a lot faster than you had planned on.
You're going to experience a few things these next few years that nobody your age should ever have to. I know you're scared. You don't know what is going to happen or how you're doing to deal with any of it. But more than anything, you're confused. You're unsure how your life can change so drastically overnight. I can't express to you enough how great of a support system your family is going to be for you, use them. I know you feel like you don't need their guidance and help but you need it a lot more than you think.. you're extremely lost.
At school things will be hard. You'll find it hard to focus in class and even harder to maintain relationships with friends while hiding a huge part of your personal life from them. On top of that, it's high school, so you're going to be your own worst enemy when it comes to self-love and confidence. You're never going to be happy with the girl looking back at you. There is always going to be some part of you that you're going to want to change. You'll compare yourself to others - randoms, friends, your twin sister. You're going to take what people criticize about you and over analyze it way too many times. But I want you to know that the imperfections you hate about yourself are truly insignificant in the end. You will eventually learn that how you treat others and who you are on the inside are actually what make you beautiful. You'll still have days where you find it hard to look past your insecurities but the emotional blows you're dealing with right now are going to toughen you up in so many ways.
At home things will be even harder. You'll have to see your parents go through some very hard times and it will break your heart. Believe me, it will tear you apart in ways you never even thought were possible. You'll start to question it. That confusion will turn into anger and anger will very soon turn into sadness.. extreme sadness. You will get hit hard and quickly discover a lot about depression. Lean on your twin sister. She is going through this with you. And believe me, she is actually taking it a lot harder than you are. Write. Write about everything and anything. It will make you feel so much better. I know it seems like there is no positive ending to any of this right now but I promise you that it ends a lot better than you may think. You will come out of this experience a much stronger, independent and wiser lady. You will know exactly what you want in life and who you want to be. You will realize that you can get through anything in this life with the support of your parents, sisters and brother.
You're going to bottle all of this up. You'll eventually graduate high school without people knowing any of this even happened. These things will follow you to university but the people won't. You will meet so many people within the next few years but I want you to know that not everyone stays in your life; and that's ok. You get by with the help of a select few and your family. You lose yourself quite a few times but you come back knowing exactly who you are. It will be the best thing you ever experience in your life. Wait for it!
You're 23 now. You've moved across the world. You've grown within your career as a hairstylist and you're amazing at what you do. You've also found yourself a lot sooner than most people your age do. Your family is happy. You are at peace with yourself, and others. You will still enjoy writing; the blog you started when you were 16 years old is still up and running - and it's gotten you some pretty sick opportunities! You still have days where you're hard on yourself but you've found ways to cope with it. You meet some amazing people in your life. And most importantly, I want you to know that you are happy.
Don't sweat the small things, you make it out alright in the end.
Deena Alawaid (23 years old)
P.S. Your ultimate happiness is created from within. It's infact your career and attitude that makes you the happiest you've ever been in your life - not someone else.