Dear 24 year old Norah,
Well, this is a first. I’ve only ever addressed past Norah, as I read my old diary posts and cringed at the vapidity of their content, or softly cursed as I remembered that time in Form 1 when I would steal my mother’s phone daily to send a stream of Facebook messages to some soft-haired boy in our estate who clearly could not be less interested in what I had to say/write.
I wonder where he is these days.
But it’s not always unrequited love that fills my lungs with the sharp stench of embarrassment mingled with guilt. When I look back at my life-as I constantly do- and reflect on the paths I have taken, the decisions I have made, the opportunities I’ve let slip by, the friends I have mistreated, the friends who have mistreated me, the respect I have gained and lost, I deeply regret the time I have wasted making so many mistakes.
I often wonder why I decided to keep silent as the pretty girls in our estate viciously teased the ‘fat girl’. Why I suppressed my true self for so long for fear that I would not fit in, even though fake me never did anyways. Why I dodged responsibilities, ignored my friends when their presence was inconvenient to me, and became exceedingly jealous of peers more successful than me.
But what has passed is past, right? So today, inspired by Stanford’s Frosh Council, I am writing to you, 24 year old Norah. Senior, Computer Science major, adulty Norah.
I know no-one’s perfect, but it sure doesn’t hurt to be close, right? You didn’t go to America to be a failure, did you?
No. Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about GPA. I think you have enough people back at home asking you about that. And enough personal anxiety about your grades, as you always have.I’ll focus on other issues(none necessarily easier to approach).
I hope you are a good friend. I mean it. Not just someone with mildly interesting Facebook photos and status updates. Not just someone who likes other people’s photos, types multiple laughing emojis as comments, and puts 10 exclamation marks at the end of her happy birthday message to Greg, to compensate for the fact that she forgot to buy Greg anything. (You didn’t even know it was today, until that notification saved you).I hope you have had meaningful conversations with your friends, not just beaming selfies, which you then hurriedly uploaded with a gushing but empty caption and waited for the shallow reassurance of the internet to fill the holes in your relationships. I hope you are someone who a friend would rush to at 3 am, sobbing. Sobbing, and wanting nothing more than to hear you listen to them, and reassure them, and be there for them, as you have for so long. That’s the kind of person I hope you have become.
I hope you have the courage to always believe that you are worth something. To attack life without any reservations. I pray you see the world as a place you can change, a place you can improve, a place you can make better for someone who hasn’t had the same opportunities you have had. I hope that you have never lost sight of why you got here, in this huge, intimidating school, why you cried in frustration and despair so many times, why, as you were biking from Hewlett, you would often stop in front of the main quad and stare at your surroundings, overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. I hope you stay restless and unwilling to accept that you can’t do something extra-ordinary.
I hope you are not afraid of love, but also not fixated on it. Remember, it may make everything better, but it won’t make everything good if everything is not. No boy or man is ever worth your peace of mind.
But don’t be frustrated if you haven’t changed the world yet, or if you have made some questionable decisions about boys, or if you have felt worthless. Shit happens. You’re 24, after all. And what’s passed is past. However, own up to your mistakes, and don’t be so proud as to think they can’t happen again. Learn, and take caution.
You’re 24-make it count.
20 year old Norah