Dearest brace-face slash baby-fat encompassed thirteen year old Zahra (or should I say Zarah? I believe by now you’ve gotten over spelling your name with an X, thank goodness),
How are you? I can imagine how exhausted you must be from arguing with your father all day – I know exactly how irritating and suffocating he can be. It’s been quite some time since you last saw your mother and Imaan, and I know their absence has started taking it’s toll on you, but my God, you are so unbelievably tough and you don’t even know it yet. As far as your father is concerned, he’ll be calling you a ‘loser’ and a ‘failure’ quite often and already has a handful of times – but you will always love him, even after you discover all the things he has done (which will be soon). Be nice, you’ll end up holding a grudge against him far longer than you should – and even though he has passed on GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) to you, he is still your father after all – however, I’ll let you in on a little secret: After your sixteenth birthday, you’ll only be seeing him twice in a six year time period.
I know you’ve been tyrannized and harassed by the “cool kids” at all three schools you’ve been to up until now, the girls you so badly wanted to be friends with call you fat, ugly and a “pathological liar”. But I’m going to let you in on another secret: In about two years, you’re going to be twice as “popular” as them (mind you, you don’t care as it allows more people to talk badly about you behind your back and you eventually realize how it is the quality of your friendships that matter, not the quantity), and they will be your good friends – especially the one you dislike the most, shes going to become your best friend and you two will go through all the pretty slash ugly phases of young adolescence together, until one day you are literally living on opposite sides of the world.
Some boys do suck, particularly the ones you have and will encounter during the years to come – I know a boy has already made a rendition of “riding dirty” by using “trying to catch Zahra fat and ugly” which is a sad, despicable thing to do and will take it’s toll on you subconsciously for a some time, but don’t worry about your weight. You’ll learn to embrace yourself aesthetically and you eventually end up living a relatively healthy lifestyle (minus cigarettes, sadly that will happen as much as you despise it right now).
You’re incredibly infatuated with someone who is infatuated with the best friend (stated above) who will stop speaking to you once he discovers you have a child-like crush on him – and it will sting in a young and stupid kind of way, and you will cry on your carpeted floor perched right in front of your incinerating radiator while listening to The Scientist simply because you don’t know any better – but guess what? He becomes one of your closest friends, too.
You’re going to fall in love in a few years, and it will feel beautiful and invigorating for as long as it lasts – And its going to break your heart, to the point where you are astounded at the amount of pain you, as a human being are capable of feeling – but its going to be the best learning experience – afterwards, you will learn to love yourself, because that is really, the only way to love someone else. Your world should revolve around you, never a boy and especially not one who makes you sad. You will hold onto that love for a while, and eventually you will let go and (hopefully) fall in love with someone who emphasizes your good over your flaws because you deserve that. You deserve the best. Even if you think you aren’t worthy of it, or of being loved.
You’ve already decided you don’t believe in any of the Monotheistic religions. You have your reservations against Islam and you’ll stick by them for the years to come. You’ve stopped praying before you fall asleep, you have declared you will only fast during Ramadan for humanitarian reasons, and you have developed a strong distaste towards the hijab, the niqab and the burkha. Its dawned upon you, how inherently misogynistic your culture is because of the religion it falls back on, how people can be ridiculously hypocritical and have the strangest double-standards on life. You are unable to speak your mind, everything you say is dissected and labelled as incorrect by those around you. Due to these circumstances you will rebel. Insanely.
You are intelligent, but not conventionally, and that is what makes you inexplicably fascinating. Your teachers are intrigued by you, but you show no interest. You will continue to abhor formal education. You are beyond creative, with your handmade pop-up books, the yellow UHU glue stick is your best friend, the amount of books you read is borderline unhealthy (said no-one, ever) and your short stories you like to have printed and bound, because it makes you feel like a “published author”. Never give up on horse-riding, for it is one of the few things that makes you genuinely happy (however, you probably haven’t realized that yet). Remember to keep that spark cultivated, keep it alive. Keep your passion for freedom and discipline always breathing; otherwise you will feel indifference, a mind-numbing soul-abolishing form of apathy if you don’t.
Focus on school, and learn the value of money because it will be taken away from you, and these things are going to bite you in the behind one day. When you decide to move to the country of your legal citizenship halfway across the world from the city you grew up in, all by yourself under undesirable circumstances, it is hard. It is painful. It is hungry. It is cold. It is lonely. It is confusing. But you bloom. You bloom into an awkward, beautiful butterfly without pausing for a moment of clarity to realize how far you’ve come. You will get out of your cocoon, I promise you.
I’m not perfect, but I know I’m on my way to becoming a better person, a person capable of embracing her flaws rather than allowing them to bring her down. You have helped me so much, with your kindness, patience, tolerance and empathy. You were never resentful, you were always fiercely optimistic. I look back and I think of you every time I’m dissatisfied with the way things are, or when I’m being ungrateful – because you had it so much worse than I did.
And I’m sorry if I couldn’t save you then.
But I’m going to save you now.
Yours until death,