A Letter to Myself in 2019
Where there were wounds once, now there are scars. But all your scars will be loved. I promise.
How are you doing? I am always with you, and yet we seem to have lost touch this year. I understand that there are always things to do, places to go to, opportunities to seize, dreams to realize, and fires to fight, but it's almost as if you have been avoiding me... When and how did we grow so far apart?
From a distance, you seem happier this year and remind me of a younger Sartaj, one surer of himself and his place in the world. Is this true? Are you really happy, or have you just occupied yourself with urgency to avoid dealing with what's important? I ask because I still care about you. I am not a stranger to you, Sartaj, but this year has made me feel like one. You are both wise and jaded enough to know the difference between acts of self-love and distractions offering temporary happiness. And yet you have consistently fallen into the trappings of comfort this year.
If I sound disappointed in you, then it is because I am. When we last met, you had sparkling eyes, reality-defying ambition, and unflinching clarity, but all those distractions have muddied your heart. There is nothing where there was once a garden. What have you felt or learned this year that you will carry into the next decade? Seeing you today reminds me of what Rehana Roohi uttered nearly 20 years ago.
It isn't that he's not a good person.
It's just that he isn't like my dreams.
In my dreams, you are remarkable, Sartaj. Please do not allow life to get the better of you. There are things only you can do, so you must do them. It is rare to have the ability and opportunity to build a significant life, so please make the most of it. Giving in to the everyday pressures of mediocrity and smallness won't get you to where you need to be. So, remember to dare often and greatly. There are several of us who adore you and will help you realize all of you, but you must show up, and you must be seen.
I know this gnawing feeling of unfulfillment is something you've been grappling with for a while now, and you are prepared to completely retool your life and work. It took you 30 years to get to this point and know exactly who you are, so don't resent the journey. The secret to leading a worthwhile life is to make a few meaningful and thoughtful decisions every day and let go of the rest. As you learn to detach yourself from this web, you will come to realize your insignificance. All of this existed before you were born and will continue to thrive long after your departure. So, optimize your time here for that which has the potential to outlive you - an institution, a family, and a legacy.
You dedicated the previous decade to experimentation and self-discovery, but these next few decades will require you to share your gifts in the service of others. This is why you must focus on your family and leave behind a legacy of good. If you wish to succeed in this next phase of your life, you will need to grow your tribe and become bolder, clearer, and less self-apologetic. Others have often mistaken your kindness for weakness or indecisiveness, so ensure this never happens again. There is no need to tolerate their ignorance or accommodate your anxieties, so reform yourself.
That which is wrong, I have come to make right.
I have come to repay the debt of others.
This couplet reached your heart when you were naming all the wrongs in your life, and the weight of their consequences was pressing down on you. Breathe. Do not forget that this life of yours, first and foremost, belongs to you. You have power over it and can undo these wrongs.
When you were born, the first debt you inherited was your privilege. Then came the burden of expectations placed on you. This was soon followed by the power others yielded over you. And the final debt is one which grows with each passing day - time. You often wonder about your purpose here but have you considered that perhaps it is to simply walk this earth with joy? If you can say no to anything which doesn't inspire happiness or peace in you, then you are free from all debts. So, are you free, Sartaj? Remember that you can get anything you want but not everything you want.
What choices will then lead you to your best life?
You have already learned through your tragedies that humans are transient beings. We all come and go bringing varying measures of joy, pain, longing, and wisdom into the lives of others. This is the natural order of things akin to the ebb and flow of the sea. This is also why you must rebuild your circle from scratch for this brave new decade. It will shape your entire life, so do this with care. In all this change, happiness then lies in the constant. Isn't home still wherever you see your mother's eyes, Sartaj? Your everyday rituals celebrated with your tribe are what lend comfort, meaning, and familiarity to your life. A prophet is never fully understood by his people, but their belief in him remains unshakeable. This will never change.
If I were to tell the truth, then your love made me pay attention to myself. When you would kiss me, I would go home and look long in the mirror.
I see you in the mirror every day and wonder about the love that will make you feel this way once again. The Naqba (catastrophe) will complete its third year next February, and as its memories linger and fade inside you, I need you to regain control of your heart. I know you have never craved validation from others but when you love someone deeply, they become an extension of yourself. Their attention on you translates into boundless self-affection and wonder. You were made to love and be loved, and yet on most days you seem to believe that you are incapable or undeserving of it. Where there were wounds once, now there are scars. But all your scars will be loved. I promise.
What do you see when you look at your reflection?
I hope you can see everything worthy of love in you. I see this every day, and it makes me believe in the best of you. I will always believe in you.
All my love,