Culture

Dear 13-Year-Old Me: You Are Your Own Superhero

by Sana Amanat

October 6, 2015

A Letter to My Younger Selfis a series of letters from awesome women to their younger selvestelling them, just when they need to hear it mostwhat it takes to become the doers and dreamers and builders theyre meant to be.

13-year-old Sana!

It’s me, older-age-that-I-won’t-reveal Sana! Well, an older, but—I hate to break it to you—not much taller version of you. (So, word to the wise, you actually can ignore your mother’s warnings about not drinking enough milk, since it really won’t help us with the genetics we’ve been dealt.)

I am writing to you from our future. And while I know you’re totally nerding out right now (“Is time travel feasible like I always thought?” “Do hoverboards ever become a thing?”), you need to put that Archie comic down and listen because I come with a very important message that will save you a lot of teenage agita. (Also, “no” on the time travel so far, but I think scientists are real close to figuring out hoverboards. Huzzah!)

Right about now you’re worried about a few things. You don’t really have any friends and you’re not sure if it’s because of your serious brown-skin complex or the fact that you haven’t figured out how to be a “girl” yet. Either way, you’re a loner. Those kids who snickered at you in English class are a hanging metaphor for your social inadequacy, and they stick with you every time you search for a solitary corner in the cafeteria. Looking up from your sad lunch-time junction, you notice one more girl has found a boy and wonder if you’ll ever be allowed to go on a date—or why everyone around you is more grown-up than you will ever be.

You want to be them… but you also know you can’t be.

Because your world is full of parchment paper and inkblots; charcoal imprints you leave on your curry-tainted clothes as you fall asleep amidst your desperately grandiose etchings. With your nose in a book, your head goes off to magical places inhabited by the dauntless heroes you yearn to be. You live in a land you can’t see, but one that is brighter and more beautiful than anything outside your bedroom door. For you, a leather-bound journal and a stack of hand-me-down books are your fortresses. You sink behind them, unabashed and free. 

This is your safe space—your kingdom of solitude and possibility protecting you from everyone and everything that you’re afraid of. Eventually, though, you'll realize that the real villain you need to overcome is more insidious than anyone you'll meet in the real world, and invisible to boot.

His name is Doubt. 

Doubt forces you to disrespect your roots and dishonor who you know you are. Doubt demands you to question your gender and what it allows you to do. So, you’ll manage to crawl back in your skin every so often, but it doesn’t quite fit. It shifts uncomfortably around you as your insides writhe in frustration—because Doubt always reminds you of the dividing lines between you and them. Not male enough. Not white enough. Not good enough.

Enough.

’Cuz gurrrl, you got this.

In a few years, all that noise will fade to a hum as you begin to make good on a promise to yourself. A promise to capture those visions you’ve been secretly chasing. You’ll meet your favorite English teacher who will help you wield the written word as passionately as you devour it. You’ll become precise and purposeful through language. You’ll come closer to your unveiling.

Doubt still lingers in dark corners, but you’ll endure. A voice keeps telling you there’s more to seek, more to seize. I’m that voice waiting for you to arrive. Keep running. You’re so damn close.

Questions remain, but your own answers will become more resolute. You’ll begin to carve yourself into shape. The status quo is unacceptable; you’ll make your own rules. Keep questioning. You’ve almost figured it out.

You’ll fall more in love with comics like X-Men as they give you solace, finding connections with “mutants” like you. You’ll recognize that hero and heroine are the same exact word with two different spellings. You’ll realize heroes only find themselves in their weakest moments.

As you begin to find yourself, you also find your real friends, long-lost soulmates who are amazed by you as they challenge you. You’ll feel your skin beginning to settle down. You’ll dance. Actually dance because it’s freeing and you’re really good at it. You’ll keep reading and drawing power from invisible allies. You’ll discover what pride truly is, redefining words like different and weird to mean unique and groundbreaking.

You’ll remember Sana means light and radiance.

You’ll bring that with you to every job you have, until finally you reach the gates of a wonderland built from childhood fantasies.

You will tell stories—amazing, fantastic, incredible stories that celebrate the power of the misfit and the power of the human spirit. You will meet mentors who will inspire you and embolden you. Listen to them. You will meet artists who astound you and challenge you. Play with them.  

And then you’ll meet a young girl named Kamala Khan, a superhero and the first of her kind, who will stun the world while she charms it. She’ll remind you of everything you once were—and help you share your story so that no one will ever feel as alone as you once did.

And Doubt? Oh, he’ll be visiting every so often. When your comics expertise is questioned because you’re a woman. When you worry you sound more witchy than confident. When you’re told your two X chromosomes give you special treatment.

But Doubt is no longer a threat—he’s your fuel. He represents everything and every person you have wanted to prove wrong for the last three decades. He will keep whispering, but he will not win.

(And man, will you love your brown skin.)

Love us like whoa,

Sana

 

Illustration by Tuesday Bassen

Join GOOD + GAP in empowering girls everywhere through a series of inspiring stories. Tell us yours and use the hashtag #heyworld.

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Dear 13-Year-Old Me: You Are Your Own Superhero