Letter to my 25-year-old self

Dear Bett,
I am writing you from the future. You just turned 38 and life looks nothing like what you envision now at 25. Easy there, don’t kick up a fuss – you’re still blessed, just not in the way you imagined.

You’re living a rich life now, not a money-rich life but a rich one nonetheless. It’s a life you fall in love with every day.

You don’t make partner at the audit firm where you work right now, you had wanted to smash this goal by the time you’re 35, well… you don’t. You actually quit the firm when you’re 28.

You quit because you realised – and accepted bitterly – that you don’t belong in the corporate world.

You’re an artist, Bett, you’re a creative mind with an artistic soul, you can hear the music of colour. So your troubled spirit left the comforts and certainty of audit to go find yourself in the creative arts. And you do, after several tumultuous years of roaming the wilderness rudderless, you eventually find your true self in writing.

Imagine that, your private journaling matured into a public career. You’re now paid to tell stories, how cool is that?

You write for the biggest newspaper in East Africa, you also write on the Internet. You have a growing community of fun, intelligent and mature readers who have turned the journey into a never-ending road trip where everyone is just the right degree of tipsy.

You feel very safe with them.

Writing gives you freedom and the ticket to live an abundant life on your own terms. I told you – you’re wealthy.

You’re also an author, you published your first book in December 2021, it has a gorgeous blue cover, a cover you want to indulge in with a glass of chilled chardonnay.

‘Should I?’ is supposed to be a book about money but it’s really about money and life, emotions, identity and urbanity.

It’s a delightful book because you poured yourself into it. All the things you imagined would be unwelcome about it are the most welcome: the number crunching, the stories, the silliness of your personality. Kenyans buy it and love it, their recommendations on social media sell it for you. Their word is like a candle flame that fans into a roaring forest fire.

Becoming an author translates into recognition – and respect – as a writer. It feels good. Earned. You feed off this nourishing energy to begin writing another second silly book.

You love writing books because there is a flow of creative energy, you feel most connected to God.

You’ve turned 38 but you still weigh the same as you do now, you’re also the same dress size. You’re stunning for your age, never mind the two kids you carried and birthed, and the plump-with-content husband at home.

Yes, you marry a fantastic village chief called GB and have two children together, a girl then a boy – she steals your heart, he steals your soul.

You’re a great mum, child-like. You’re present and empathetic, gentle. You hug and kiss your babies a lot, even when they don’t want to be hugged and kissed.

Your skin needs extra moisturising and your hair has refused to grow, actually… you’re balding. (Sorry to laugh, ha-ha, just that this balding is very sad and very funny.) But you’ve accepted this genetic mishap as just another thing that makes you you. Besides, you’ve always been a glass-half-full girl, you style your balding avocado head with funky fedoras and wigs that evoke different personalities. Head wraps make you feel African and dignified, like you’re the goddess of prosperity.

Your girl group of best friends breaks apart. First, Terry relocates to another country with her husband and children in August 2021. Then Pepe dies in April 2022. I am so sorry, Bett. I am so sorry.

You sometimes feel alone here. And lonely. You keep the expanding void at bay by giving more time to your family at home, more time reading novels and writing stories, swimming.

Also to piano.

That’s right! You learn the piano and it’s beatific. Your spirit aligns when you play, it’s like dancing with your own soul. Speaking of, you’re still an excellent dancer with grind and rhythm. Nigerian music does it for you. So does South Africa’s amapiano.

Oh, you also drop vodka and take up whiskey. Two doubles of Singleton is your sweet spot, you chase it with water and it has no hangovers.

At 38, you understand yourself better than you ever have. There is immense peace in understanding yourself. You now know that you hunt best when you hunt alone, you eat best when you eat with others.

You’re a good writer but a better teacher. Every few months, you must discipline yourself by adopting a no-buy for your wardrobe (yeah, you’re still a clotheshorse).

Mothering two children teaches you that parental love is the purest form of love, and that the most foolish sacrifice is the sacrifice of self.

You also learn that money is wholesome only when you fulfil yourself and uplift others with it.

You still struggle with religion but you’re now embracing spirituality. That’s why you gravitate towards the poet and teacher Rumi. He says pithy things that pluck at the strings of your wistful heart.

You borrow from Rumi, these words will guide you until you turn 40, Inshallah.

Rumi said, ‘Don’t believe what you’ve heard, the stories of others. Unfold your own myth.’

Unfold you own myth, future Bett.

With love,

An edited version of this story first ran in the Saturday Nation on October 29, 2022. It ran under my ‘Culture’ column.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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