This piece is part of the Letters to My First-Year Self series in which students (current or past) look back on their first year here at Rutgers and give advice to their former selves. We are looking for contributions to this series; so if you’d like to participate, please send your reflection to I Am Rutgers via the Contribute tab at the top of this site!
Dear First-Year Saira,
Life after death has never concerned you. What you have always been interested in is life before death. And, oh, the adventures that lie ahead for us! In the next four years, you are going to embark on an exhilarating and all-consuming love affair with yourself. Why? Because from where I’m looking, that’s really what life before death is all about.
If there is one thing that has remained the same since your first year, it is your staunch adherence to honesty and the truth. As such, I am letting you know that this affair will be the most arduous experience of your life. Loving yourself requires a significant amount of courage. It mandates accepting who you are, as you are, flaws and all. So, be brave! Here’s a few things to help you out in the process.
Have the courage to follow your heart. You are going to deny it for an unnecessarily long period of time, but becoming a doctor does not excite you. I know that Mamma and Daddy Shakir really, really, really want you to become Dr. Shakir because to them, that is the only pathway to success and happiness. Please know that there are multiple pathways to success. Telling them you are having doubts and “want to explore other interests” is going to be incredibly daunting. Do it anyways because they are going to love you regardless, even if they won’t speak to you for three months afterwards.
Open yourself up to a lot of uncertainty. You are going to learn that plans fall through, all the time. All of a sudden, plans become obsolete. Realize plans only appear to be set in stone. Nothing is ever set in stone. Uncertainty is not a bad thing! It just means that you have no limitations.
Embrace your “flaws.” For as long as you can remember, you have always been stubborn. I am telling you this quality will soon become a prized possession of yours. You are going to fight hard for what you believe in. Saira, this is what sets you apart from others. You have many other “flaws,” but these characteristics make you who you are. Anytime somebody tries to “fix” you or tells you something is “wrong” with you, know that they are attempting to force you into conforming to societal standards of false perfection. Perfection does not exist, but Saira, you are perfect just as you are.
Be proud of your experiences. You’re going to hide that you spent the majority of your childhood in poverty, living off of food stamps. You will do your best to bury the harsh racism and Islamophobia. Be proud of what you have gone through to get to where you are.
Finally, know it is all going to work out. You’re going to do all of the things you wanted to do as a kid. You’re going to graduate college with all the accolades you wanted. You will explore New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C., and more. You are going to follow the career path that is right for you! Most importantly, you are going to be the woman you always wanted to be: strong, confident, witty, and, ultimately, powerful.
You are going to go through so much in the next four years and I cannot wait for you to get to where I am today. There is nothing more powerful than a woman who is in love with all aspects of herself and her life, and, that, my sweet Saira, is going to be you.
Love you to the moon and back,