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Dear Gemma,

I have drafted and re-drafted letters to you trying to figure out what to say. I have been through so much at this stage in life that it’s hard to remember a time when I was as young and carefree as you are now. I know that there’s a lot happening around you but you understand nothing and this is perfect. You will have such a short childhood so cherish this time, a time when you literally only care about the fact that you have the chickenpox right now. Dad is there (though right now you don’t call him Dad, you call him Eddie) and he is walking up and down the corridor of your tiny Ballymun flat with you trying to make you laugh so you won’t scratch. You will always remember this time.

If I was to tell you now everything that’s in store for you you would run for the hills – though not really because you’re too itchy and also you can’t reach the door handle. I will say that it will be very tough and overwhelming but you’ll be okay, you are one strong little gal and you will be super wise, even when you are not more than a toddler. You will however, get caught up in all the drama and pain and sadness and sometimes you will forget what is important so I’ve decided I will write to you not to warn you of impending chaos but to remind you of who you are, even if you don’t know it yet.

First, do not let injustice pollute your kind heart. Life isn’t fair, you will know that soon. Bad things happen to good people, bad people can skate through life unscathed. For years you will hold such resentment wondering; why? You will think no one understands how difficult life is for you, you will strive to be good and kind but feel disheartened when another thing out of your control goes wrong. All I can say is, there are things in this life we cannot control and there will always be people who feel hard done by in comparison to others. Do not harbour resentment. Stop being jealous of everyone who has what seems to be a perfect family and a happy life. Their happy lives are similarly out of their control. Be happy for others and accept your lot in life and always remember that no matter how bad things are, there is someone in a much worse situation.

Don’t depreciate the pain of others. I remember at one point someone was talking about how the divorce of their parents was so difficult for them and all you could think of was your own life, you wanted to say that’s nothing, let me tell you about pain. You didn’t say this thankfully and you spent so long afterwards realising how stupid it was to think like that. Everyone has their own troubles and everyone feels pain differently. No matter how trivial someone’s problem may seem, if it is important to them, it is important. Full stop. Accept that.

Be yourself. This seemingly simple mantra is surprisingly hard to follow through on especially as a child. For you, you will grow up somewhere far removed from where you feel at home and you will be different, people will mostly dislike different. And you will want to fit in but you won’t, and that is okay. In fact it’s perfect. To fit in would be to lose part of yourself, your uniqueness, your beliefs, your way of thinking. You will feel lonely and sad but one day I assure you, you will return to the city of lights where you feel at home and you will find likeminded spirits. They will be stars in the darkest nights of your life and fill your days with laughter and smiles. They will shape you, file away those rough edges and teach you that it’s okay to show the world your heart, to have love and compassion, to be unique. You will grow together. They will love you at your worst and tell you how beautiful and special you are, even when you can’t see this yourself. You will never attract these life-changing souls if you are not yourself. No matter how difficult this is, know that in the long-run it will be worth it.

You will meet some incredible people along this journey. Allow them to influence you in a positive way, learn from them, enjoy their company, but do not be saddened when they move on. Every moment of your life which brings some laughter and some happiness is never a waste of time. Do not grieve for lost friendships but celebrate the memories made.

Your words are powerful, use them for good. Do not spread gossip or hate. Don’t judge people, try to see things from the point of view of others, try to understand. Have opinions but don’t be afraid to change them. Don’t be stubborn (it takes you an absolute age to grow out of this so save yourself years of torture and nip it in the bud now for the love of God!). Don’t hold grudges. A lovely lady once told you to never go to bed angry at someone you love, remember that.

Do not allow fear of rejection or hurt to hold you back. Those who allow fear to rule their lives will live with regret and sadly you will learn that life is short and regrets pile up quick. Embarrass yourself. Be honest. Most people spend their lives hiding their true selves out of fear of rejection, do not be one of those people.

As you grow older your strength will be unparalleled but don’t let that strength fill you with foolish pride. Tell yourself that it’s okay to need help, to be overwhelmed. We have won many a war but that does not mean we don’t occasionally need some assistance when we go to battle. Do not think you need to carry it all on your shoulders. Be okay with needing others. Sometimes life will become too much and you will feel too tired to continue. You will think about giving up. At those times, remember the smiles of those glowing souls who fill your days with frivolity and light, remember those faces who look up to you with beautiful brown and green eyes for love and guidance, remember those grey-haired golden-heart protectors sitting around the kitchen with steaming cups of tea listening patiently, lovingly.

Lastly, when life gets tough, you can allow yourself to be a victim, or you can pick yourself up and decide that you want to be a person who uses their experiences to help others. Don’t be a victim. Be strong and fierce and kind. Be ridiculous and smile and laugh because the more you fill the world around you with happiness, the happier you will feel. You know what it is to live in the dark and you will never want anyone else to know that feeling, so use you time and energy wisely and bring light to the lives of others, in any way you can.

Love,

Gemma

xoxo

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