Letter to my 18 year old self.

Dear 18-year-old-me,

              Congratulations on graduating from high school – I know you’re feeling super-excited about your first year in college. Super-excited, but also a scared – you’ve left behind your dearly familiar environment – the comfort of that old much-loved building with its tiny playground, the teachers who motivated and sometimes intimidated you, and most of all your friends with whom you’ve spent the last decade and a half of your life.

You like the new campus, you love the coolness of swinging a t square as you walk to class, you’ve even started to feel friendly towards some of your new classmates. But at the back of your mind you worry that things will never be quite the same again. That you’re now supposed to be a responsible adult, not a dithering high schooler. That you may not be as popular or as smart or as interesting as you’d like to be. That your old friends will drift away, and you’ll never be as close to your new ones. That you’ll be judged for your lack of finesse.

You know what? Don’t worry! Yes, things won’t ever be the same again, but mostly in a good way. You’ll learn to love computer science, and you’ll be passionate about designing software – one of those lucky people whose passion and career intersect. You’ll be witty and interesting and quite popular. Some people will love you and some people will hate you – and you’ll learn to make peace with that. You’ll learn that outspokenness comes naturally to you, and that’ll be a liberating feeling, after the disciplined obedience of school. You’ll never be glamorous or truly hip, but you’ll eventually realize that it’s no big deal. You’ll never really master the art of applying makeup, or flirting, or juggling boyfriends – and at first, you’ll be envious of those who can. But you’ll figure out soon enough that for you, being one of a ‘gang’ is the best feeling ever – and that friendships are what count and last and make you tick. That’ll help you in your dark days as you try to swim through your broken relationships – for yes, your heart will be broken as young hearts are wont to be.

I won’t give you advice, for you’re contrary and hate advice. But I’d love for you to not take life too seriously. To enjoy the four years – for after that the harshness of ‘real life’ starts. To be patient, and less quick-tempered and not quite so prone to judging people. I wish I could tell you to take a gap year, to travel, to do a stint at a culinary school. But then hindsight’s always 20-20!

What I love about you the most though is that even at 18, and 30 years ago, you’ve never thought of yourself as diversity, or ever felt that you’re a woman in a man’s world, or that you’re entitled to special privileges just by virtue of being a woman. You’ve never felt excluded because of your gender, never felt threatened in any way in what’s essentially a very male-dominated world of engineers. You’ve actually hardly given it a thought. You’ve not even thought about the importance of financial independence – for you cannot imagine any other way. That’s going to make life much simpler for you professionally, and somewhat complex in other areas. But to me at 49, it’s just a wonderful feeling to have had such a feisty, opinionated, irreverent and confident girl in my past.

The next thirty years are going to be a roller-coaster ride – but it’ll all be a lot of fun too, and that’s what’ll keep you going – so keep finding that fun element amidst the daily grind.

 

Take care. And don’t lose your sass!

Love you!

Your middle-aged self

 

Sreerupa Sen

Distingushed Engineer,
Q2e Banking, Bangalore