Dear Dorsa,

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Letter to my first year self

It’s your first year and things have been rocky. Friendship has been hard. Living with strangers is weird. You’re in a city by yourself, in a country all alone, and on a continent solitary, far from anything you’ve ever known. You went to the same school for 14 years and feared change like a disease. Now look at you. All grown up and ready for the world. I miss you, and I hope to never be you again. Not because there is anything wrong with you, but because the person you’ve become is incredible. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m pretty great. I’m an accomplished, ambitious and arduous final-year student. And I’m so genuinely happy. You’ve done so much in these three years – grown so much. I’m so proud of you for not holding back, and for doing as much as humanely possible.

I’m graduating this year and I can’t help but think of you. Your dreams, your expectations, your naivety about the world. But also your fears, your disappointments, the moments you were so angry with yourself. You got accustomed to success and achievement, and you never encountered failure or experienced being a below-standard student. That’s right. Miss Straight-As, IB veteran, School Captain. You turned out to be a below-average student and you could hardly cope with it. You were falling apart, because who are you if not the smart one?

I’m here to tell you not to worry. Don’t abandon all hope. It gets better, substantially. I’m living proof of that. I have a lot to tell you.

You’re human, Dorsa.

You’re meant to mess up, lose people, miss out on opportunities, do horribly. Humans are imperfect, and yes, it’s cliche, but it’s true. If you’re going to be a well-rounded person, you need to do badly sometimes. You need to be a jerk sometimes. You need to be the loser sometimes. You need to be much nicer to yourself and take it easier. Not only is this your first time in the UK, but you also started university at 17, a lot younger than most people. It might seem that there’s little difference between 17 and 18, but trust me, there is. At 18, your values and confidence changed. At 19, your priorities and discipline transformed. And you’re not even done. I’m going to be 20 next year, and as scary as it is to not be a teenager anymore, I can’t wait to see who I become at 20. The point is, you’re so young and life can be so demanding. You were never a social person, and you never learned to balance a social life and your academics. You were not prepared in any way for university. You shouldn’t be so surprised with how badly you performed in your first year.

You’re resilient and that’s your best trait, Dorsa.

Maybe it’s because your 3rd-grade teacher made you the lead performer of the Resilience Skit at assembly, or it might be an innate trait, but you’re incredibly strong and you bounce back. Your resilience is unmatched, and you turn everything around so quickly. You became a great student, a social butterfly, and an academic weapon with dozens of extracurriculars. I don’t know how you did it, Dorsa. But you did, and I’m here to tell you not to worry about how often you are rejected or how often you fail. I think it’s not so much about working harder, but rather it’s about consistently trying. And you do. I love you for that.

Change is okay, Dorsa.

For someone who cries when moving apartments, hates the idea of new environments and is so attached to locations and objects, you really do turn out to be very adaptable, and open to change. You actually enjoy the idea now. In these last few years, you’ve been confronted with so much uncertainty, loss, and adjustment. You’ve been scared a lot, but you’re still here. You’re still thriving. From being demoted from a four-year programme at the end of your first year to all your friends moving cities away in your final year, almost nothing has been stable. Nothing except your ability to survive. Don’t worry about change, Dorsa – you make your peace with it. When someone would say that “change is a part of life,” used to scoff and say “Unfortunately.” Now, you smile at the sentiment. Life is beautifully volatile, and we can be versatile.

Call your mom more, Dorsa.

Don’t be so caught up in your new life that you forget the reason you’re there. Call your mom more, call your sister more, call your friends more. Don’t worry about disturbing them, and don’t overthink it. A call is just that, a call. It’s easy and not something to be so worked up over. Let the people you miss know you miss them. You’re not the only one whose life has completely turned around lately. It’s a lot more difficult for the people you’ve left. You’ve been that person, the one staying behind when family and friends move on. You know how it feels. Act accordingly.

That’s all I have to say, Dorsa. First-year is just one very small part of your journey in the grand scheme of things. You’ve got this.