This month, Gurls Talk - the community-led non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women - launched a campaign inviting community members to write a letter to their pre-pandemic self.
The campaign is a way to process what we've endured, how we’ve changed through adversity - and who we've become. Here, Gurls Talk ambassador McKenna Kelley****, a New York based actor, writer and mental health advocate, shares her letter to her pre-pandemic self...
Darling and beautiful woman. I’ve revisited you for some time in my mind. Right now I’m looking at a photo of you from two years ago, and I want you to know how incredibly proud I am of you. I know right now you are in the midst of your senior year of college. I know how badly you want to graduate, trust me I know, but hear me out. Cherish every little moment of fun. Even through the tears, the confusion, and the chaos, cherish every bit of emotion. You may not believe this, but you will miss your college days. You will learn to embrace these moments of hardship, and reminisce on the valuable lessons you have learned. I want you to know that you are admired, and you are seen, even by those you least expect. Your vibrance, your hope, and your optimism are some of the many wonderful qualities that will push you forward.
I want you to start learning how to embrace change and transition with more of an open heart. Hold onto your values, but do not self-sabotage by allowing yourself to stay stuck in the narrowness of your outcomes. Change doesn't happen overnight. Success is not what you currently believe it to be. Please do not take your talents for granted. Go to your voice lessons, continue to write, show up to your studio classes early, ask your teachers many questions and listen with an open mind. There will be a time where you will not have as much access to do all that you love. It will feel like part of you is missing, and that's because part of you will be. I’d like to save you the trouble of a year of self-doubt, and frustration. You are more than enough.
Please know that true love exists. You have a sisterhood that continues to grow, and friends who support you more than you know. Please reach out to them when you feel alone, as they will help carry you to a place of peace. Please know that true love is not abuse. The love that will come is sweet, caring, and unconditional. It will force you to grow, and change you in ways you’ve never thought possible. It exists for you, even though I know you feel like it never will. Still, though it is such a valuable and integral aspect of your journey, the most difficult love you will have to face, is the love you give to yourself. Please be kinder to yourself.
I’d like to save you the trouble of a year of self-doubt, and frustration. You are more than enough.
Know that this version of yourself will change, and so will your priorities. It is okay to have fun, but know that there is a thin line between having fun, and hurting yourself and others. You will still be as vibrant and as beautiful.
Do not lose your fire, and your passion for your art, and for change. You will be blessed to meet so many beautiful people, and will be in rooms you have only dreamed of. Always show up as your authentic self. She is kind, loving, and open. Whenever you are in a state of uncertainty, trust that your soul is guiding you. You are always in the right place, and nothing is of coincidence.
Allow yourself to feel. Allow yourself to show others your vulnerability. It is your greatest strength. Please be honest with yourself.
Be kinder to your mother. Know that she understands you more than you think, and only wants what is best for you. Still, trust yourself enough to know that you are capable of making your own decisions. Make her aware of how thankful you are for her guidance, and how she's raised you to stand firm in what you believe in. It is truly hard for her to watch you grow, but she is proud of you.
Confidence is not ego. You don’t have to put up facades to be accepted. The feeling of never fitting in, will be an asset. You don’t need to make others feel comfortable for your existence.
Please allow yourself to stay present. You tend to live in the future tense. The present moment is all we have. Take things day by day. The expectations you put on yourself are not your own. Allow your hope to be your guiding light.
This world needs you in it. Don’t fight for your place in the world, fight for what you will be able to contribute. There is a difference between surviving and sustaining. Though both are valid, you must seek to sustain. To truly live, and experience all that life has to offer. It is short, and that will be made even more aware overtime.
I love you so much. If only you could see the woman you will become.
With Love, McKenna
ABOUT GURLS TALK
Gurls Talk is a community-led non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting the mental health and wellbeing of adolescent girls and young women. Following Adwoa Aboah’s personal experience with mental health, Gurls Talk was formed with the goal of creating safe spaces – both on and offline – where gurls can access mental health resources, share their experiences and support each other so they never feel alone or have to reach a breaking point. To help support their work donate here.
WANT TO WRITE YOUR OWN LETTER?
CHOOSE A DATE Identify a specific day before the pandemic (for example the first day of quarantine or the last 'normal' event) and write a letter to be received on that day.
ADDRESS THE LETTER TO YOURSELF and write it as you would a real letter. It can help to physically write the letter.
USE THESE PROMPTS
Honour the challenge: I want you to know the first three months will be… Days will begin to feel… You will lose… The hardest part will be…
Reflect on how you've changed: You will learn to appreciate… Moments of peace will be found through…
Celebrate your resilience: Care for you now looks like... Even though bad days will continue, you must remember... With time, you will recognise that quarantine brought meaning to...
WRITE / RECORD Once you have written your letter, record a short video (30-60seconds) reading it out loud or post a caption with the written letter
SHARE Spread the word with friends and family to encourage them to sit down and write a letter to their pre pandemic self