Letter From My Older Self
Occassion: My Mother's 60th Birthday Celebration
Date: Friday 14th August 2015
Venue: Mediterraneo Ristorante, Junction Mall, Nairobi, Kenya.
White Forest Birthday Cake: Cake Plaza Co. Ltd. Telephone 0732816558
Photography: Olive Ndungutse
‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the birthday girl is in the building,’ announced my sister at the table. It was a beautiful evening; a gentle breeze, subtle lighting at the table, candles and dimly lit lamp shades that enhanced people’s smiles and laughter. The group was an intimate one; friends, relatives and plus ones. The girl my sister was referring to was my mother. We had gathered to surprise her for a her sixtieth birthday, a major milestone, and my father, the evening’s wingman, had just sent me a text message saying they were climbing up the restaurant stairs, heading our way. The gathering of people, called at such short notice but having turned up all the same, moved me deeply. I smiled and began to feel giddy…you’d have thought it was my own birthday!
My mother was genuinely taken aback when the crowd shouted ‘SURPRISE!’ as she walked in. It’s not easy to surprise her, but she literally put her hand over her mouth and began calling out everyone she was most surprised to see, by name. Her childhood friends, her cousin, her nieces and her sister-in-law. It was a beautiful sight…heartwarming, really. My folks have had an intense year and it was great to see them laugh out loud and relax for the night. As the festivities kicked into high gear, people toasting and conversations flowing, the noise around me drowned out and I found myself trying to imagine myself at sixty. I watched my parents, who I’ve grown very close to. Their wisdom, love and generosity is unsurpassed. In my eyes, they’ve always managed to make ‘the balance’ work. Granted it hasn’t been easy, but they’ve lived long enough to know what works and what doesn’t for them. Will it be the same for me? Will I be surrounded by all this love? Will my children throw me a surprise party and call all the people closest to me to join in the celebrations? Will I have gotten to a point where I’m sure of myself, not living life with any inhibitions?
So I penned this letter, imagining myself at sixty, talking to my thirty-one-year-old self:
First of all, relax. You’re doing okay. I know you feel like there’s so much on your plate but that’s nothing unusual. You haven’t even seen the half of it! Soon you’ll be a parent and you’ll be learning to balance motherhood, being a wife and still working on all the projects you’re passionate about. You’re nervous, I can tell. There’s a part of you that’s apprehensive about trying to do it all. You’re seeking a new path and in order to be at peace with that, you’ve begun to realize that there’s people that may not understand you or support you while you’re climbing your way up the career ladder.
You were young and began to feel in control of it all; you were haughty, sometimes dismissive…but you didn’t mean to hurt anyone. If any of these people are still in your life, just say sorry. Simple. You have to mean it, though, and change the way you approach even the most difficult people. Move along after that and don’t berate yourself for past mistakes. Begin to make bold moves with your passion projects, the time is now and you want to do it while you’re still building yourself. Invest wisely now. At some point, money won’t be everything, as hard to believe as this is. Your family’s well being, your husband, aging parents and young adult children will become priority. Even your own health. You will make mistakes, many of them. You will win and lose, celebrate and mourn. Your forties and fifties will make you so much more comfortable in your skin, so you have lots of time to get there. Before then, you can still reach for the stars and be anyone you want to be. I say this now in hindsight so don’t think it’s a stretch! Trust God, learn Him and learn to grow in Him. I know you struggle with your faith sometimes; many of us still do, but never lose sight of how important this is. And love…yourself, your spouse, your support system, even those that tried to take away your shine; they probably need the most love. Remain hopeful even when the world seems like its burning. Be inspired and stay inspired. Don’t always over think things; sometimes it takes the relentless beating of your heart to go ahead and do something.
And Janet, stop living within the confines of your walls. Go out there. Soar. Conquer.’
I was snapped back to reality when my husband and brother asked me if I wanted to go out after the dinner, but I was flat out. I was also surprised by how deep my thoughts had gone. It felt like some kind of epiphany and I made a mental note that night as I got into bed, to live my life unapologetically. I want to get to sixty and beyond; God-willing I will, and I’ll want nothing more than to celebrate those milestones with the people I love most. Aging, therefore, will be a blessing to me, and I won’t let it get lost in the hype of youth. I summed it up with this great quote by Samuel Ullman: “Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.”
And so I’ll dance.