Dear 14 year old Nemah,

You’ve always wanted to change your name to “Emma” and would brag at school about how you’re going to change it as soon as you turn 18. You won’t. Your name will soon become your identity.

Looking back, I only wish to tell you one thing: Insecurities are taught. Beauty standards are taught. Bad habits are taught. The process of this self-hate was gradual. You will have to spend the majority of your early twenties unlearning and reversing the “ideal” beauty standards that have been forced upon you, but I promise it will be worth it. Love yourself and give yourself the grace that you so quickly extend to others.

There will be a time where there is someone who looks like you in every industry. You will become one of the role models that you so desperately need right now. At 27, I would’ve thought this change would come sooner, but it hasn’t, at least in its most authentic form. You will continue to see through the performative pleas for representation and instead become a part of the solution. You, like many others, embody the solution.

And hey, just tell him. Dad isn’t going to over react. Speak to him about your hidden talents and newly found love. Allow him to be present for these vulnerable moments of you finding yourself, it’ll break his heart when you don’t. Stand behind your voice for it will be what resonates with people most.

In all honesty, I am glad you didn’t have this letter— everything you have been through, both good and bad, informs the person you are today. Your lived experience makes your stories infinite. Though it’s been a challenging journey you would not wish upon anyone, I hope you know your stories now echo the voices of so many people who share these identical experiences and feel as though they are alone. I hope they find comfort in our story; I hope they feel seen; I hope they feel heard; I hope they feel loved in a way you never did.

P.S. You didn’t put it on way too early like everyone said.