To my baby girl,

If you’re reading this, then by now I hope you know that we live our lives tenderly and gracelessly, like stars falling out of orbit, trying to clutch onto their fires. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you all these things back when I had the chance; in children like you I see madness that is best preserved from anything adults may try to rationalize. I envy you, with numbers bouncing off your ponytails that have yet to settle down and form equations. May your equations always be full of variables.

I know that at this precise moment, as I write this to you, life feels split into a “good” and “bad” pile of people and experiences. What you don’t realize is that roses have thorns, and thorns have their roses. What you still may not realize is that if nurtured, we can grow both roses and their thorns out of bitter and seemingly small roots. We can’t choose for one and not the other, but we can decide which one is more important to us. You don’t have to choose roses. You don’t have to fear thorns.

Over the years it takes for this letter to reach you, I hope you’ve been heartbroken. I know it sounds cruel of me, but I can’t take it back or pretend I don’t mean it. Pain is so, so vital to our wellbeing. It can drive you, motivate you, and compel you, in ways that happiness just can’t. In my darkest moments, I can see more clearly why I won’t let myself make the same mistakes I once did. What lesson do we learn from being happy? Actually, for that matter, we shouldn’t have to figure that out. When you’re happy, just be happy—don’t worry about having to draw something from it.

I hope someone falls into the same path of collision as you— someone unfathomable and mad, just like you. Along come these spiders, irresistibly tying you in their nets and making you believe in the idea of living life carelessly. They tie you in strings as if to keep you together. Don’t be fooled, child. They may keep you one piece, but they’ll leave you in pieces. That’s okay, though. Looking at the pieces of who you were, tessellating your bathroom floor, you realize there’s so much of you that’s worth keeping. There’s no better way to learn how to put yourself together, besides letting yourself be broken in the first place. Don’t be afraid of spiders. They can’t hurt you irreparably. No one can. You are always capable of being your own saviour, and always capable of healing yourself. So, let them in.

Right now, my girl, you think your father has anger issues… I wryly concede that there are people worse than him in life, and you have to face them, perhaps even as people you love most. Their words are spat with fury and their whispers whip like thunder. It’s easy to hate them, and while I hope your time running with these bulls is limited, wouldn’t you like to learn how to hush a hurricane with kindness? Anyway, they write the most beautiful “sorry” notes, so you can learn lessons from those. Don’t try holding onto your fine China and hoping they’ll eventually pass. Just let them in.

The lethargic ones are amusing. You’ll know them when you see them; they’ll say it like it is, and “it” is always more work than it’s worth. Don’t be too harsh on them, baby, they’re just dormant volcanoes and they can’t hurt you unless you let yourself fall into their flames. I, personally, love looking at my latent volcanoes, because they remind me that I’m capable of erupting, and when I do, by God, you’d better stand back and watch the sparks fly. No person invented fireworks just to be too afraid to use them. Don’t worry about the damages, your body has billions of cells dedicated to keeping you alive and kicking. Do them a favour, and don’t keep from kicking. When those people slide effortlessly into your lives, just let them in.

The worst I’ve met are the liars. There’s no crime to me more heinous than lying. They keep you from learning; how can you cure yourself if you don’t even know you’re being poisoned? This doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid trusting anyone and everyone. After all, you learn how to find the truth only when it’s withheld from you. Moreover, it’s much better for you to learn how monstrous minds work so that you don’t become one of them. We lie to ourselves all the time without realizing so; such is the paradox of free thinking.  Keep their words at arm’s length, and an eye on the emergency exit. So, don’t worry—you can let them in.

I want so badly to tell you that the world is perfect, and well-padded, and you’ll never have to worry about being eaten alive or drowned by love, but that’s not the case. How boring it would be if it was. What I can tell you instead, is to stare wide eyed into the Sun, and bare your arms in the heat. A good tan keeps you safe from burns, you know. I’d rather you don’t learn how to protect yourself, but rather learn how to fix yourself, which is more.

All of us have our own flaws— that’s how we know that we’re human. If we didn’t have flaws, then our good qualities would all be seen simply as standard traits, not the accomplishments that they actually are. If you go on living your life avoiding anyone who shows flaws, then you wouldn’t be living, you’d just be existing. You’d be isolated, in a state where you never really know anyone. It’s beautiful to see someone’s flaws. It’s even breathtaking if you get to watch them struggle to overcome them. We are all underdogs in the fight against our darkest parts, but that’s why rising above them is such an achievement. Don’t shy away from humans just because they suffer from their human nature, my girl. Don’t block out people and live life under a noise-cancelling layer of protection. Instead, learn to help people harness that noise into music. You never know what you’ll learn along the way, and you never know who you’ll meet, who might even help you do the same for your noise. Even the most twisted of roots can eventually grow into a stunning rose, and where that rose grows, you’ll never find a shortage of thorns. That is the numinous behaviour of nature. Don’t discard anyone in your life. Learn to let them in.

With love and open arms,

Your devoted mother

by Imaan Khasru

The above work won the Gold award in the senior category of the 2014 Commonwealth Essay Competition. It has been reproduced with permission from the author.