A letter to my 18-year-old self
Dear 18 year old Vana,
I know you are packing up for college excited to start your new life in London but I am here from the future to take you on a brief journey...
You will be spending the next 8 years in London. You will go to university and although it might feel a little lonely at first, that group of 3 super cool girls in your class, that you will be hoping to be part of their group, will become your dearest friends for years to come. Strangely enough 10 years later you will plan one of those girl’s wedding back home in Greece, which will mark the start of your dream career.
You will meet countless people, from different cultures and religions. You will start to get a sense of belonging and grow. You will loose friends, fall out of old friendships. You will find yourself in dodgy bars on Friday nights and on other nights, you will fall asleep in the university library reading Land Law. You will fall in love. Many times. You will be heartbroken many more. You will go through a phase of wearing pointy shoes, you will flip hundreds of burgers in the freezing cold, working for the student’s union to get by college. You will make life long friends there.
You will fail and fail again and feel useless and bad at everything you do, but make it in the end. You will graduate with a Law Degree in your hand and a dream to become a great shipping lawyer.
You will struggle getting your first job and with disappointment start a telesales job, as a last resort. You will make a lot of money in that job as a junior executive. You will cry in public on the subway, when you read your "Goodbye" card given to you by your telesales team, a year and a half later, when you resign this job for your first job in the shipping industry.
You will spend 3 wonderful years commuting back and forth to the beautiful English countryside to work for that job. Sometimes on the train you will travel with your manager who will tell you about his daughter who is becoming an Event Florist. You will day-dream about creative careers like this but never actually consider them as a viable reality for you. You love buying and browsing through wedding magazines for no reason and keep a binder full of beautiful wedding photos which you will consider tossing more than once. Don't do it!
You will take your first trip to Budapest with your sister and then travel all over Europe together and far beyond in your 20s. & 30s. You will see cultures, places, animals and regions you never imagined. You will spend Christmas wearing a kimono in a small village in Japan and sleep on a tatami matt. You will welcome the New Year under the stars in the middle of the Sahara dessert. Be present and remember every minute.
You will visit the island your grandma used to take you as a kid and fall in love with it all over again. You will learn how to surf and spend some of the best summers of your life there forming your own memories.
You will hate your body, loose and gain weight. You will scrutinize your looks for years. Your body weight will define you. You will be convinced that change is never going to come. Until one day life will throw you in a situation that will make you want to make it happen. And you will. Be patient, don’t darken your days waiting for that day to happen.
You will return home after 8 year and at the moment when you thought this was a great mistake, you will end up creating your own company and working in the industry you’ve dreamt of. Weddings.
You’ll start at the bottom and quietly make your way up. You will stumble upon colleagues that tell you, you are famous at what you do. You will laugh. You will think, you are just a girl struggling to make her dream come true. Soon you will gain your own independence. You won’t be helpless. You won’t be a failure. The thought of being useless will start to fade away. You will make it.
It was just a matter of finding your calling, girl.
You will get closer to your parents and your relationship will become stronger through the struggles you will experience together. Your parents and sister will love you no matter what. They will help you in every step of the way chasing your dream. You will forever be their little girl because in their eyes you are, love that about them.
I am writing all this from a small house on a Cycladic island, that I got to be with the most unexpected person I anticipated to meet in my life.
You will be ok.
My advice is the following:
- Try and be a little more fearless
- Try and carry a little less weight of the world on your shoulders and be more carefree
- Don’t obsess about sliming down. It will happen.
- Try to accept and love yourself for who you are. That is harder.
- Be grateful for the life you have every day.
- Keep your head up, stop hiding, live.
But most of all I want to tell you this. There is one thing you should keep on doing. Believing. Never stop believing that at the end of the tunnel you will eventually find happiness.
There is a wonderful journey ahead of you.
Photos by my dear friend Thanasis Kaiafas