A Letter to My Younger Self

This letter is one I wrote to my younger self who grew up in a country with continuous effects of colonialism in the Philippines, where there is deep grief and shame stemmed in stories of abandonment, body image, and belonging.

Dear you,

It hurts to be on the sidelines and in the periphery. To feel unwanted and unchosen. To feel left out. I am sorry you needed to be so strong too soon.

I’m sorry for how people insist that you should never swim during the daytime, because of how the scorching sun will make your skin darker. “Try night swimming,” they suggest when it comes to your favorite hobby. Or never swim at all.

This confused you a number of times—wondering what was wrong with a brown complexion, and whether this made you any less beautiful or worthy to be seen and accepted. It appeared that you needed to be less like yourself in order to be.

I’m sorry that dad has been telling you frequently that when he has earned enough money, he’d pay for surgery to get your nose done. Bridged, not broad.
And for how mom routinely brought home skin-whitening lotion, soap, and pills.

There is a reason you were startled whenever you saw one of your parents walking around the house with their face covered with powdered bleach, leaving no corner untouched. You thought to yourself, “Doesn’t it hurt? Doesn’t it sting their eyes? Would the textures of their face look and feel less natural?” But more often, you’d ask, “Am I too sensitive or too weak to tolerate the stench and sting of the bleach?”

I’m sorry for the moments when you encountered a white Jesus as a picture or painting on walls, books, teachings, and casual conversations. A Jesus who seemed to have no connection to who you are. When all this time, his eyes resembled yours, and his skin tone, closer to your own.

I’m sorry that dad left you for the American dream. He chose the 50 stars, the blue, and the stripes of white and red. For the longest time, it felt as though they were more radiant than a brown-faced girl who refused to get her nose done and who was too “sensitive” for bleach powder.

I’m sorry for the times you felt unwanted and unchosen.

I am sorry you were abandoned.
I’m sorry for the times that you didn’t choose you.
And that I did not choose you.
But now, I do.
I choose you. All of you. The younger. The older. The present you. Your eyes, your voice, your nose, your dreams, your skin, your quirks, your height and size—you have always been more than enough to choose just as you are.

Now, go swim.