Dear 18 year old me,
I’m here to tell you that you survived. Yes, you’ve made it this far. From that girl in the department of Computer science as an undergraduate in her second year, who had no clue she could be a kickass programmer/researcher to this young smart lady making waves in her career.
Though, a lot has changed within the last eight years. It’s hard not to look back on your life and think of all the things you’d want to change. “If I knew then what I know now…” There are many things I wish you wouldn’t have (and sometimes would have) done. There are so many things I could tell you, my younger self, but I think these points are the most important. So I’m going to be completely honest with you here:
Get yourself a Diamond spoon. Dare to be more. Our society doesn’t have much faith in women taking charge and leading in different fields but I’d love to challenge you to be ambitious for yourself. The fact that you hawked on the streets or fed on leftovers or stopped schooling for 2 years shouldn’t stop you from aiming high. Of course, you weren’t born with a silver spoon but I dare you to work hard for yourself with a good moral mindset and get yourself a Diamond spoon.
Understand that you are smart. Truth is you will be surrounded by very smart people in your department. You will look at your results and feel like a failure especially when you compare it to your peers. You shouldn’t let that discourage you. You only have to study yourself and be willing to make extra effort to hone the A’s. You could make it out with a first class too, don’t ever get intimidated. You’re equally as smart as they are.
Be a doer and dreamer of impossibilities. The fact is not everyone will believe in your abilities but you should be your number one cheerleader. If everyone in the world stops believing in you or your goals, it’s a great disaster to give up on yourself. It isn’t bad to lean on others to be motivated but what happens the moment they stop? A wise man once said “You live by their acceptance, you die by their rejection”. Focus on your happiness and success, at the same time, learn to balance this focus without being selfish to the outside world.
Prepare for the worst.Bad things will happen to us, and it only makes sense that we consider the worst case scenarios — What if my plans don’t work out? What if I get rejected despite the fact I put in my best? It sucks to think like that, but things do happen. And things might not turn out the way we want them to.
You have to think about those “what ifs” because even though it’s good to be very positive and energetic, we also have to prepare for the worst. You will spend several hours applying for scholarships, grants, research papers, job interviews, and even missing out on fun events with your friends because you are stuck in your room writing away. You will be rejected for several reasons. You will think it’s a complete waste of time, but you will be surprised to learn that all of your hard work will result in something great. You will realize rejections makes you better with your applications, and you will laugh at those who rejected you because it’d be their loss.
Forgive people. Some people are extremely cruel-hearted and will aim to destroy you. You will never be able to fully bounce back until you learn to open your heart to forgiveness and move on. You will learn that spending time hating someone is a waste of energy, and that there are better things you could be doing with that energy. Those who were supposed to be there for you in hard times but never were will make you a strong woman. You will learn to forgive and see that the “cruel people” made your life much more challenging with an interesting story to tell. They were actually preparing you for the best.
Realize that you are the driver of your life. You can’t always control whether people leave or stay. Actually, you can’t control a lot of what happens in life, but what you can control is how you live. So do it. I wish I had lived more before now. Don’t be afraid to do something just because you don’t know how to yet. Even the world’s greatest authors had to first learn how to write. Don’t be afraid to do anything. You want to be the next highest rated OAP? Go and get yourself there. You want to run the best research company? Go on and be. The fact is if you don’t try all of the many things you think you can be, you have a slim chance to know what you really excel at. You have no idea how utterly unprecedented you can be unless you get out of the box.
I wish I could go back and hug you for all of the times that you felt hopeless about your future. I wish I could hold you and let you know that it all turns out okay in the end. I know you feel that failure is a direct reflection of who you are, but that’s not true. Don’t ever look at your shortcomings as failures; they are lessons. Learn what works and what doesn’t work. In the end, you only live once. Don’t go to the grave full of regrets of what you could have done. Now that you have the chance, do it now!
My present self – Oluwatoyin Yetunde Sanni
P.S.I’d love to give mentorship for anyone who wants to learn software programming. Asides that, I’d also pay for their workstation subscription provided they have a laptop to learn. This workstation subscription will be for a month where they’ll have pairing sessions with me often with access to internet and electricity.
Would you be the one? Apply now
Editor’a s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.