12th November 2036
When you’re a child, we try to make your world fair. If you work hard at something, you are praised. If you do something bad, you are punished. If you put your heart and soul into a creative project, you are loved and rewarded for it. The marks you get in school are, largely, based on your effort and your brains, not the way you look, whether you’re a girl or a boy, or how much pocket money you get.
Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t work this way.
As I write this letter, the world is reeling from the horribly unfair decision to elect Donald Trump as President of America over his rival Hillary Clinton. When you read this, he will seem distant and small to you. But right now, he is very big and very scary. When you see pictures of him and hear about the things he once said, he will seem like the baddie in a storybook. He says terrible things about the people who need him the most. But, the truth is, ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ don’t exist in real life. We all have some good in us and some bad. Deep down, almost all of us want to be good. But the thing is, the fear you have now about ghosts and ghouls and monsters won’t ever really go away. It just becomes a different kind of fear: a fear of people who look different to you or sound different to you or come from a different place. Please don’t let that fear control you when you become a grown-up. You might be wondering how Donald Trump, saying the things he says, was ever able to become so popular. The answer is that people are afraid, and he was clever enough to see it and use it.
This fear of anything that is unfamiliar or unusual is also why being the first person to do anything is very, very difficult. As I write this letter, there has never been a girl president of the United States. That might be strange for you to imagine, as I know – by the time you read this – there will probably have been a few: President Beyoncé, President Michelle Obama, President Miley Cyrus. Hillary Clinton wanted to be the first woman ever to be in charge of America. She, like anyone trying to do something for the first time, has had to deal with people being very mean to her, and saying nasty things about the way she is and the things she does. It’s easy to look at how people like her are treated (particularly women and people who don’t have white skin) and to decide that it’s not really worth trying. But you must not ever think that. Anything truly important you ever do will be met with anger because people are scared of what they haven’t seen before.
Progress, in your own life and in the world, is a constant back-and-forth movement. So, if it seems as if things are moving backwards, please don’t ever lose heart.
To me, you are the most clever and beautiful girl in the world. Not everyone will think this – that is okay too. What other people think of you doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you think of yourself. Decide that you are strong and beautiful, clever and good, and you take the power away from others to decide that for you. You deserve respect and food to eat and hospital care when you’re sick. But, beyond these basic things, you aren’t entitled to anything or anyone. If you want something, you will have to work very hard and, above all, you must be fearless.
Be kind above all else. But if you feel like something wrong is happening, speak. Even if you don’t get the reaction you hope for, you can at least feel smug knowing that you’re on the right side of history.
At times you will want to quit but don’t ever do it. The world is terrible and hard and horrible and unfair but, the beauty is, it does get easier. Because life teaches you to live it.
Also: don’t eat yellow snow, don’t pierce your tongue and please don’t look at my old Facebook pictures.
All my love,
by Matilda Curtis