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A Present For Teenage Ruby

(If I could, I would write this letter to my younger self.)

By Ruby AstariPublished 2 years ago 5 min read

Dear, Teenage Ruby,

Happy birthday. It’s 4 November 2022. I’m 41. Like no idea why so many people who know me in Indonesia are worried about this, I am still single. You would probably be freaking out to hear this future prediction of yours, but relax. Let me tell you the reason not to worry so much about this.

If there were a time machine so I could send this to you, I’d gladly do. If there were really another universe out there, I hope you could do so much better than I did.

Where you are right now, I’m sure it’s still 1994. You’ve just turned 13 and started middle school in the same one as your older sister’s. At that time, you must be furious with her. First, you’re fed up with people comparing you to her, only because you’re short and fat. Your sister is tall and thin. So many have been blunt enough to tell you that they think your sister is prettier. Only I understand how much of a pain listening to that.

It’s not that which has traumatised you when it comes to being in the same school as your sister is. Your sister has a tendency to wake up really late and spend too much time in the bathroom, not caring that both of you will be late for school. She’s often angry when you call her out on that. She often tells you to take it easy and just chill. Huh, did she even care when the two of you got punished for that, having to run a lap around the school basketball field in the first period? She was running lightly while joking around with her friend. She didn’t care that you were running behind her, silently cursing and almost in tears, because you remembered you had a Math test in your first period. What made you believe that she’d care that you’d get a bad grade from that, only because you showed up late and the teacher refused to give you some extra time?

That was the moment you decided to never be in the same school or office as your sister would be. You’ll have had it. Unfortunately, nobody wants to take your sickness of it seriously. Mama complained, “Why do you seem to hate your sister so much?” You want to scream, it’s not hatred. She is so selfish and only cares about all she likes, without bothering that you get to pay for it as well! She’s so lucky, and smart without having to study so much. At that time, the world seems unfair to you. Why does your older sister seem to get all the luck in the world? Why does everyone around you seem to think she’s so perfect and that you have to become her in order to be considered good enough?

Unfortunately, it won’t be that easy for you to escape your sister’s shadow. Although you’ll finally not be in the same high school and university, she’s so popular. It’s as if her friends are everywhere. Once again, you’re only known as just “Oh, so you’re ***’s little sister ?” It seems that difficult for you to be known as just yourself, because they’ll always be such questions. Not even identical twins are completely alike. God can’t possibly be that boring in terms of Creating.

You are actually blessed with an early realisation that: You’re the one who should and can find your own happiness. Since then, you’ll have been obsessed with finding your life in a place where nobody knows your sister. You just want to be seen as who you are. Good or bad, you don’t want to be compared to anyone else.

You also don’t want your sister’s ignorance nor anyone else’s to get you in trouble too. According to your principle, since you can’t change your surrounding, then you’re the one who must get up and find your own safe space.

I know about your wish to jump off the third-floor balcony at school when you turn 14, before the vice headmaster walks by and stops you. I also know that a few times in your twenties, you’ll have been tempted to just stand in the middle of the road, waiting for cars to hit you to death. I know you’ll have felt like a failure after your college graduation, all because you haven’t received a job that pays you enough money yet. I know, you hate it the most when people consider you your family’s economical burden, only because you’re a daughter and still not married yet. Even worse, at that time, Mom is considering marrying her daughters off as young as possible. Your older sister may not have a problem with the idea. You? No, you’re not ready. Besides, you don’t want to get married for the wrong reasons, like being afraid to be called ‘an old maid’, for example.

Thank you for surviving, because you will get your very first job to earn you enough money at the age of 27. Better be late than never, eh? At this time, you’ve started feeling more comfortable with yourself. You’ll have found really good friends here, who won’t compare you with your sister. They’ll accept you for who you are, but they also won’t be afraid to remind you to become a better person. That’s why in your thirties, you once admitted to some of the friends in your writers’ club: “I’ve started really enjoying friendship as an adult.”

Hey, don’t be too hard on Dad, okay? I know, we’re both so much like him that it’s hard for us to take a step back at each argument. I don’t want to scare you, but just remember his advice: “No choice, you have to be able to be independent. I and anyone cannot always be there for you.” You will have faced the most difficult five years of your life, which has practically turned you quieter at home. It seems that you feel more comfortable opening up to and crying in front of your best friends – or perhaps choosing to keep it all inside alone. Be careful, don’t let your anger and sadness become the potential to break the best friendship you’ll ever have. You may never find a best friend like Tiger again.

Don’t forget to thank Hazel Eyes, the best friend you often call “Abang” (Big Brother). He’s the one who has inspired you to find your own strength to become independent. He’s always believed in what you’re capable of.

In fact, he’ll also be the one suggesting that both of you have dinner with Ma at that time. When? You’ll know when it happens.

Sometimes God forces you to become more independent in unpleasant ways. Enjoy those rare moments of closeness with Ma, just like when both of you will be hospitalised with dengue fever and when your college best friend, unfortunately, passes away. Ma may never be the kind of mother who’ll console you after your breakup with your boyfriend, unlike how she does it with your sister when she breaks up with hers.

Just imagine that Ma thinks you’re much stronger than your sister and that you don’t need too much coddling. No need to feel sad. After all, you’re the one who hates being considered weak and useless. You’ll feel so happy when that night comes when Ma will compliment you with: “When I was your age, I didn’t dare travelling overseas alone.”

Happy birthday, Teenage Ruby. I wish I could send you this letter, along with an apology that I wasn’t treating you well back then. I hope you’ll get to find and create your own happiness.

Ruby, 41


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