Mental health: Letters to my 20-year-old self (part 1)

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

This is part one of ‘Letters to my 20-year-old self’ series, where we invite individuals and personalities to share words of wisdom to their younger selves. 

As we head into the new year, you may start to ponder and ask yourself, ‘what can I do differently now?’ If you’ve ever written a letter to yourself, you’ll know it can be a powerful exercise, and the experience can be cathartic. Often we let the past control our present, and when we hold onto things that upset us, it can create a sense of negativity that clouds our minds for years.


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In the letters below, some of us called out maintaining relationships as a two-way street; not sweating the small stuff (naysayers!); and being patient for good things that will come soon - all shareable words of wisdom. If you like, take a leaf out of their advice and try the same exercise by confronting your past, making peace with mistakes, and approaching key areas in your life with a sense of clarity.

Yoan Kamalski, CEO of Hmlet

(PHOTO: Hmlet)

To 20-year-old Yoan,

Leave home to pursue your dreams. It will be one of the most intimidating and fulfilling things you will ever do in your life. From leaving France to study in South Korea, to your first job in Japan, who would have known it's in Singapore that you will find yourself a home away from home? Be welcoming and open to new experiences. Surround yourself with people from all walks of life who have views that confront your own. That's how you grow. I promise you will meet truly amazing people from the most unlikely of places. You will make mistakes along the way, but there will always be someone that you can count on - be it for friendship, emotional support or business opportunities. Just remember that authentic and meaningful relationships are a two-way street. No matter where you are, when you find that sense of community, that’s when you know you are truly home.


Jehan Miskin, a Malaysian actor who starred in Apokalips, The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines

(PHOTO: Jehan Miskin)

To 20-year-old Jehan,

I’m so excited for you, as you have the vigor of youth and the hope of unlimited potential ahead of you. There is so much to share with you, but I also do know that many of life’s most important lessons, you must learn for yourself through the school of life. So here are a few things I’ve learnt the hard way, that I hope will help you in your journey. 

Everything is rooted in love or the lack of it. It is the invisible force that guides your life. Maximise doing what you love, and don’t give your love freely to those who don’t deserve it. And most importantly, always understand that the things you love most, have the capacity to destroy you, but only if you allow it. 

Your whole life is lived in this moment. Each moment is unique and once passed, will never come again. Don’t fret about the future. Take care of today, and the future will take care of itself. Don’t sweat the small stuff, truthfully, it’s mostly small stuff. Take the long view and you’ll know what matters most. 

You have the impatience and impulsiveness of youth. Patience will come with age, and in the meantime, meditate. It will ground you and provide clarity of thought. Focus on building emotional maturity. It will do wonders in your relationships. Leadership is mostly self mastery. Work on mastering yourself, and everything will fall into place. Discipline is a super power. Cultivate it consistently. 

Peace is when what the head thinks, the tongue speaks and the heart feels is one and the same. Society will force you to be a hypocrite as it is not concerned with truth, only with maintaining order, and this will cause you much pain. Strive to live a life where what you think, say and feel are in alignment, as this is where freedom lies. 

The world is a big place. Explore. Travel. Don’t put it off. It will enrich you in ways you can’t yet imagine. 

Make time for mama and papa. There is limited time to enjoy the good life with them, don’t miss the window.

The single most important decision of your life will be who you marry. Look for companionship and you won’t go wrong. 

Look for your tribe. Those who accept and support you for who you truly are, not only what you can do for them. Care for them and they will care for you.  

When you start your career, you will have the option of prioritising either work, fame or money. Always chase the work, and the fame and money will chase you. 

Work is love made visible, but don’t work too hard. Material riches is only one form of wealth, and in this materialistic world, strive to be a complete person. 

But do buy Amazon stock. Lots of it :)

If there is one thing I’d like you to take away, it’s this: It’s your life. Don’t give a f**k what other people are saying, and do what you know deep in your heart to be true. You will find a lot of what society promises will bring happiness, doesn’t. It takes courage to live a life true to yourself, and that will be the bravest thing you will need to do, day after day. Trust me, it’s the best way to live. 

Oh, and one day, you'll be able to make a living from playing video games. Look out for that and seize the moment when it comes. I missed it. 

Enjoy the ride,

40-year-old Jehan

Ada Fung, Fashion PR Manager

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

To 20-year-old Ada,

This is not an easy letter to write. I wish I had known you better then and there, rather than assuming I just do.

Things will happen, for you to unravel and be rid of the parts that aren’t meant to be. Same with that must-have bag, that dream job, that perfect person. Take peace that over time you will get closer to what you really need, rather than want, in life. Now, you won’t like how it sounds, but it is not so bad, I promise.

Perhaps you will let me take a leaf from your 20-year-old play book too? I adore the dreamy, not-so-sensible you.


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