Mental health: Letters to my 20-year-old self (part 2)

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

This is part two of the ‘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 share reminders to be kind to our family members, embrace our inner workings and look after our mind and body – 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.

Evangeline Long, emcee, host

(PHOTO: Evangeline Long)

To 20-year-old Evangeline Long,

No matter what you say or do, people will still be affected. At times, you will communicate an unintentional message and it can hurt deeper than a cut. It’s not intentional, but it creates a negative emotion when dealing with those situations. That being said, healing itself isn’t easy. Eventually, it will pass because you’re strong and you have supportive people around you.  Never forget that! 

Don’t be scared to be your true self.

Don’t be scared to interact with people.

Don’t be scared to shine.

Don’t choose to stay in a falling state of mind because we all make mistakes. Don’t feel that you’re in it alone and have no friends to support you; there’s always someone out there who is always there for you and understand your story. 

Be kind to yourself, gentle to your mind and patient with your heart. A quote by #beccalee. 

Becca D’Bus, comedian, drag queen

(PHOTO: Becca D'Bus)

Hey, 40-something year old you here. There are a few things you should know about where you’re at. And, I suppose, where you’re gonna be.

First up to this point, you’ve been living and working with quite a bit of structure in your life. Primary School, Secondary School, and now Poly. Lots of structure. Lots of being told what to do. Lots of “try not to stick out too much”. You’ve mostly been a royal failure at this. I’m saying this because I don’t think you know how much you’re failing at this. You’re TOTALLY failing at this. Might as well be in touch with it now and make some choices about whether you want to be better at fitting in or not and also when you want to work at fitting in and when you really shouldn’t bother. Contrary to all the fashion magazines you’re reading, fit isn’t everything. Also, you’re never going to be able to wear most of those clothes. Make your own.

Secondly, your family is pretty great and will continue to be pretty great, in ways you can’t imagine. Your parents will support you in whatever you want to do. Be kind to them. And help them get what you’re about, they won’t always know. But they’ll try. Very hard. What they cannot do for you is show you how to be queer, how to be a sissy, how to survive and thrive and be powerful queerly. For that you will have to find queer elders. You already have some in your life. Appreciate them, learn from them. And thank them as much as you can. You will regret not doing this. 

Thirdly, you will find a time in your life soon where you’re gonna be very slutty. Bone up (hah) on all the ways you need to protect yourself from diseases and other kinds of physical harm, but don’t be afraid to be as slutty as you want to be. Your body will want things, and I am telling you to listen to it, and respect it. Denial is at least as disrespectful as a lack of care. And in any case, you’re not saving yourself for marriage. 

Lastly and maybe most importantly, a famous woman will tell the world that “when they go low, we go high”. She will be applauded for this. And there will be many times when you will take the high road, be the bigger person (you’re almost always going to be the biggest person). But you have every right to be as petty as you want to be. To take the sh*t of various people and rub it repeatedly in their faces. To call out utter BS when you see it, and certainly to serve it back when it is directed at you. Is this productive? Probably not. But it will feel good. And that, will always be reason enough.

You don’t know me by this name yet, but...


Becca D’Bus

Hirzi Zulkiflie, comedian, actor

Hirzi Zulkiflie. (PHOTO: One Click Wonders)

Dear 20-something Hirzi,

I hope through your 20s, you remember how excited you were about what was ahead of you. I hope you hold on to that innocent gusto for as long as you can. 

I hope you’re kinder to yourself every night before you sleep. In fact sleep more often.

Breathe a lot more. You’re so occupied with trying to prove to yourself after an episode in your early 20s, that everything became about you against the industry. You believed that everyone hated you and you started hating yourself. But the truth is, not everyone is against you. You’ll learn later, how much you deserved to be with your family, your friends and your followers.

No need so angry. Because you know yourself how you wished you could go back to the start of it all, where all you had was the excitement of potential and you didn’t resent people nor did you have to walk into a room with trust issues. Because at the start, you had nothing but respect and admiration for everyone in the industry. So you know, you’re naturally a lot happier than you were angry. Being angry was more of a reaction. 

Be a lot more patient. You are uniquely one of a friggin’ kind and ahead of your time. Nobody could understand you or your madness. But I can confidently say now, it’s not you, it’s them. Slowly but surely your madness will unravel into this organised vision and people will rally for you and your mad work eventually.

Remember where you came from. Always remember that every part of your upbringing is you and don’t reject it. You are as Malay and as Muslim as you choose to be, and nobody’s version of it should erase that away from you. No matter how unconventional your stance is.

Know today how hard we fought not just for the things we stood for but for the fact that we are still standing today. Know how much stronger our mind and heart are after all those episodes. Work out more, eat better, sleep more, daydream less, spend more time with your family and do your friggin’ laundry more often. Everything else, you won’t regret because they make so much of your character in your 30s and you’ll be proud of you, wholeheartedly and not just a facade you put on for people. It’s hard to believe but you’ll eventually love yourself.