The piece you’re about to read is the sixth in a collection of introspective, raw and impactful pieces to be published here on MEDUSA. Motivated by the cathartic power of writing and reflecting, many of our contributors are sharing the words they would offer to their younger selves if they were able to travel back, reach out and subdue the uncertainties they encountered earlier on in their lives. With such an open-ended prompt, the letters divulge a myriad of memories, affording insights into challenges faced, extending words of wisdom and ultimately honouring and acknowledging how much the author has grown and learned.
Dorothy Reddin is the wonderful writer behind this truly courageous piece. In her letter, she boldly navigates identity, discomfort and acceptance; poignantly striving to soothe the frustrations that characterised her younger years. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s such a comfort to learn that Dorothy has found herself and her people.
Take a few moments of calm to enjoy and let us know your thoughts,
Dear 12-year-old Dorothy,
Take a deep breath babe. It’s ok. I promise… it will all get better.
Life is pretty tedious right now, isn’t it? School Monday to Friday and then a weekend of religious activities and indoctrination. I know you dream of having a normal family filled with love and laughter, and sometimes you wonder if you even believe in God? The only opinions you are currently allowed to have are those of your parents, and what you are taught at Church on Sunday.
You are so much more than think you are. There is a whole world outside of traditional Catholicism that is ready to welcome you with open arms. I know you’re filled with so much self-doubt at the moment… “do my parents love and respect me as much as my intelligent and devoutly Catholic older brother? Is it true that I have anger issues like everyone keeps telling me? Why am I obsessed with my best friend and want to hold her hand when we walk together in school?”…
You feel as if you have to mould your opinions to whoever is around you at that moment in time. At the dinner table with your conservative family in the evenings, at your Saturday youth club and after Church on Sundays with your Catholic peers.
When you reach 16… suppressed.
Dear 16-year-old Dorothy,
You’ve finally completed your GCSEs! How amazing does this feel? You’ve been dreading them for years and they’re finally over babe, well done!
“Well I hope your attitude improves now you don’t have anything to worry about anymore,” Mum informs you on the drive home from school.
Why can she not understand why you are like this? You know now that you will eventually have to tell her.
After a few years now of attending Summer in the City to meet your favourite lesbian YouTubers, secretly celebrating as gay marriage is being legalised in the UK, America, and Ireland – the place where your parents are from – along with attending an LGBT+ book club at your local bookshop, you have begun to realise and accept that you are gay.
Thank God the internet exists. With a twitter page that you ensure no one from school would ever know exists, you have been able to make friends with so many queer people aged 16, and now know that you’re not alone. You’ll have an army of allies and supporters. Little do you know that this will one day transform into a real army of friends, offline as well as online. You vow that next summer, the summer of 2016 when you will be 17, will be your first Pride. The first of many.
I know you’re dreading coming out to your family. But secrecy is only driving you and your parents apart more and more, day by day. The next two years of sixth form will shape your relationship with your parents for the rest of your life, before you leave London for university.
I can’t promise that it will be an easy journey for you, because unfortunately it won’t. But you’ve overcome so many hurdles in your sixteen years on Earth, that this does not matter. You have so many worries right now that you cannot see the end, but babe you are only 16. You’re going to have so many opportunities to express who you are, that one day you will look back at your 16-year-old self with so much admiration for believing in yourself enough to survive.
Your 21-year-old self.