International Day of the Girl: A letter to my 14-year-old self

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My 14-year old self focused on school work.

Girls everywhere are already changing the world. This Day Of The Girl (Oct 11) join us by giving a shout out or writing a letter to a girl who inspires you: a young leader, a family member, an influencer, your best friend or even yourself as a teen, like Alexandra did! 

"To my 14-year-old self,

You just turned 24 and wow, where has the time gone. Soon you’ll be 30, 50, then 75. What will you achieve? Where will life lead you to? When will you know that you did enough? Who will you become? Why should you believe in yourself? How did you change the world around you?

As you may know, ten years ago I didn’t know the answer to these questions. Sincerely, I still don’t know. Maybe I never will. Never in my wildest dreams, I expected to be where I am today. Remember when you wanted to be a medical doctor? More specifically, a pediatric oncologist? I knew I wanted to help children and their families through one of the worst situations a person can endure.

But as you graduated high school, you discovered scientific research, which in my mind, it has an indirect effect on more human beings. I started by doing neurobiology research, then cancer research, and ultimately ended up in genetics research. All of it leading you to start your Ph.D. In graduate school, you wanted to become a professor with her own research lab and contribute to science, but now I want to have a career in science diplomacy. Crazy right? I had no idea this career path existed. But this way we can help even more people, worldwide.

As you can see, your plans will change. And believe me when I say that you have no idea what you got yourself into. But I will tell you that you are starting to feel proud of yourself, finally. Do not get frustrated with your failures, as they are an opportunity to learn. Do not feel discouraged since there is no established path for you to walk on. You are creating it yourself. Do not speak your plans, demonstrate your actions, your failures, and your successes. It is tough, but it is worth it. I would not change a thing that I have lived because it made you the person that I am today.

You are a girl, bound to gender roles. Scared to break your community’s expectations, leading them to disappointment.  But while growing into the young woman I am today, you wanted to break those expectations that were forced onto you. And it was not easy, far from it.

Every single plan changed, and not everyone in your circle was happy about it and did not support you. To those who did, you are so grateful because you didn’t know you had that much love surrounding you. But you will find people who want to hurt you, sabotage your plans. And with a heavy heart, you must leave them behind to pursue your ambitions which lead to tears, anger, doubt, anxiety, and depression.

Everything was thrown at you at once. But now those tears of sadness and anger turned into happy tears, that doubt turned to hopefulness, and that anxiety and depression turned into a new mindset to keep pushing forward and caring about your well-being. You will also find people that will always give you a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. Soon enough you will find the ones that support you, your ambitions, your passions, and your growth as a person and a professional. And for the ones you left behind, remember that the world still spins, and sooner or later you will make them proud, so do not sell yourself short. You can do everything you want and more.

The way a person evolves is amazing. And how a girl grows into a woman is outstanding. Let your passions change as you learn. Your goals will be shaped by your passions and trust me, they will only get better. Without you knowing, your interests will be of global interest. You will become a role model to humankind, the one you wanted to have for yourself. And the beauty of it all will be that you didn’t do it on purpose, it was a happy coincidence.

Only because of your actions, your emotions, your courage, your passions, your thoughts, and the opportunities you seize will guide you to become the role model you will be. There is still a long way ahead of you, even ahead of me. As a girl and as a young woman, it is scary to think about it. But if your dreams don’t scare you, are they even worth pursuing?

Yes, you are a girl. One girl turning into a woman. Feel honored to be one. Women are the epitome of “man”-kind. We are strong, we are smart, we can make our voices be heard, are actions be seen. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. You represent yourself, your country, your culture, girls and women worldwide. You represent humankind and every exceptional aspect of it. Be proud of the girl you are and the woman you are going to be.

I believe in you, so believe in yourself.

Sincerely,

Your 24-year-old self."

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Illustration by Ina Gouveia @inagouveia
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