In a powerful letter to her “teenage self,” singer Solange Knowles, 30, reflects on the “fear” she experienced as a teen mother, to the “triumph” she feels now raising her 12-year-old son Julez.
“There will be fear. a lot of it. there will be triumph. a lot of it. there will be constellations you want to reach for but can’t put your finger on,” she writes in the latest issue of Teen Vogue.
“you will trace them like the scars on your body you got from trouble and the times of your life. you will take the long way to get to these Orions. the long way will become a theme in your life, but a journey you learn to love.”
“you will dive head first without looking into phases that you are certain of who you are.
some of these stages include:
the dance-is-life (aka “this leotard is my second skin”) phase.
the Bible-thumping-church-camp phase
(which coincided and contradicted with the Fiona-Apple-fan-club-president phase).
the Nas-aficionado-brown-lip-liner-and-Vaseline phase.
the Rasta-vegan-thrifter-who-is-determined-to-marry-Brandon-Boyd phase.
the football-player’s-girlfriend-who-wears-braided-blond-highlights-and-swears-by-capri-pants phase.”
“at the time, you are searching. seeking in every corner and pocket of the world for who you are. take your time, baby girl. there’s no rush to get there. you will sow each of these chapters in the land that you become. you will see bits and pieces of them scattered into the skin you grow into. you don’t have to figure everything out now. time will reveal itself. i promise you.”
“sometimes you push these phases to the max, and when you go out into the world feeling confident in who you are and what you reflect, young folks will call you names and grown folks will call you names. It’s ok. one day you will name yourself, and that name will belong to you. it will not be the ones they ordained: “crazy, ugly, attention-seeking, weirdo.”
“i really hate to tell you this, but sometimes you will still get called these things as an adult, except you will actually embrace some of them. you will learn that these are just words. words that only have power if you choose to give them power. every once in a while they will hurt, but you will choose to turn those words into a symbol of beauty.”
“speaking of words. they might just be your first love. sometimes you can write for hours, just you and the words on the pages. they make you feel understood, even if it’s just you that you’re talking to.”
“trust in these words, even when you’re feeling wildly insecure. hold on to your journals. cherish them. put them somewhere safe so that they may become a guide for you later, a revealer and a friend.”
“the lucky stars have been good to you, and there’s a long list of things you’d like to give gratitude to them for, but for now thank them for these three:
that you didn’t die when you and your friends drove up a steep mountain in a snowstorm with no experience and bad brakes. that was stupid as hell.
that you went to the ensemble theater every summer. i really don’t think you’d be who you are today had it not been for those experiences, teachers, and experimentation with your mind and body.
that the universe chose your mom to be your mother.
she is a wonder. you watch her drop off 3 kids at 3 different schools in the morning, pick them up in the afternoon, shuffle each of them to their designated activities, and bring them all back to the salon she owns until she closes up with the utmost grace, love, and kindness.”
“you realize watching a woman balance being a supportive mother, building a successful business from the ground up that was started in her garage, and giving back to the community will make you feel invincible and like the word “no” is just an echo in the universe that you’ll never know. you often take her for granted, but you know with every joint in your bones that she is a phenomenon and you strive to make her proud. you should thank her out loud more, too; tell her you value her. roll your eyes and your neck less. it’s not as cute as you think. tell her you appreciate all that she does, for she makes the impossible look effortless. she surrounds you with other black women who do the same. you study them, and will constantly think of all their stories, their beauty, their strife and their stride. they break down all of the archetypes and stereotypes that you see of black women on tv and in magazines, so you don’t trust those anymore. you thank them for re-writing the script before it was ever etched in your memory.”
“because you have your mama’s blood, you are fiercely independent and outgoing. you’ve been starting petitions, building tree houses, and starting clubs since as long as you can remember.”
“sometimes in the midst of juggling all this, you put a lot of pressure on yourself and often crash and burn. you shut down. you go into your room, lock the door, put on music, and you do not move for 8 hours straight. it will feel like the heaviest and bleakest darkness you can possibly feel, and when you ask everyone to leave you alone and let you be, what you really want to say is “i want you here” and “i need help.”
“sometimes it is ok to say just that. it won’t make you less strong or less powerful. no one you love will criticize you or blame you; in fact, they will lift you up.”
“seventeen will be the hardest year of your life. it will grow you up almost immediately. you will lose your best friend whom you love so much to gun violence in a single moment, and give birth to a new one within a year.”
“you will be terrified, and it’s ok that you don’t know what the future holds. some people will count you out because of the decision you’ve made to bring another life into the world so young, but you made the decision out of love and will live with the decision in love.”
“soon enough you will learn how to love and how to exist with love in ways that you never knew. you will learn how to love yourself and how to empathize with and forgive those who may have taken a bit of that pure love away from you.”
“you have a long life ahead of you, and i’ll tell you it’s not gonna always be easy, but I can promise you it will be fruitful and with much purpose. all the bridges you’ve burned, you had to, so that you could rebuild them to become a stronger and more wonderful you.”
“there will be pain, there will be doubt there will be beauty, there will be the unknown. there will be so many moments of joy and delight that the whole universe will feel painted in hues of amber and wonder. there will be times you are so sad you can’t lift your head. and there will be times you are so happy that the sensation of life knocks you down. but most importantly, there will be you. a whole, whole lot of it. and you will feel good about who she is and who she is still becoming.”