The wishes I made as a child remind me of how far I’ve come
I'm doing okay, and it's time I gave myself some credit.
By Sadia Nowshin, Contributor
One summer holiday, my aunt stopped me in my tracks as I went to flick away an eyelash that had drifted onto my cheek. I held it on the tip of my finger, holding my breath before a stray exhale could ruin the moment. As I stood poised, she told me a story passed on from her grandparents: if you make a wish on a fallen eyelash before you blow it away, then a guardian angel takes it as payment to fulfill your request.
At 13 years old, I was too old to buy into the mythology of angels flitting away with my eyelashes — but that didn’t stop me from secretly making a wish every time I caught a stray lash. I found it comforting to indulge in the idea that someone was invested in me, that there was a benevolent presence willing to take on the weight of my hopes. I had someone to confide in who wouldn’t betray the secret dreams I held, who wanted me to realize them just as much as I did.
I tend to regard my past self with a bit of embarrassment. But while thinking about the box of miscellaneous One Direction merch I had under my bed (erasers boasting their faces, a ruler that aligned Harry’s face at exactly 10cm) inspires a lot of disdain against that teenaged version of myself, some of that is softened when I think about how hard I tried to feel like I fit in.
The future stretched before me, and I grappled with the realization that what I wanted to spend the next chapter of my life focusing on wouldn’t make my family as proud as they were preparing themselves to be. I prayed that when the time came, I could stand up for what I wanted. I was hopeful that the future version of myself could be the person I needed. I imagined scenes where I stood up for myself without instinctively crying at the first hint of confrontation, instead of amicably agreeing my life away.
She still makes me cringe, but thinking about the faith I had in the future version of myself makes me want to continue to do right by her.
I’d say I’m halfway there: I’ll still have tears dragging my mascara down my face, but I’ll do my damndest to choke the words I want to be heard out through them.
When I think back to the wishes I made, what strikes me is how many of them actually came true. I’m sure I’ve still got changes ahead of me, but right now I feel the most secure I’ve been in the person I want to be.
I still find myself looking in the mirror and critiquing what I find, or feeling out of place in my clothes as they grow increasingly unflattering the more I try to pull them away from my body. But since realizing that I’m the only one being unkind to myself now, I’m trying to make decisions because they make me feel good rather than for the external gaze I used to validate myself through. And most tangibly, I stood up for what I wanted to study and the career I wanted to pursue; while some of my family will never understand why I couldn’t just go along with the path they thought was set for me, I stuck by my passions and am all the happier for it.
The uncertainty of the future and the relative lack of control I have over the events set to unfold make me nervous, especially as someone obsessed with planning.
But I’ve found that reflecting on the wishes that have been lost to the whims of time makes me a little more relaxed about the years yet to come.
Though I once believed that the life plans I had at 16 would never change, the wishes I held onto into adulthood look a lot different to the ones I thought I would always want.
photo credit: Sadia Nowshin
It reminds me that I’m currently worried about wishes that might not even feel relevant in a few years time, that if I can look back on my teenhood hopes and feel content with the things I’ve achieved then I’ll be able to do the same in the era of life I’m looking forward to now.
That wistful 13-year-old looking dubiously at the eyelash on her fingertip reminds me of how much I’ve actually achieved because of my own determination and effort. Rather than affirm a belief that I’ve somehow accidentally manifested everything I have to be proud of, remembering the wishes I made has sparked a realization I think I’ve needed for a while: I’m doing okay, and it’s time I gave myself — not the angels, who I imagine are inundated with piles of my eyelashes by this point — some credit.
About — Sadia Nowshin is a lifestyle writer who is a big fan of getting sentimental in a personal essay. She writes on topics of wellbeing and identity with a love for all things self-care, in all its many forms. You can find her on Twitter: @sadianowshin_
Cover photo sourced from: Sadia Nowshin @sadianowshin_