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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ashoka chapter.

Edited by: Stuti Sharma

Dear Younger Me,

I know you have always wanted your life to fit into the well-worn covers of a book, to have a definite story arc, a neatly-tied up narrative. I know that when you thought of the concept of ‘coming-of-age’, you saw a vine gracefully unfurling its beautifully shaped leaves, reaching its slender arms towards the sun, and rooting its identity into the solid earth. I know you thought of Jane Eyre, going out into the world and finding who she was, and Anne Shirley, growing up to become an independent young woman who knew what mattered to her. I know that you wanted your life to embody the form of the bildungsroman, a coming of age literary form in which a character grows to ‘find who they are’, discover their independent identity and place in the world, and as masterclass.com puts it, grows from being a ‘lost child’ to a ‘mature adult’. Where the protagonist in the bildungsroman obtains psychological and emotional wisdom and attains some form of maturity. The chaotic jigsaw puzzle pieces of life come together for them and life becomes a glorious painting.

Your coming of age story wouldn’t be like that. It wouldn’t be a linear progression of steps, but rather a tale that keeps twisting on itself. You will think that this is who you are, and then an encounter with someone will push you to discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed. Your preferences will keep changing, and the principles you stand by will keep morphing into new forms. You will look at the people around you discovering their unique identities, and think that there is something wrong with you. You will spend your teenage years searching for your true self, only to realise that your self is like the horizon: from far away, it is the illusion of the embrace of the sky and earth, but the closer you get, the more you realise that the sky and the earth are too disparate to ever meet and converge into a single, well-defined entity. 

I am writing to you to tell you that this is okay. It is okay to realise that your identity is a maze full of dead ends. It is okay to be a creator of form instead of trying to fit into an already established form of coming of age, mode of growing up. It is okay to feel your sense of self dissolving like a sand castle whenever a wave of life crashes upon you. You are the vast, golden beach, as well as the creator of sand castles: every grain of sand brims with possibility, and your hands ache to create new structures out of them. 

Instead of imagining coming-of-age as a straight, well-defined path that cuts through a dark forest, leading experienced travellers to a definite destination, I now like to think of coming-of-age as wandering in a vast valley. The sun’s rays bounce off and are diffused by different rocks and mountains, and you hear different echoes of yourself in every corner. With every step you take, you discover yourself anew.

I won’t pretend: this wandering, this stumbling, is painful. It hurts to be unravelling instead of tying up aspects of your identity as you grow. But there is a beauty in this pain: you get to be the creator of your own narrative, the teller of your own story by refusing to succumb to the societal pressure of figuring out a singular identity. You get to learn more about yourself everyday. You get to come of age every single year of your life. 

Rucha is a first-year student at Ashoka University. She loves writing poetry and is passionate about climate activism. In her free time, she enjoys listening to Taylor Swift, overanalysing movies, reading, writing notes to friends, and doing the dishes (yes, seriously).