‘Undelivered Mail’: To my childhood

March 8, 2023, 10:54 a.m.

How many times have you wanted to say something but stopped yourself just before you did? “Undelivered Mail” features letters thought out but never sealed and delivered: to concepts, people and navigating life, through my eyes.

Dear little Sara,

How are the stories of Akbar and Birbal that Ma weaves for you every night so you can fall asleep?

What’s happening at school, where you scuttle around, feverishly, excited for the next day?

How’s badminton going — do you still make excuses as Saturday creeps around, unconvincingly pleading that your stomach hurts?

I miss you.

We take simplicity for granted. In our bubble of Stanford-induced madness, where grind culture and imposter syndrome saturate the sunny California skies, it’s easy to forget just how intricate everything is.

As a child, life was simple: emotions were transient and weightless, as were actions and interactions.

Growing up in a household characterized by a double-generational gap, the divide between my grandparents and me wasn’t evident until I grew older. It wasn’t until I was in the fourth grade that I looked around me at the parent-teacher meetings and realized I wasn’t living the same life as everyone else.

But, strangely enough, I felt normal (well, normal enough).

It didn’t seem like there was that wide of a chasm between my friends, who flippantly spoke about dinners with their parents, and me — until I noticed it. As I grew older, the divide between their rapidly turning salt-and-pepper hair and the brown hair of my friends’ parents was increasingly evident. This isn’t me saying that they weren’t trying to assimilate; they did everything they could to adopt a GenX mindset as residents of the flower power generation, dyed their hair, interacted with parents the age of their children, and put up with being called ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’ by my friends’ parents. But when I sat on their bedroom floor past midnight, I was engrossed in stories of a life I could never imagine living. There were things I could never understand about them, and there were things that, as much as they tried, they’d never understand about me.

As far as this gap stretched as I grew up, bridging it with stories from their life and mine has shown me that the value of kindness and empathy is timeless. Even though leaving my childhood behind made me leave the Eden in my head, it also showed me that these quirks were the skeleton of how I grew up and that our skeletons are indispensable to who we grow into.

As children, we just know. There’s a certain charm to childhood curiosity, but there’s also beauty in the blissful ignorance and the borders of that inquisitiveness. Wide-eyed children tug on their parents’ sleeves and question why the sky is blue or why the moon shines, but their curiosity is shaded by their innocence and their sense of not knowing more than anything they’ve experienced. There’s a certain comfort in this, and now, when we’re wrapped up in matrices and questions of friend groups and are making decisions that could have an impact on the rest of our lives, I can’t help but long for the ease of doing things just because.

Friendships were framed by phone calls of “Come down, we’ll play Chor Police! (cops and robbers),”  water bottle fights over lunch breaks and friends were lost just as quickly as they were gained. These relationships were of proximity, our emotional threads couldn’t stretch past more than a couple dozen miles of pre-arranged play dates and homemade lunches. Now, my relationships are built around packed Google Calendar schedules, complicated social commitments, and hurried FaceTime calls over states and countries.

When I look back at myself, rosy-cheeked and sweaty from an evening full of carelessly running around, I can’t help but wonder why exactly I so desperately wanted to grow up.

I’m coming to realize that the complications which are a byproduct of growing up are deeply underappreciated. Yes, I no longer live in an illusion of perfection, but by understanding the flaws, shortcomings, and realness, I’ve grown to appreciate the world around me, just as it is.

I hope you’re doing great.

I know you can’t wait to grow up, but I wish you would just slow down.



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