A Letter To My Younger Self: Ivy Josiah, Former Executive Director Of The Women's Aid Organisation for 15 Years
I want to assure you that you are not ugly. When you walked out of your house carrying your violin case, that 15-minute walk to your music teacher’s house left you humiliated. Those neighbourhood boys who called you “four eyes” and “violin aunty” were bullying brats picking on a girl.
You will one day look back at those deeply embarrassing moments and smile to yourself with a knowing that obnoxious boys, or for that matter mean men, do not define you. There is nothing wrong with you, do not allow others to make you feel insignificant.
You did not know then about girl power and was consumed by self-doubt and walked with your head down. Feeling insecure is all a part of growing up, but you will learn to be confident, as well as learn to recognise your individuality and uniqueness that will steer you through life. You will one day look back at those deeply embarrassing moments and smile to yourself with a knowing that obnoxious boys, or for that matter mean men, do not define you. There is nothing wrong with you, do not allow others to make you feel insignificant.
I am so proud of you when at age 14 you stood up to a child molester. A so-called family friend groped your breasts and you immediately told him off, warning him you would tell your parents (you did not and you should have). You felt shame, fear and anger and somehow doubted your worth. Hold on to that anger to change the world. You are worthy, you have dignity, and no one can take that away from you. Always follow your instincts, you showed good instinct that day when you challenged that bad man. He never returned to your home since that day.
You showed good instincts when you started making a lot of noise in your home when you heard the neighbour’s wife crying from the beatings of her husband. Intervene when you know you can help. You did not know this then, for soon you will learn about patriarchy and join the feminist movement to become a fearless activist challenging male domination and working for gender justice!
You will one day truly appreciate that your mother was your best ally. Never lose an opportunity to thank her and say, “I love you” because one day she will not be there.
When you fought your mother because she was always controlling your actions and correcting you, you did not understand that she was doing it because she cared deeply for you. Those strict rules and boundaries did build your character, it taught you responsibility and respect for others.
You thought your mother old and out of touch but she was only in her 50s, still young at heart with her own dreams and ambitions for herself. See her as a woman and not only as a mother and wife in service to everyone around her. You will one day truly appreciate that your mother was your best ally. Never lose an opportunity to thank her and say, “I love you” because one day she will not be there.
Protect yourself from fatigue both emotional and physical; you don’t have to handle everything on your own, learn to delegate.
Dear 30-year-old self, pace your passion for working to stop violence against women. Protect yourself from fatigue both emotional and physical; you don’t have to handle everything on your own, learn to delegate. You need not work till 10 pm, get out of that office and get a life outside of activism.
Read. Read. Read. Make reading a part of your life, an everyday activity. Hang out with people who love to read too. You will find the benefits range from memory power to stress reduction.
Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. Do not take your body for granted; focus on health and strength and not a number on the weighing scale.
Dance. Dance. Dance. Do not give up dancing, it is perhaps the most important part of yourself because when you dance you experience joy. Heed Martha Graham’s words, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body.” Never miss a chance to dance!
Ivy, you are going to have a great life filled with love, excitement and amazing people!
This marks the end of our letters series. You may read parts 1 and 2 here:
Photos: Shaffiq Farhan
Art Direction & Styling: Liew Chiaw Ching
Makeup: Joyce Lee using YSL Beauty
Hair: Angeline Low