Dear 20-year-old Prani,

This was probably the hardest thing I’ve had to do – coming back and revisiting everything you discovered that broke your heart and dampened your spirit for people. As much as the last 5 years have been heartbreak after heartbreak from family, love, friends, they have also been one hell of a ride! The journey has been of discovering your worth, loving yourself! 

Although you’ve known since you were 10 that you wanted to dedicate your life to the environment and wildlife, these are the years that actually bear fruit for all your work and efforts. You are constantly learning, connecting. You are building a reliable and efficient network, which are all stepping stones to greater things in your future. 

What I do wish you had done differently – listen to your intuition. Your instincts have never steered you wrong. It is a beautiful thing to want to look for the good in people; but sometimes, believe what they show you. Most importantly, if you sense that there is something off, more often than not, there definitely is. Do you know that feeling you get when you go back into the jungles? The feeling of home, of belonging? When you climb a mountain and feel like a part of them? When you lock eyes with the most sentient, amazing beings and in that moment, you know that, that is the truest connection? That comes from something bigger than us. The feeling that you can’t put into words but flows through every cell, through your very being on the deepest chord? Trust that. Only that. 

I know it hurt immensely when mom betrayed you more than once. It broke you emotionally. But what I have understood, is that parenting doesn’t come with a manual. It’s all test and trial. I know you’re going to think – some things have been unnecessary and unacceptable on the deepest levels. I agree. While placing no blame on mom, the house situation has also been where your anxiety has stemmed from. I know it hurt when the little brother you taught how to walk beat you to the ground. Left on the floor with a hurting ankle and back, looking for your fallen spectacles while mom just walked away. It hurt you deeply. Although they have been immensely supportive of your career and your journey, the constant misunderstandings, waking up and sleeping with raised voices, extreme actions and the need to very subtly control your actions while instilling a sense of guilt for everything that was done for you has amounted to unhealed childhood trauma and the emotional absence stacking up over the years has manifested in different ways over your mental health. You’ve been struggling with your internal battles like many, many other people too. In the coming future you will make a decision to take care of yourself like you always have, just this time, financially too. You will be okay. I say this with conviction because I have found family in the most unexpected of places, and I can tell you this – I am right now the happiest I have ever been! 

I know it hurt when who you thought was the love of your life went down on his knee for another. But darling, it wasn’t meant to be. Although you fell in love with him you could never fall asleep next to him. That should have been something to never ignore. All his toxicity and manipulations that you overlooked, placing him in the highest rung of your life really did a number on your self-confidence and worth. You were at your lowest point for the 3 odd years you were with him; physically, mentally and emotionally. They say that when a woman breaks her attachment from someone, she does it for good and she does it better than anyone else. I smile at how you could finally exclude him from your life without making it toxic, deciding that you were done being treated like that. You couldn’t give any more if you wanted to. Yet, wishing the best for his life and his unborn child showed that you had really matured over the years emotionally. That phase was the best thing that could happen to you, because you needed to learn. Learn boundaries, self-worth, tolerance and what love actually meant. I am proud of you for never giving up on love. That you still believe that you will have a happy ending too; that you will find someone who would love and accept you the way you do for them. Stay on the course; when the time is right, your deepest fears will be hugged away and your most awful insecurities will be loved into acceptance.

I know it hurt to see dozens of your acquaintances walk the path you paved first and it feels unfair that capitalism left you behind. You also learnt toxic friendships and politics will constantly show up when building relationships with people. Life took a few turns you obviously didn’t see coming and they didn’t really work out in your favor. But you know a little secret? They actually did work in your favor. And hey, I saw you say “I will get back on it. I will pursue my passion and I will work hard till it’s my time”. Can I tell you how proud I am of you for not giving up? It’s a very hard thing to do, and you did it effortlessly! You chose to make the best of a hard situation, you chose to strive and be the hardest working individual in a room, you chose to be prepared and present. And now, your time has come. In a matter of just a few months, I will be doing exactly what you set out to do, what you have already been doing, but on a larger scale! There are some really good people who have acknowledged the work you have been doing and I plan to keep doing it better. We have a world to open up to the hearts of millions of people!

You haven’t had a safety net, or you didn’t know how to tap into it at that time. It’s been a roller -coaster of ups and downs, but trust me when I tell you this today; the Universe has always had your back. As cliché as it sounds, when you thought things were falling apart, they were actually falling into place for you. All the breakdowns had to happen to build a better life; all the temporary characters had to leave to make space for the real ones. Some paths, you were meant to just show others. Because there are bigger ones you need to make way for. You haven’t willingly looked for a fight, but you haven’t backed down when it was brought to you. Some battles you had to struggle through, so the war wouldn’t be an option in life, just love and acceptance. Looking back at your journey now, I can assure you with complete sincerity that everything that happened, every blip and bump has led me to right here. This moment where I am more self-aware than I ever was. Where I have worked on and continue to work on the trauma, recognizing my own mistakes, taking accountability for them, accepting myself with love and the end goal is clearer than ever! Where I am recognizing my own fears; working through my triggers, where I am working on bringing down the walls around my heart with consistent efforts because now my boundaries are defined. 

Every choice you have made, has made me stronger and kinder. To myself, and those around us.  
I will let you in on a little secret. You have done so well that you are continuously inspiring those that you know not of. If I could give you a glimpse into the future, let it be this – you are going to change the minds and mindsets of those who isolated and poked fun of you previously. You are going to build bridges between people and the planet. There are people from your life who will come back to tell you about little incidents that stuck with them as a positive note; how you helped them with a dog, how you just checked up on them and how they are just glad your paths crossed. 

And then I have the people right now in life who are my first cheer in the smallest victories and tightest hugs at the first tears; who tell me when I err not to isolate or demean me, but to genuinely help me grow. Your hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed. You have been the hardest on yourself, but it is okay to rest. I have learnt to listen to my body, mind, heart and soul. To take that break, cut myself some slack. A perfectionist complex is hard to fulfill; so, I’m being my own ally first. I have made friends who’ve become family. I have built connections that don’t have labels but run deeper than any blood relation there ever was. For the kind of person, you grew as, I am, and becoming, I have built a little tribe of my own. A tribe that holds my hand when I tend to push them away, that will stand by me as a rock when things go towards heartbreak. A tribe that is slowly but surely igniting in me, a hope again in the genuine intentions of human bonds.

I am now also aware of the process; the highs and lows, the rise and falls. The phases that will pass, and the phases that will stick. The journey hasn’t been easy but you have my utmost admiration and respect, as those around you. I will march ahead and power through. I will achieve everything you have believed in. Everything I learnt across the different stages of your life haven’t gone in vain. Each lesson has shaped me monumentally and intimately.

You want to know why? Because you haven’t just braved your storms, you have loved its showers too. I will continue to do the same. You don’t fight wars; you win over with love and compassion. You have believed in love and honesty and second chances and the beauty of human relationships, so much so that you know in your heart that, that will never be a wasteful effort. The fact that you care is your biggest strength – about people that you know and you don’t, about trees and animals that you have met and haven’t, about the planet and everything in it! We have so much more to do, and each day is glowing up into be a little lamp of hope and dreams fulfilled. Here’s looking forward to all the adventures that are yet to come! To the impactful, kinder world we are building for all those around or away from us and one that will definitely be a reality! A world where compassionate living will take fore over adversity or hopelessness. Because that’s what we work towards, and hope for. One day…Together.
25-year-old Praneetha

Written by Praneetha @the_biophilic_world

Illustrated by Kimberly Hoffman