A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

by Waleed Ali Khan

I was thinking about why I haven’t blogged for a while, and it hit me that I have lost confidence in my own ideas. I’m at that crossroads in my life (graduation, career and becoming a completely independent adult) where my future is completely uncertain. With this uncertainty comes a lack of conviction – it’s like you fear in what you believe in because the future might change your belief system entirely.

I realized that there was a time when I felt the same way. It was when I was 16, trying to choose what career I wanted to pursue, what colleges I would want to apply to along with the regular burdens of being a teenager in a school where peer pressure was very, very strong. That was my transition from a boy to a young adult.

I hope that once I write this letter, I’m going to be less worried about the future and I’ll hopefully start believing that whatever will happen, it’ll all be allright (inshaAllah).


Dear 16-year-old self,

Congratulations on coming this far. I know there was a time when you thought that you could never excel at anything and now look at you – at the top of your class. I know saying that things have been hard is an understatement, but look, God gave you this amazing opportunity to come to India and start fresh. And, even though you might feel like you don’t completely fit in, you have friends and you’re making your parents very proud. However, I understand that you’ve been anxious and you have absolutely no idea what the future holds. All I can say is this – you really don’t. What you’re imagining right now, flip that by 180 and that’s where you’ll end up.

My first advice to you would be to stop planning. Things will not turn out the way you set them out to be. You’re not becoming a computer engineer – and even though you told yourself to never touch biology again, you’re going to attempt to pursue medicine. You’re going to fail at it, miserably. And you say that “business is for people who can’t study anything else” – well guess what, that’s precisely what you’ll end up studying.

I know this is might be disappointing news, but this is exactly what the doctor ordered. Here are the good things. You’ll finally feel comfortable in your own skin, and believe it or not, you’ll become a people person. I know right now you feel like you hate almost everyone around you, but you’ll learn to find the best in everyone. And guess what – you’ll travel the world. You can probably not even imagine going to college outside Pakistan, but you’ll literally fly from one corner of the world to the other. You’ll become wiser. And even though you’ll no longer be known as the class genius, you’ll learn to be happy with your accomplishments. That’s right you’ll learn to be happy.

And about her. I know you’re crazy about her, but honestly you never stood a chance.  I know this is hard for you to hear – but trust me, this is not love. And I know you’ll be disappointed when she says no. But trust me, this is not heartbreak.

And with this, I’ll give you my last piece of advice. Never let all this worrying come in the way of your hard work. You’ll have regrets, but you’ll look back at your life and think about how lucky you are. The great things that you’ve planned for yourself won’t happen, but there are greater things about to happen – things you couldn’t have dreamt of. Buckle up.


Present day self

P.S:  I just visited our old house in Germany.

P.S.S: Being the last person to be picked in P.E. class won’t matter anymore.


What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?