Growing up, I was afraid to be myself out of fear of rejection. I thought you had to blend in to be seen as cool and be accepted. Moving to the UK was scary as a girl born and raised in Zimbabwe. Learning English, a new culture and a new way of communication was complex. At first, I found it daunting and, in turn, kept myself isolated in the library with books as replacements for friends. I found comfort in my own space and found it hard to break my mould.
As I grew in confidence in English as my second language, I began to open up, take part, and adapt to my new environment. However, as part of that acclimatization, I realized I began to change. I quickly let go of my Zimbabwean accent in exchange for a traditional English one. I shortened my name to make it easier to pronounce, and I began taking on the cultural norms of England. This process helped me make friends and become a member of the community around me; however, it meant I was losing parts of my identity. It is only now, with hindsight, that I realize just how much of my identity I gave up in my younger years in a bid to be accepted, parts that I have still not yet rediscovered as a young adult.
I realize I was so afraid of rejection that I did everything in my power to blend in and gain acceptance. In retrospect, I wish I had recognized the beauty in difference and the beauty in my story. I allowed the outside noise and the opinions of my peers to alter how I saw myself, and as a result, I changed how I presented to the world.
Now, as a 25-year-old young woman, I get joy from existing loudly and showing my true self to the world. I see beauty in my differences and in my story, no matter how unique it may be. I now see the struggles, the limitations and the flaws as part of what makes me who I am. I no longer shy away from difficult discussions or hide parts of myself to make others comfortable. I realize now that it is not my job to make others recognize my worth, beauty, or difference; it is only my job to exist loudly.
If I could go back in time and speak to my younger self, I would tell her to stop worrying about fitting in and to focus on remaining true to herself because those who are truly meant to be in her life will see her and know that she is enough. I would tell younger Vee to spend her time doing what she loves and not hide her true passions or make excuses for people who are unkind to her. Finally, I would tell her that she deserves happiness and that her light is not too bright. She is simply in the wrong room.