From what I’ve heard, our 10-year-old selves are typically the most embarrassing versions of us. But fifth and sixth grade were actually highlights for me in terms of academic confidence and family relationships, and even my general happiness level.

 It was the other stuff that was the problem.

The small, social stuff. The why-doesn’t-anyone-invite-me-to-their-birthday-parties stuff. The well-I-couldn’t-go-even-if-I-were-invited stuff. The because-I’m-Muslim stuff. The things I’d change if given half the chance. The things I wish I could have warned my shy, chubby 10-year-old self about.

 1. Please, please fix your hijab.

Woman fixing her hijab

I don’t really subscribe to the idea that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to wear the hijab – your sidebangs are between you and God, and I’m not sure God cares too much – but I’m nonetheless confident my 10-year-old self’s unfashionable hijab fell under the wrong way.

I guess you didn’t know at that point that hijab is meant to cover your hair, not just your head. And you also didn’t know how to tie a bun. But to literally leave a hole for your ponytail to hang out from in the back is just weird. I remember your long hair bouncing all over the place, totally unhindered by the fabric wrapped around your head. Poor thing, you had no clue there was any other way.

 2. You’re so scared of messing up and embarrassing yourself that you don’t do anything.

Daniel Radcliffe saying "I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me."

This is perhaps the biggest mistake you made growing up, and it’s carried into adulthood to cripple my potential. Thanks a lot.

Nip it in the bud. Try on new hobbies. Become good at something besides writing. Keep going with the soccer team – no matter how much you complain to Ammi and Abu about them signing you up, you loved it. Hold off on your fifth re-reading of “Prisoner of Azkaban” and pay attention to those coding books your dad shovels on your shelf. If you pick that up, you’ll be making bank before you graduate college.

Oh, man. If only. Instead, you’ll end up like me: writing depressing diary entries on Tumblr, tagging them with “#spilledink” and watching your student loans multiply.

 3. Stop right there. Don’t you dare shave your legs. Or your arms.

captain obvious saying no

Don’t do it. I beg of you. You’re 10. No one’s looking at your arms. Yeah, that one kid called you a hairy monkey, but unless you want to be that for the rest of your life, stop.

Please, this is serious. I know Abu’s razor is right there, but you’ll only leave behind an impossible mess for me to have to deal with ten years later.

 4. Stop trying to escape your culture.

Indian man dancing through a room

In five years, a little thing called hipsterism will start creeping into America. There will come a time that you’ll want to separate yourself from the crowd, and a can of Arizona Tea and Converse shoes won’t cut it. You’ll wish you learned to appreciate Pakistani chai, to draw henna art, to speak your language. You’ll spend freshman year of college trying to read a book of Urdu poetry, and you’ll suck at it. Yes, your parents were right.

Here’s the thing. No matter how hard you try – however many people call you “Asia,” however much you pretend to understand conversations about boys, however many people hear you say “I’ve never even been to Pakistan!” – you’ll always be different. Run with it.

 5. Don’t lose your competitive edge.

homer simpson on a treadmill being lazy

Right now, you’re vying to be the classroom math star. Great. Keep doing it. And don’t stop.

If you’re not careful – which I happen to know you’re not – you’ll stop caring. It’ll start happening in high school, and by the time you’re a legal adult, you’ll have lost your interest in learning. You’ll lose your motivation to earn the finer things in life. You’ll be satisfied with the B when just a few hours of hard work could convert it to an A. It’s a crap place to be. Avoid it.

 6. Try talking to people every so often.

Two women walking through a bar

Imagine a life where you feel weird ordering pizza, and where talking to the secretary at your doctor’s office makes you nervous. Yeah. Another thing to nip in the bud. Talk to people who aren’t related to you. Stop self-segregating and re-reading Nancy Drew. The only reason people think you’re quiet and weird is because you act quiet and weird in front of them.

People have told you this before, but you never really believed them. So I’ll tell you again. You’re really smart. And funny. You’re a pretty cool kid, and if you talk to people, they’ll talk back.

Unless they’re racist. But that’s a lesson for another day.

  • Aysha Khan

    Aysha Khan is a journalist based in Baltimore, covering underrepresented communities and digital culture.