Maame Blue & Mykaela Saunders
As part of The Stories We Tell Ourselves, we invited six pairs of emerging and established writers, from the UK and Australia, to each pen a letter to their past or future self. Across a series of six videos, these writers respond to the theme ‘Who are we now?’ by speaking directly to versions of themselves that are still familiar, curiously anticipated or completely mysterious.
Here, award-winning author of Bad Love, Maame Blue, and editor of the forthcoming This All Come Back Now – the world’s first anthology of blackfella speculative fiction – Mykaela Saunders, take turns reading each other’s letters aloud and then discuss the points of connection and difference in their responses.
You can watch the video, and read along with their letters, below.
From Maame Blue
I can't believe it’s been 10 years. How are you?
I hope you are magnificent.
I hope you are not just Oh K. Not still waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the milkman leaving glass bottles that remind you of a childhood you’re still trying to forget. Not still sleeping restlessly, your to-do list long, laborious and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. I hope so much more for you than this time here, now.
I hope you still have that love you found two years before this letter. That your heart still explodes when they enter the room, and closes in a little when they leave. That your futures have become like intertwined vines that keep you safe, held and feeling altogether part of something bigger. And I hope the world acknowledges it, your love.
It is not the same kind you grew up with. Not the same as the romantic movies that you would wish after as a child, that you then tried to replicate as you got older, with suitors too straight for your squiggly edges.
I hope it’s still the slow simmering, deliciously real kind of love. The sharing-soup-on-a-winter’s-day kind of love. The let-me-do-the-washing-up-tonight, and don’t-worry-about-what-anyone-else-thinks kind of love.
I hope it keeps you feeling magnificent.
I still have hope for the world, somehow. I really hope you do too.
I still have hope for the world, somehow. I really hope you do too. And that it is generally kinder. But I think we always hoped for that, didn't we? So, perhaps a decade later, you can walk through white spaces without feeling as though you cast a long, dark shadow? Or maybe there are no longer white spaces, just places where people can go to be themselves? Perhaps you’ve created that space for yourself and your fellow outsiders to feel warm again on the inside? I really hope so. Because I have begun to understand that our legacies are what we leave with other people.
I hope you’ve been building on what we started. That you’ve been using your gift with words to tell the truth. God, I hope you’re still telling the truth, that you haven’t left any of yourself behind. You are the best you, when you’re speaking/thinking/writing the real things, even when it’s difficult and it hurts and you worry that no one else will understand. I hope you’ve found a way to reach towards sincerity, to communicate with candour, to write a gospel of emotions in their full range that bring about praise and adoration of the truth.
I hope you always strive for magnificence.
And most of all, I hope you have happiness. It is fleeting, I know. It comes and goes with the wind, a mood swing or even the change of an outfit. But every now and again, I hope that it arrives, in the in-between times, in the tiny moments and especially in the big ones. I hope you still know when to grasp it, when to pass it on, and when to stop looking for it so that you can find yourself again. Let it be a balm, not the ultimate solution. But do let it be.
I hope you take my words as they are intended, that they don’t feel like a to-do list but merely a statement of facts about where you are now, 10 years from me.
Because you are magnificent. I want you to remember that. Always.
From Mykaela Saunders
Dear future Mykaela,
I’ve been asked to write a letter to you, asking you ‘who are we now?’. But this isn’t something I ever want to know for myself; I’ve never been keen on knowing my future, maybe because I’ve watched too many sci-fi horror movies that deal with time travel, causation loops, and the tyranny of fate. So, I do not want you to tell me any personal news from the future, because that means I’ll spend all my attention on the lookout for clues – and that’ll stop me enjoying my life in the meantime.
But still, I have to ask you – who are we now? And I am not asking about myself. I am asking about us, as a people.
There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to know the future, for the reasons I’ve just touched on. But there’s another part of me that needs to know that the news is good.
This other, hopeful part wants to know that corporations and their neoliberal enablers have been stopped from ruining our countries, and indeed our entire planet. But can you tell me that in all honesty?
Because I want you to tell me that. I need you to tell me that.
Because, what if these corporations aren’t forced to a halt? I just don’t know how I could live with knowing that. I don’t know that I could hold that knowledge in my body and still look our young ones in the eyes.
In 2014, in her lecture at Southern Illinois University, Angela Davis said that ‘You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time’.
And god only knows how I could live if I knew that it wasn’t possible.
My first impulse is to ask you to not tell me anything about how it goes either way, because if I only ask you to tell me the good news but hold off on the bad, then I’ll know it’s all bad news if you don’t tell me anything. And how could I find any joy in life then? How could I carry myself though life knowing nothing I do is good enough?
I am asking you to tell me the good news, whether it’s true or not.
So instead, I am asking you to tell me the good news, whether it’s true or not. This is the only way I can proceed: by knowing if a well-loved planet and people is possible. Here are some things I want you to tell me –
That the fossil fuel conglomerates have either grown some ethics or else died of starvation, and that all their workers have safe and stable jobs in cleaner energy.
That our rivers are no longer bled dry but left to fill and swim back into their ancient memories.
That our oceans are clean again and teeming with all kinds of life.
That we’ll release the stranglehold of the prison-industrial complex and the welfare-to-prison pipeline, abolish all other carceral cultures, and inject all those billions into our health, art, education, culture, leisure and especially pleasure.
That our laws and art and stories are valued by all communities, not just commodified and entombed by a handful of rich gatekeepers.
That the tired mentality of asking top-down governance to save us is dead, and that grassroots community care is what heals us.
I need to know that they are leaving our children the fuck alone.
And I need to know that our children will be growing up in a world knowing their rich histories and not having to worry about whether they’ll have a future or not.
So when you write back to me, make sure you tell me all this good news, and tell me more good things too, if you want – but make sure you tell me whether you mean it or not. Because, true god, absolutely everything depends on it.
Yours, in all sincerity,