Second prize - Ivana Iliyan Yaneva, 15 years old (Bulgaria)


Dear (I hope you are still so cheerful and happy) Ivana,

How are you? It is me that is writing to you – that young, happy and loving kid with the big dreams.  It is that energetic girl who used to talk to the stars every night. That devoted creature, who wants to give love to people. Do you remember?

If you don’t remember, close your eyes, take a deep breath and go 30 years back in time.  Recall it. Imagine how you are sitting in that stuffy class room and hear the joyous noises from the school nearby. Imagine the desk with drawings on it, imagine touching it and remember…

I’m sure you already see me. My blue hair is scattered over my cheeks and my even bluer eyes curiously move across the room, always looking for something, always looking for someone. You can see the girl next to me doing my hair into plaits. Two well done plaits yet playful enough. You are smiling. Do you miss that? You probably don’t do your hair like that any more. You loved plaits so much and you thought that they symbolize freedom…

Suddenly the girl that was doing my hair goes away and you see an opportunity to come and talk to me. You sit on my chair and smile at me. And I’m standing there puzzled. You look familiar. I see you going with your fingers through the drawings on the desk remembering their stories. You remember the enthusiasm when drawing the rings of Saturn while sitting in mathematics… how you instinctively caught the pen and drew stars instead of triangles. And I keep looking at you. You are somehow blurred. As though light comes into my eyes and it aims to blind me. This light prevents me from seeing you. Is this fate? Am I doomed not to see you? And you nod your head as a sign of a response. May be you are giving me answers?!

I know that you are older. You are definitely not young. Don’t take it personally – in my imagination you look great. I imagine you having those subtle wrinkles from laughter. But your eyes are not that sparkling, not so curious and energetic. You are probably tired. May be your life is not that easy now. You don’t have blue in your hair any more. You probably miss having the sea in your hair. It’s gone. It seems that you are missing me too. But you still look great at that age. Although I don’t think I want to look like you. Do you understand that I just don’t want to get old? I don’t want to get lost between work and family, between right and wrong, between here and there. I don’t want to get lost. I need myself. I need my adventurous spirit. I need the sleepless nights and even more conversations with the stars, I need carefree dances under the spring rain, I need the innocent love with no limits. I need myself. I am not afraid that there will come a time to lose myself while trying to catch time.

“It is not necessary to chase time,” you start telling me.

“But it goes very fast. If I lose the competition, I will lose myself,” is my answer. And you smile, like a sister of mine.

“You are so young… You don’t understand yet. My dear, the whole life is just a moment. You close your eyes to make a wish for your 15th birthday and suddenly you are 30 years old. You blow the candles and you’re 45. It is not necessary to chase time. It is not necessary to compete with it. You just have to make a wish, to open your eyes very slowly and keep the fire in your heart as long as you can. Enjoy it. Make memories… write, take pictures, draw… do art. And in everything we make, time will be marked. We will never outrun time, but we will stop the chase for a while. And these moments will last forever. And those years, my dear, years are nothing. Don’t let a number define who you are. You are the one you want to be. Not the person years may try to make you.”

And that’s how our conversation ends. Now we are only staring at each other. You are looking at my thoughtful expression, and I can only imagine yours. You take my hand and smile. “Is she still so young?” you think, “So many years playing the piano and your hands are still so small.” Your other hand goes tenderly over my cheek. You arrange my playful hair and you hear the familiar school bell.

“I have to go, Ivana,” you say. Your voice changed. Maybe you are crying. I want to throw myself in your arms and wait for my 30s there, huddled up in you. You kiss my forehead and smile.

“We’ll see each other in 30 years. Now I know you. But still I don’t have time to examine you completely." You wave at me and you disappear. The light takes you away. As though it couldn’t wait to take you back…

I respond to your smile and being ready, I let your hand go.

“I will see you in a moment,” I say to you and allow the light to take you back.

Always mine,

Our 15-year-old Me


I hope that the soul of the older you will appreciate the fact that I break all laws of time and space only to send you this letter. So, please, inform me when you receive it.