My daughter, who is 18, just graduated from high school. Graduation is a huge event in a teenager’s life, even if they don’t recognize it at the time.
Finishing high school means the beginning of a young person’s adult life. No longer is my daughter completely my responsibility (Clarification: emotionally she will be forever. I’m a Jewish Mother.) Rather, she is now the mistress of her own destiny-whether I like it not, whether she’s ready or not. Of course, my money is appreciated (she’s still completely dependent on us), and my input sometimes requested. But, really, she is now her own woman with decisions to weigh, mistakes to make, and hearts to break.
To honor this milestone in her life, I decided to give her some advice. Except, teenagers do not like advice. Because they know everything. So, I decided to give it to myself. My 18-year old self.
It’s nothing new, this writing a letter to your younger self. If you google, you’ll find them all over the Internet. I found one cool one where a girl, as part of a school assignment, actually wrote a letter to herself with a disclaimer of when to open it. (I wish I’d done that, but I was such a stupid teenager.)
This week you watched your daughter graduate from high school. I know that’s not surprising to you, because ever since you can remember, all you wanted to be was a mom. Do you recall those silly goals you set when you were 13? Married by 25, three kids by 30? Well, you made it. By a hair. Your youngest was born a scant two weeks before your 31st birthday. Yay you for doing exactly what you set out to do.
Back to graduation. Remember you didn’t go to your high school graduation because your were in Vancouver? What were you thinking? I know that you wanted a great and independent adventure, but you turned down Journalism School. Mara, Mara. You should have listened to your father when he tried to give you advice about your education. It’s ok– dare I say advisable — to take advice from those who’ve lived it. Even when, maybe especially when, you think you know the answer, or you don’t want to listen to the truth.
Oh, your daughter. She’s so beautiful and so much more confident than you ever were. What was wrong with you? You were so gorgeous and young. All those amazing curls, and that curvy body. Why did you hide in those harem pants and baggy sweatshirts? You should never have listened to that boy who told you that you had potentially fat thighs. Don’t ever doubt your own inner and outer beauty. Revel in it. You are a goddess.
I know that school came easy to you, but even so, a little more effort wouldn’t have hurt. Getting those study habits down early on would have set you up for greater success in university and beyond. It’s ok to party, dance, drink and god knows what else. You’re young. Why not. Life is definitely meant for fun, but you have such a great brain. Don’t waste it being a good time girl.
Talking about your brains… Why are you waffling around, wondering about law school and degrees and worrying what everyone else thinks you should do with your life? You know your passion; go for it full steam ahead. You have so much talent, don’t follow a path that isn’t yours, or that you think people expect of you. This is your future.
Friends. Ah, girls can be so mean. I know that it’s hard for you to remember at 18, but those ‘cool’ girls are just as insecure and self-conscious as you are. When you’re my age, you’ll realize that none of their BS matters. Silly mind games and popularity all fade away when you come into yourself, and when you’re 43 you’ll look way better than they do. Find people who make you feel good about yourself and keep them close to your heart.
What’s good doesn’t always come easy. Work hard for what you want, whether it’s for your job, your marriage, a friendship, or maybe to stand on your head.
This may sound hokey, but your body is your wonderland (you don’t know who John Mayer is, but you’ll love him, and your son will say his music inspires vomiting). Eat healthy (french fries and 700 calorie per day diets aren’t the ticket), get some exercise (walking the dog 100 yards doesn’t count), and most importantly don’t have sex with random guys (ok maybe do it just once to see what it’s like). You only get one body. Respect it and others will too.
Talking about your body, I’d like to mention the sun. I know you think you’re invincible right now, but not only will the sun damage your skin (you should see all the sunspots on your otherwise unwrinkled face), but it could kill you. Wouldn’t you rather be pale than dead?
I know I don’t have to tell you this, but family means everything. You are so lucky to have such a huge family. Spend every minute with them.
Make sure that you treat life as if it’s a gift. Every day doesn’t have to be special, but you can still make every moment count. Find great love, smile, laugh, have wonderful friends, and live your dreams. Right now, the world is yours for the taking.