Today is my 34th birthday. I know, I’m so old right? I’ve been doing a lot of thinking today, it’s kind of hard not to be reflective on your birthday, especially the older you get. While I was in this moment of introspective reflection my thoughts kept drifting to you, all three of you actually…One of whom is in college, the other who is starting college this Fall & the third, my baby-ist of baby sisters is entering her final year of high school. I thought about all of the ways I view life now & how different it is than when I was your age. Don’t get me wrong, there’s not a problem with the way you think, in fact, there’s a part of me that misses my twenty year old mind & all of her hope mixed with overly healthy self-esteem & naivete. Although I have to say, there is a lot I’ve learned in this past decade & a half that I think would have come in quite handy in my 20’s. Actually someone probably did tell me, I most likely just didn’t listen, that’s the downside of naively thinking you have it all figured out. I didn’t have a big sister however so maybe, just maybe, there is something special about a sister-ly bond that will make my words sink in a little deeper than all those other old people who like to give you unsolicited advice.
So here it goes, I’ll try to brief.
1. Be nice to your neighbors. Whether they be dormmates, roommates or eventually house neighbors they are the people who will probably be there when you didn’t anticipate needing someone. Much like today when I locked myself out of our house. No phone, no key, no way in. Luckily I have very kind neighbors who were able to let me into my other very kind neighbor’s house which held a spare key to our home. For years P & I mostly kept to ourselves, in fact, at our first home in Florida we didn’t even know our neighbors names, but since kids have come into the picture it gave us a reason to talk to those other families around us & you know what I’ve discovered? We were missing out to not do it sooner. Even if it feels a little uncomfortable spread out your social circle, you never know who you might end up finding.
2. Be respectful of your parents. Even when (if) you hate them. Now that I have kids, I have an advantage over you guys, I can see things from the other side. The dark side. And you know what? This is a really hard job & we’re totally figuring it out as we go along, I’m pretty sure our parents did the same thing because there is no magic manual. Now that you’re grown it means your parents have put two decades into pouring themselves into being & supplying everything you might need from infancy through teenagers in all their hormonal glory. It’s an exhausting & mostly thankless job but we don’t care because the love a parent has for their child isn’t something I can even begin to explain to you. What I can tell you is that while I can somewhat mentally prepare for Sam & Sophie (especially that little one) slamming some doors or bursting into dramatic tears I hope I never have to hear them say that they hate me. My eyes tear up at just the thought that they might not love me back one day, even if it’s just for a day. So even though you might feel like you’re going to explode with anger when they’re being completely & utterly unfair to you, watch what you say, I don’t think words sting harder to anyone than from a child to their parent.
3. Leave room to love each day for what it is. Whether it was the best day ever filled with roller coasters & first love’s kisses or the most mundane rainy Saturday that you spent in bed with a cold there is beauty to be found in each one. This may not be too hard for you now but one day you will have so many responsibilities that if you spend a day or two without ‘getting anything done’ you might start to beat yourself up for it. One thing I’m learning this year, because re-training your brain is a process, is that it’s ok if everyday I don’t meet all of my self imposed expectations, those days still have something wonderful about them. There are no days that were worth nothing.
4. Take time to do things you love, everyday if possible. It’s great to take a dance class, paint or get your nails done but even if it’s just taking 30 minutes to sit & watch trashy TV in bed with your favorite ice cream, every day we have on this Earth is a blessing & the least we can do is even on the craziest of days take a few minutes to spend it being happy.
5. While we’re on the subject of feelings let me fill you in on something that took me years to learn. Feelings are fickle. They can & will change on a dime & just because you aren’t happy right now doesn’t mean you won’t be tomorrow & the opposite is also true. Base what you know to be true on the foundations of what you believe, what you feel in your gut, not a fleeting emotion, even if it’s so strong it feels as though it may consume you, give it time to settle down & while you wait for your brain to catch up to your heart just try to keep your feet firmly planted in what you know to be true.
6. Take care of your body, it is the only one you get & later in life you’ll thank your younger self for keeping it in the best shape possible.
7. While I know college is a time of experimenting with boundaries & experiences there are certain things you should never ever do. No pills, no powders…ever. You don’t know what is really in that stuff, where it came from, or what it could do to you Don’t even try it. No unprotected sex, I don’t care what he says. Never drink & drive & just as importantly don’t you dare get in a car with someone who has been. I know I’m sounding so ‘mom-ish’ when I say this but most fatalities in DUI accidents are not the driver, it’s the passengers. If you’re worried about hurting their feelings or are scared to say something than lie. Normally, and this might be somewhere down the list, I would never encourage lying but in this case it’s ok. Just tell them you met someone else you’re going with, or if you see things are getting bad get out early so you’re not put in the situation of being in the car. Tell them you have a curfew, or a headache…then call me or call mom. I may be in Maryland but that doesn’t mean I can’t send a taxi to pick you up, anytime, anywhere, no questions asked.
8. Dye your hair pink or purple or blue. Get a pixie cut if that’s what you’ve always wanted to try, hair will always grow back. Try new styles of clothes & don’t be afraid to find what your ‘look’ is. Now is the only time in your life where you never have to say, “Am I too old to pull this off?”
9. Having your heart broken is one of the worst feelings you’ll experience. Chances are it will happen more than once in your life but here’s the good news. Even when you feel like you’re chest is going to explode with all of the sadness you’re experiencing remember when your sister told you that it happens to everyone and IT WILL PASS. You will get over him & you will fall in love again. I know how hopeless & painful a broken heart can be, it can last for days, even weeks, but I can promise you this, it always gets better.
10. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If the caps didn’t convey it than I’ll say it flat out, this is important! I 100% believe that all of us are given an innate sense of what is right & wrong. Call it a conscience or whatever you like but whether it’s a little knot in your stomach that you shouldn’t be doing what you’re up to or maybe it’s an uneasy feeling you get from someone who gets into the elevator with you trust that little voice! It’s almost never wrong & it can literally save your life. Don’t worry about hurting a stranger’s feelings or acting weird. I can think of multiple times that I’ve noticed a pair of headlights in my rear-view mirror that seem to be making all of the same turns I do & I drive right on past my house & out of the neighborhood again just in case this is that one time some creeper is following me home. If someone knocks on the door that you don’t know you don’t have to open it. Yes you may seem a little weird to be carrying on an entire conversation with someone through a closed door but better that than your bones being made into windchimes.
Finally, know when to shut up. Like right now… Whether it’s talking to your boyfriend, parents or baby sister(s) there comes a point when you just have to know that you’ve said your point & that’s all you can do. The older I get the more I see the value in using less words.
With that said I’m going to take my own advice & tell you this sister…
I love you. I’m always here if you need me, I remember the days each of you were born & now here you are, beautiful young women…I couldn’t be any prouder.