I have two teenage sisters, 14 and 16, and I’m lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time with them. I’ve watched as they’ve grown from babies in diapers – don’t worry, I won’t post those pictures- to beautifully different and wonderful young women.
I love that I get to be the cool big sister. I’m old enough to be annoying, but fun. And I’m young enough that they kind of like hanging out with me… most of the time. I also love that I get to stay young through the time I spend with them and keep up on the latest trends… even when I have NO IDEA what they’re talking about.
With one turning 17 this year and starting her senior year of high school in the fall and the newly 14 year old getting ready to become a freshman, it makes me think about when I was that age and all the emotions that I was going through. That’s why I’m writing this letter now:
Dear Little Sisters,
Where have the years gone? Are we really at this point already? I know that you hate when conversations turn into a talk, but here are my 11 things for you:
- Remember who you are because who you are is already good enough. There will be times when you doubt yourself or you think you have to change to fit in and be cool, but this is a lie. Be confident that you are enough. Be brave enough to be true to yourself even when it’s not cool, but also keep in mind that being cool or popular is subjective.
- Be kind to others. It’s easy to notice the flaws in those around you and point them out and bring them down, but it’s a hell of a lot harder and admirable to be able to find the strengths in people and draw them out and bring them up. Anyone can pretend to care, but the people that actually do are the ones that change the world.
- Surround yourself with people that are better at things than you are. Not only will this keep you humble, but it will help you learn and grow into a more diverse person. Contrary to popular belief, the world – though it may feel small – is a very big place and filled with people that can take you outside of your comfort zone and help you grow into the best version of yourself, but only if you let them in.
- On that note, travel any chance you get because again, this world is a big place. Sure, there are adventures to be had in your backyard, but there are a lot of backyards to explore. You will never regret leaving, and if you hate where you get to, you can always come home. If you want to go to college in another state, then go. If you want to take a gap year to volunteer somewhere awesome, then do it. YOLO, right?
People are still saying YOLO, right…
- There will be relationships and friendships that will fade from your life. It’s OK. You will make new friends and meet new people. Each person serves a purpose and sometimes that purpose is heartbreak or disappointment. Embrace it. Feel all of it. And then grow from it. You will appreciate the next person so much more and feel things in a completely new way the next time around. You are stronger and more resilient than you think you are. If all else fails, eat ice cream. It makes everything a little less bitter.
- Become friends with your parents. It might seem weird, but they’re not that much different than you. At the age of 27, I realized I was the same age as my Mom was when I was born and all I could think was: Holy shit. My Mom is amazing. How did she pull this off? There will never be anyone in the world, not even me (pretty darn close though), that will ever love you as much as your parents do. They’ve got your back, even if you disagree with how they express it sometimes.
- You will never know everything. And just when you think you do, you will be proved wrong. You will change every day in mostly small and sometimes big ways. Forgive yourself for not being perfect. The secret is that no one is perfect. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else. We all have struggles and we all are flawed. Happiness comes from accepting all of of it and learning to love yourself despite of it.
- Don’t rush into relationships. Yeah, kissing boys gives you the tingles and makes you feel good, but it’s also kind of a pain. Your window in life to be selfish is so short compared to the rest of your life, so enjoy it. Someday, you’ll have a husband and children and your life will never truly be about YOU again. Some may call it selfish, but most call it living.
And please, do not confuse hormones and lust for love. That thing you feel right away- hormones. That thing that develops with time, respect, boundaries, and patience – that’s love. Love gives. It doesn’t take.
- There will be drugs. There will be alcohol. I should probably tell you to not do any of these things, but that would be hypocritical and incredibly dishonest. I am sure that you will smoke some weed and drink some booze. I am also sure that you will drink too much booze and you will quickly learn, as does everyone else, that it does NOT taste as good the second time around. Oh, and it really burns when it comes out your nose. Of course, I don’t want you to do these things, but if you do… be smart. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t smoke and drive. Make sure you’re with people you know and trust. And know you can always call me for a ride without any questions asked. I’ll even throw in some gatorade and toast.
- Get good grades. For real. Make school your job and take it seriously. Make connections with your teachers. In high school they provide guidance, look out for you, and write killer college recommendation letters. In college, they can get you jobs. Good jobs. They can also be your Mom away from home or the mentor you need. They are a resource for you and for your life, and you should never waste resources.
- Drive slow and don’t text/Snap/FB/Insta and drive. You know what sucks more than being dead? Being the reason someone else is dead. There is NOTHING that is so important it can’t wait 30 minutes. If it is that important – pull over. Oh, and I’m counting on you to change my diapers when I’m old, so you’re not allowed to die before me.
Lastly, I’m already so proud of the both of you. Honestly. You are two incredible women that I am so glad to call my sisters. As you enter into these next chapters of your lives, I hope you enjoy them. Slow down. The world keeps spinning, but live in the now, because it will be tomorrow before you know it.