Today is my daughter's 16th birthday. As a parent that's a crazy thing to process. CRAZY!
I remember my own 16th birthday very clearly. I was an exchange student in the USA...I had brought presents from home that I didn't even sneak a peek at for the month I had them. I sat on the bed and opened them alone. Then I got in a station wagon with 13 other people (highly illegal I'm sure) as my then host-family drove us from Boston to New York City. It was nuts.
It was also part of a grand adventure. And isn't that what life is supposed to be? Shouldn't it be a wonderful journey full of crazy memories, good friends and exciting challenges?
So here is my advice for my daughter on her 16th birthday - some of which I've followed and some of which I should have.
1. Start at YES.
Don't have your first impulse when asked a question or offered an opportunity be NO. Please let it be YES.
Say "Yes" even if it's a soft yes followed by, "now how can I make that work for me?" Yes people have the most fun.
2. Don't be afraid.
People will try and tell you the world is a horrible, scary place full of bad people and dark forces. Ignore that. Ignore those people. Don't let fear be your guide. That doesn't mean don't use common sense. Don't go looking for trouble but don't assume trouble is looking for you either. Trouble has bigger fish to fry.
Most people are basically decent - even the ones you don't agree with - approach people with that attitude/idea in mind and in my experience, at least, they treat you with decency. So get out there and meet new people, try new things and have adventures.
3. It is okay to make mistakes.
If you're not making mistakes you're not doing it right. Remember when I took you ice-skating and I said "If you won't let go of the edge, if you don't risk falling down you won't be able to skate?" Well, that applies to lots of areas of life. As we like to say here "Have a crack, kid." You don't get good at things or even mediocre (and that's okay as well for lots of things - better to be a mediocre player than not on a team) without trying and sometimes you will fail when you try. That's okay.
4. Be more like your father
Your father doesn't give a toss what anyone thinks of him. Your father throws himself into everything and he has a crack.
He lives in the moment (yes we all know that annoys the snot out of me but that doesn't mean he's wrong). Be friendly, be kind, be happy and act as if everyone is lucky to make your acquaintance, because they are. You're awesome.
5. Ignore the haters
Negative people are unhappy people. If anyone throws hate your way just remember - they have to live with themselves and you get to walk away. You're not going to like everyone and that's okay but don't be a hater and ignore those that are. They're not worth the energy. (I'm not saying let people treat you badly but don't put too much energy or thought into anyone who does.)
6.Friends are important
Friendship is a rare and nebulous thing. You'll be amazed at who will stay in your life and who will drift out of it. You'll be blown away by what people treasure about you and why people are drawn to you. Be friendly and make lots of friends that nourish the different parts of who you are - friends to dance with, friends to cry with, friends to share hobbies and travels with - sometimes one person is all these things and sometimes you have friends for a reason or a season. Don't put all your eggs in one basket - or pin all your hopes on one person - the world is full of amazing and interesting people, try and get to know as many as you can.
7. Trust your instincts
If it doesn't feel right don't do it. If your instincts tell you a situation is off, then go with your gut. Your gut is almost always right. (It's not as reliable as your mother who we know is always right - okay that might not be true - but it probably is). Learn to listen to it and honour it. (As a teenager especially there's a lot of pressure to go with the mob - the mob is definitely not as smart as your gut, that doesn't mean never run with the mob, just pick your moments).
8.You are loved
On any given day please know that there is a whole community of people on this planet that love you (Okay none of them love you as much as I do but they really do love you.) We all have days where we feel sad and lonely and rather tragic and that's okay, normal even, but you are never alone because there are people near and far who adore you.
9. Nobody gets to touch you without your permission
I know you know this but remember it. Not a friend, not an enemy, not a man, woman, adult or child is allowed to touch you without your say so. If anyone is in your space - even a little too close- tell them to back off and if necessary use that back belt in karate you earned. (I'm sure it won't be necessary but that's a handy skill to have).
(See above trust your instincts)
10. I've got your back
Not in a crazy vigilante way - you know that's not exactly how - I roll but I'm here for you unconditionally. You are my greatest joy. I want you to have all the good things you want (except maybe not the piercings and tattoos if I'm totally honest) and I will try and help you get them. I will help you dream, I will encourage you, I will laugh with you (and sometimes at you), I will lift you up and I will always be your soft place to fall.
I am a writer of light-hearted contemporary women's fiction.
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