When I turned 20, I thought I knew everything.
In fact, I'm seeing things in hindsight with 20/20 vision. I try not to regret, but we all do it whether we want to call it regret or not. There are things as far back as high school that I wish I had done differently. I'm watching my 10 year old daughter dipping her toe into the deep end of the pool and I know it's just a matter of time before she jumps in and I don't want her to sink. I'm considering how much things have changed since I was her age. Electronics and technology is a lot further now than it was when I was in 5th grade. We still had to read actual books. Computers were these high tech and complicated machines that only rich people had in their homes. Anyone with a dot matrix printer was really living a glamorous life. However, if you weren't using it for word processing purposes, chances are the most high tech thing you were doing was losing "Buttface" or "Crotch" (if you named your Oregon Trail characters anything normal, you were a dork.) to typhus or dysentery.
I've thought a lot about what my 30 year old self would say to my 10 year old self...and my 20 year old self...and I realized that these are things I want my daughter to know. I can't experience her life for her. She needs to make her own mistakes and learn from them. She can't learn from mine. But I want her to be prepared for what might come her way. Here is a list for you, Julie.
1. Only speak if you can improve the silence. Don't let your words be hurtful, and if they are, apologize genuinely.
2. Don't trust people's words. Their actions will always show you how they feel. People will say things to get you to do what is best for the. Don't do what's best for them. Do what's best for you. Anyone who loves you truly will understand.
3. Don't be a doormat. Along with doing what's best for you, don't let anyone take advantage of the kindness I've told you to have. Set boundaries and don't let anyone talk you into rearranging them to serve themselves. Don't misunderstand. Help people joyfully and with as much of yourself as you can, but don't let other people's lives become your life.
4. Accept what you can't change, and change what you can. Serenity. When we finally succumb and accept that we can't change the world, you'll have it. It might be hard to watch a friend go through something that you can't fix. Be there. Support and love, but trying to fix all that is wrong with the world and the lives of those around us will only tear ours apart. If something makes you upset or discontent, if you can change it, change it. Don't ask anyone else to do it for you or expect anyone else to be able to. Happiness starts with you. If your happiness hinges on another person being in your life, that's not really happiness. People can leave your life. They will. When you start believing that people will never let you down, you're letting yourself down. Be self sufficient and confident that if you have to do it on your own; you can.
5. Don't change anything about yourself so someone else will like you. If someone expects or wants you to change, then why is that person in your life? Be you so the right people love you. If you do decide to change something, do it because it's what you want to do. Changing for someone else will only make you resent them later if the change isn't what you want. Living a life that is anything less than happy is unacceptable. But it's your responsibility and yours alone for being happy and content. It's unfair to put that on someone else; to you and to them. If your life needs to change, do something. And complaining about it is not 'doing something'.
6. Beware of social media. What you post is there. I don't care if you deleted it. I don't care if you posted it in a moment of anger or sadness. Don't post pictures of your boobs on Facebook. That is not classy, young lady, that is trashy. I expect you to respect yourself so much more than that, and if you don't, then I have failed you somewhere along the way. People need to fall in love with your personality, your laughter, your heart. If you're showing the world wide web scantily clad cleavage, don't expect to win over the person you are going to marry or work for. You're sending a message that you don't have the self respect and modesty to earn anyone else's respect. Anyone who suddenly pays attention to you because you tweeted a picture of your boobs isn't worthy of having the pleasure of your company. And as a side note, dress modestly. Dressing like a streetwalker is like rolling around in manure. You'll attract plenty of attention, but it will be from pigs. Just don't. Don't post statuses when you are angry in hopes that 'the person' it's aimed at will see it and beg your forgiveness. Don't post details about your personal matters for the world to see. That's begging for attention and attracting drama and that's not cool. If you're reeling from something that happened and you need to 'vent', that's what your friends are for. That's what your mom is for. That's what a diary is for. Facebook and Twitter and whatever else there is out there is not the time or the place. You never know who is going to read it or hear about it, and if you wouldn't put it on a billboard, don't put it on the internet. You will see other girls doing things like this. Perhaps boys do it, too. But you have been raised to be respectful. And I don't mean respectful to elders. I mean respectful to all people, yourself included. *Back tracking to the whole boobs on the internet thing (I just can't stress this enough) so help me, Julie Danielle, if at the age of 18 (which is the EARLIEST you will have a social media outlet) I sign on and see your tatas, I will come and find you, whether you are living under my roof, your own roof, a college dorm, or wherever you may be, and when I show up, I will have cleavage up to my chin and a mini skirt on and make sure that anyone within a 50 mile radius who knows you sees me. If you learn nothing else from your mother, learn this. Be tasteful.
7. Don't pretend to like your boyfriend's taste in music.
8. If someone is mean to you, it's because they have a problem within themselves. Walk away calmly and let them sort out their own issues. And remember, you won't always get the apologies you are owed. It's hard for some people to apologize when they wrong you. Don't let it be hard for you. Let your love and compassion fuel your courage to admit when you are wrong and own up to it. You can't take the memory of hurtful words away after they are said, but you can always apologize and try to restore hurt relationships.
9. Stand up for what you believe in but be respectful of what others believe. You probably won't change their mind; they probably won't change yours. Be thankful that there is diversity in the world because it keeps things interesting.
10. Help when you can. However, if you can't help someone, at least don't hurt them.
11. Don't show your boobs on the internet. Oh did I say that already? Well here, let me just make sure we are clear on this one. Don't show your boobs on the internet.
12. Don't have a "friend with benefits". Again, do you respect yourself? Yes? Okay, then that takes care of that. If someone wants to use you for sex without the commitment, you run away from that person. Your naked body is not an object to be used. Think about how many other people they have done this sort of thing with and then ask yourself if syphilis or chlamydia sounds like a fun time. Or how about HIV or Hep-C? Do you want to be yellow? Do you want to be itchy and in danger of insanity? If you do, there are plenty of other ways to go about that. When you are going to give that part of yourself to someone, give it to someone who deserves it and cherishes it. Anything less is a disservice to yourself. You'll avoid so much embarrassment and humiliation if you don't partake in things like that. You don't have to have sex to prove you love someone. If they can't tell by the way you treat them, then maybe you don't love them and the relationship should end. And if someone tries using that trick on you, then they probably don't love you. Don't accept that.
13. Don't show your boobs on the internet.
14. Don't get a credit card. If you can't afford it, don't buy it.
15. And last but not least, don't be showing your boobs on the internet.
I think that's all I have for now. I want the very best for you. I love you with every fiber of my being, and I will love you that way always. Your little brother may pester you right now, but someday he will be watching out for you. Don't ever be afraid to tell me when you need me. But know, that most of the time, you won't have to tell me. I'll just know. I'm your mom. Even though you left my body on the day you were born, you left behind a 6th sense that tells me when you need me. I couldn't hide sadness, anger, or confusion from my mom, and you won't hide them from me. I'll know by the sound of your voice and the look on your face.