Happy Birthday, Me.
I’m sitting here thinking of new blog content on the eve of my 22nd birthday and it dawned on me that this time 10 years ago, I was 12. This is the same age as some of the kids I’m working with this summer as a camp councilor. That experience has been rewarding in itself despite some growling little girls and poop touching little boys. It is almost inconceivable that at one point in life, you and I were that young, carefree, naive, and hopeful as they are playing connect 4, crushing on each other, and singing Mr. Roboto into a fan.
I’ve seen many “Letters to myself” cycle the web. The concept is not new and to be frank, it’s a little cliche. However, I will do one anyway not just to reflect upon my growth over the last decade, but to release into the universe all the things I wish that these precious little girls knew.
Dear 12 year old Sarah,
Today you are now a teen. Don’t let that go to your head! Really! This list is things I wish I could have told you…myself…knew…ah whatever you get the idea. This is what I wish I could have told 12 year old me.
1. The World is an Enchanting Place.
Don’t dwell on the things your parents tell you could happen. On that same note, don’t be naive. Evil exists in the world, but the world isn’t evil. You will meet beautiful people who will teach you beautiful things about life, love, loss and yourself.
2. Happiness Comes from Within.
Yes, financial security and flexibility are great, but don’t live seeking those things with all of your energy. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a dancer, dance. Don’t neglect your homework, but on that same note don’t neglect your dreams.
3. There is No One Right Way to Live.
You are old enough now to place yourself in the shoes of another. The decisions you make will have both positive and negative impacts on you, your family, your friends, and those who love you. If what you feel is right will bring pain, do it. Live by a moral code that promotes harmony, love, and respect for everyone and take comfort knowing that is the best you can do.
4. Boys Are Human Too
They live, learn, hurt and love also. At 12, those boys are starting to look like mini celebrities who can do no wrong. Getting that kiss, holding that hand, or receiving that passed note makes you feel like you’re flying. Hold onto that joy, but remember that boys are just as clueless as you about love and affection. Be ready to forgive them just as you would a friend, but…
5. You Can Set Your Own High Standards
If you have a broken heart or made a mistake, you can control how it affects you. Refuse to let what you disliked about yourself yesterday define you today. It may be difficult to adhere to your newfound standards, but that is what will help you remain in love with yourself. If someone doesn’t see the light of your potential, be it a boy, friend, adult, don’t tolerate disrespect and continue to strive to exemplify the ideals you want them to see even if it means being alone. Don’t add to the hate by lowing your worth with insults or retaliations. Er, learn, modify, adapt, forgive and live.
6. Hug Your Parents && Your Grandparents
There is nothing I wouldn’t give to hug my Namaw in this moment, but I can’t. The only thing I can take comfort in now is knowing that while she was alive, I hugged her often and made sure she felt my love. The sad fact is one day you will have no more grandparents to hug, one day your parents will grey, and one day you will become an orphan. I don’t say this to make you sad. I say this because it is the reality that will inspire us to be kinder and more mindful of the precious time we have to love each other. Don’t make your mom drop you off down the block because you’re embarrassed. Let your dad coach your little league team. Get off the screens and go spend the weekend watching John Wayne movies with your grandparents.
7. Be Choosy with Your Friends
You don’t have to be friends with everyone. Be kind, but don’t be a fool. When you find a person that accepts you for the weird and you discover that you would move heaven and Earth for each other, hold onto them! I am still friends with two of my 12-year old friends. We are all so different, and that is okay! Respect the quirks, support their dreams and watch as the love is returned with no expectation for anything but love in return. Don’t compete with them and remember they are people too capable of making mistakes.
8. Looks are a Business Card && Personality is a Novel
Wearing makeup should be for you and not others. If someone doesn’t like your style, they aren’t worth impressing. Strive to feel confident in your own skin, be healthy and clean, but looks aren’t everything. Focus on being kinder, being funny, being creative, being intelligent and interesting. Those things last if you get splashed in a pool. The girls who are only pretty because of their makeup aren’t beautiful. The girls who encourage one another and can put a smile on a sad face are truly beautiful. Conduct yourself in a way that showcases your soul
Talking about what you already know, teaches you nothing. Don’t cut people off, hold in the automatic “I know,” response. Most people will assume that the person who begins the conversation has control over the subject, but I’ve found this isn’t the case. The respondent has control. Listening before you speak is a win-win strategy. On one hand, you could surprise yourself and learn something. On the other, you have spared someone disrespect by not interrupting and once they have finished, the conversation’s trajectory may then be redirected. You don’t need to answer right away. Trust me, if someone is asking an important question, they will wait for an answer and become more invested in your pause ultimately giving you control of the situation.
10. Forgive Everyone
I don’t believe people are inherently good or evil. People are people. They/we are harbors of intense emotions, fears, strengths and weaknesses. Instead of being quick to condemn, try to understand. Rarely do people choose to be evil for enjoyment. If you find that to be the case, run, but forgive. You needn’t spend the same amount of time with the people who continually need forgiving. However, grudges will stain the beautiful tapestry of your life. Should you do something terrible to someone, be heartfelt in your apology. Never be afraid to say you are sorry. Once that is over with, don’t forget to forgive yourself.
Anyway, I surmise that since it will be 10 years before you see me, it is fitting to leave 10 lessons in my/your letter. Even though it seems silly to write a letter that I/you will never receive, there’s a good chance that other young girls, teens, and heck even my fellow women rebelling against adulthood will find this and take away at least one of these lessons. I have a painful memory to go along with each of these && I wish these words are enough to spare the same pain in at least one person.
It’s been a crazy 22 years. I’m not sure how many I have left, none of us do. The only thing we can control is how well we can improve today with what we learned yesterday. Here’s to all the years we all have to look forward to.
Aloha && Namaste,