(This is an open letter to Hannah and Rudy, my niece and nephew who are on the cusp of their college journeys. Both are smart. Both are brave. Both are fabulous.)
My dear ones,
You are about to enter a fabulous and remarkable chapter in your lives. Everything will be fresh. Some moments will be amazing. Others will be incredibly scary. I have no doubt you will weather them all with grace. I am not the wisest or the cleverest, but I have been around for many years. I have seen fads and fashion and trends come and go. One thing that has not changed is that teenagers are basically the same now as they were back in 1977 when I first unpacked my boxes at ISU. You want love, you want success, you want happiness. What can you do to help make your dreams come true? I wish I had all the answers, but what I can do is offer some tips that if you listen and believe….they may help make that path a little easier to navigate.
1. Do your laundry on a regular basis. And if you haven’t learned how to wash your own underwear, figure it out. This is huge.
2. Keep your room and bathroom clean. If you live in filth, your life will be filthy. No one, and I mean no one is enthralled by your mess. It’s gross.
3. Get off your phone from time to time. You might miss life. It’s pretty great.
4. Attempt to eat healthy and exercise. Your body is the only one you have. Take care of it.
5. Be a student of the world. Learn new things. Read the news. Pay attention.
6. Get lost every now and then. You will be surprised what you learn when you figure out how to get home. It’s amazing.
7. Go to plays. Visit museums. Read poetry. It will enrich your life.
8. Be kind.
9. Embrace diversity. Meet people from other cultures, races, religions, sexual orientation. There is a big, wide, wonderful, colorful world out there. You might be surprised what you will learn about yourself through these people.
10. Save your money. Keep track of your spending. Nobody likes that person who never has money and is always “borrowing” only to never pay it back.
11. You may change your major. I changed mine three times in four years. Don’t stick to something just because it is expected of you. Do what you want to do. Also…don’t be afraid to ask professors for help. College classes can be difficult and confusing. There are mentors everywhere. Take advantage of them.
12. Alcohol. Yes….it will flow pretty freely. Just be aware. Don’t be stupid and then you won’t have regrets. Figure out your limit. And if you don’t drink, power to you. You are the wisest of them all.
13. Sex. Yes….I am going to talk about it, and this is what I want to urge you. Don’t give it away to those who don’t really care about you. You are worth so much more. Sex is not a weapon, it is not a negational tool, it is not owed because someone bought you dinner or took you to a dance. Respect your body and then others will respect it too.
14. Look beyond the surface in others. Seek those who have brains, heart, and courage.
15. Be true to yourself. Don’t hide. Be proud of who you are.
High school will not be the best or worst years of your life. I promise. You have so much ahead of you. Life will be full of joy. It will be fraught with disappointment. You will experience great highs. You will survive tremendous grief. Embrace all the messiness life throws at you and learn from every success and every failure.
So, my loves. Begin your journey.
Be Brave. Be Curious. Set Your Life on Fire.
“She woke up one day and decided to set her life on fire; to go up in flames if necessary. To really live the life she was born to live.” – Unknown