As my 21st birthday quickly approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about my life so far. I remember being a young girl, and through my teenager years, envisioning what my life would be like at the notorious age of 21. I pictured having a house, a college degree, and being married (I look back at that dream and laugh). Although not a single one of those things have happened yet and my life is totally different that I thought it would be, it’s perfectly okay.
With all this reminiscing, I started to think about all the things my mom was always right about (even though I swore she wasn’t at the time) and began to start a list in my head.
These are the essential things I have learned in the past 20 years that I will one day tell my daughter- if i’m lucky enough to have one:
1. Makeup is wonderful, but not necessary. This is one piece of advice I struggle with myself. In the age of ‘selfies’ and outer beauty being the “ultimate goal” girls feel incredible pressure to look beautiful. At the end of the day, a beautiful face is nothing if you’re not beautiful on the inside.
2. Don’t ever think you NEED a man. Once again, this is easier said than done. For some girls this comes easy. For others (like myself) we love companionship, rom-coms, and all things romance. It is totally okay to want a partner, but make sure you are able to take care of yourself and love yourself enough before you jump into a relationship.
3. Strive for health, not a skinny figure. Crash dieting, diet pills, and over-exercising are never the answer. The pressure to be skinny hits really hard in high school and is something that lasts for the rest of a girl’s life. There will always be people thinner than you, but are they as healthy as you? Also, are you trying to be thin for yourself? Or is it for a boy, a job, or a group of friends? Being able to be comfortable in your skin, no matter what size, is something that will make your life significantly easier.
4. Don’t be ashamed of your religious beliefs. I have personally heard the argument before that the only reason I am a Christian is because I was “brainwashed” by my parents. If brainwashed means that I was taught to be a good person, have morals, and get to know God, then yes I was brainwashed – and happy that I was. My parents never forced me to have a relationship with God. They simply taught me about Him, and let me make my own decisions. I will one day do the same for my children and if they decide to follow Christ, they should never have to justify it or feel ashamed.
5. Don’t chase after boys. This is really the pot calling the kettle black right now but this is something I had to learn the hard way, and I will one day teach my daughter to never do. If a boy really likes you and respects you, then they don’t make you chase them. If you’re having to chase a boy or he says he “just needs time”, chances are he is making an excuse.
6. Never apologize for having emotions. This one is very important as a woman. We are often made to feel like emotions are a bad thing and that we are supposed to hide them and be more “logical”. While I agree that emotions can cloud your judgement from time to time, it’s a part of who you are as a girl and you should never be made to feel ‘crazy’ for it.
7. Your girlfriends are everything. Life is not a Disney movie or a musical and there will be times when life is really hard and will make you cry. People will come and go but if you can find a few good best friends to keep forever who can make you laugh or threaten to beat up jerks who break your heart, these people will bring you a joy that no one else can.
8. Be nice to other girls! Contrary to popular belief and what you’ll see in TV shows, girls can be nice to each other. You don’t have to make ‘cliques’ and be mean and judgmental to people outside of your group of friends. Girls/women go through enough already from the opposite gender and we don’t need to make life any harder on ourselves. You’ll always regret being hateful, but you’ll never regret being kind. Trust me.
9. You might not always get along with family, but they are always your biggest fans. Arguments happen. Especially with family. It isn’t until you’re an adult that you realize how irreplaceable your family is. They are your protectors and sidekicks. Never take advantage of them.
10. College will absolutely change your life, but not in the way you expect. Every senior in high school envisions their first college party, drinking Starbucks all the time, and doing whatever you want when you move away from home. Yes, there are parties and good food and total freedom, but while you’re experiencing all of that, you are changing so much. You might not remember what your history professor said when you graduate, but you will remember the friends you made, the choices you made (good, bad, and ugly), and how it shaped you into the person you are in your 20’s. So yes, make memories and have fun… but don’t ruin your own life.
11. Don’t ruin your credit. Shopping is wonderful. Being a girl is wonderful. Being in debt is not. You will receive lots of credit card offers in the mail and they will make it seem like getting a credit card is a good investment (it’s their jobs). I have personally made this mistake myself. It’s not free money. Always pay cash.
12. Happiness is all in your head. Being happy does not come from people, circumstances, or things (even though ice cream might seem like the exception). Happiness is a mentality and a choice you make. I’m not saying getting married, buying a car, or traveling isn’t going to make you happy. There is a good chance it will, but that is because of your outlook on those things. This doesn’t come naturally sometimes (trust me). We all have different brains, lives, and memories. You have to learn to make a conscious decision to be a ‘glass half full’ instead of ‘glass half empty’ kind of person in all situations.
13. Being physical with a boy isn’t going to make him like you. This is one of those tough lessons I personally had to learn the hard way. It’s so easy to look around and think that love = sex. In reality, that is so far from the truth. You can fall in love with someone without ever being physical with them. The majority of guys you meet will be looking for lust, which is something totally different (and they can be really good at hiding the truth). Understanding the difference and not giving into the norm of this society we live in will be a valuable key to success in relationships.
14. Get off the internet and read some books. I know i’m being a little hypocritical here considering i’m posting this online, but reading is so underrated. You don’t have to like reading everyday or every type of book, but if you can find something you like to read and stick with it, you’ll find yourself enjoying it more and more. Oh, and here’s a secret: guys like smart girls. Or at least the smart guys do. ;)
15. The whole world doesn’t revolve around you. I’m so guilty of this one – just ask my friends and family. I have had my fair share of selfish and bratty moments in life and there have been times when I sit at home and throw a giant pity party and expect everyone to join in. The truth is everyone has struggles and is going through things. If you constantly only think of yourself, you will push people away. The best cure to this problem? Be there for a friend or family member and you start to realize how better you feel about your own problems. In return, those people are more likely to be there for you when you need someone.
16. You can be the best version of yourself, and still not everyone is going to like you. You can be a great leader, involved in church, the happiest person on the planet…and still there will be someone out there who doesn’t like you. Accept this and move on. Constantly worrying about it will only bring you down. Oh, and kill them with kindness anyways.
17. Love like you’ve never been hurt. This will be the piece of advice to my daughter that will bring me to tears. Love is not always easy and trusting people after being hurt is not easy either. I’m not saying to ignore all of the red flags and jump into things. Be smart about it. But even when your heart is throbbing, redirect your love to the people in your life who love you back. Giving my little brother a giant hug and playing his toys with him after a painful experience is one of the ways I feel better. Be thankful for the people you do have and when you are ready and find someone worthy of your time and love, don’t be afraid.
18. Find a job you enjoy. If you hate math but decide to be an accountant because you’ll make good money, you will find yourself dreading going to work. Yes, money is great when used in a smart way but don’t ever pick a career path for the money. If you end up in a job that you’re not crazy about but it’s a way to make money until you find something you enjoy more, that is okay and make the most of it.
19. Ditch your phone and enjoy the world around you. I have no idea what life is going to be like when I raise children, but if today is any indicator, then this is a very important thing to teach to my kids and future students. Stop tweeting your feelings, waiting for ‘likes’, and texting your life away. All of these things will seem like good way of socializing but you’ll realize shortly how distant we actually are from people these days. Instagram might be a good way to look back at memories, but were you even enjoying the moment when it happened?
20. Forget your timeline, things will come to you when they are supposed to. This is something I am currently experiencing. I thought when I was 18 that by my current age I would be married, have a career, and a fabulous closet in a fabulous house. HA. Honestly the ironic part is now that I am almost 21 I realize that i’m not ready for those things. Some people will be. Some people won’t. Don’t stress over the timeline you’ve always had in your head. If you believe in God, then you know He has a plan.