I don’t even like kids. They’re sticky and loud. Plus, if anyone deserves to be yelling in the frozen pizza isle at Wal-Mart, it’s me.
Regardless, I know that one day when I’m ready, I’m going to have one or two that I will really love. One of those might be a daughter, and I want her to know that life sucks. Life is, at times, the actual worst.
There are going to be a lot of times where you’re gonna hate it, it’s going to be ugly, you won’t like what you see on the news, what you see at school or on the streets. There are going to be days where you don’t like what you see in the mirror, where you wake up with a headache from crying all night, and there are going to be days where you wonder why it’s worth it.
And to you I want to say this; it just is.
I don’t think I could ever bring someone into this world knowing it wasn’t worth it. I’m still basically a kid myself, but when I’m ready, and when I’m sure, you’ll be here, and it will be worth it. There are some things I want you to know.
First of all, nobody cares. I went through the first 19 years of my life always wondering what people thought about me, what they thought about my clothes, my ideas, my music taste, my hair, my crooked teeth, and everything else. I worried that I had to change things about myself to make people like me. I liked that mustard-yellow turtle neck I found at goodwill, but I didn’t buy it because it was too “out there”. I liked my pink and yellow plaid converse that I threw away sophomore year of high school because they didn’t match with anything. I thought everything was so important. Everything was being watched and critiqued. I thought everyone cared, but they didn’t. I didn’t realize this until about halfway through my 4th semester of college. I found that I didn’t care about what shoes that girl was wearing, or how that other girl wore green parachute pants to class. I admired them for the very fact that they wore them with the confidence they had.
This isn’t just about clothes. I realized that I had not been myself. I didn’t know who I was and it wasn’t making me happy. I changed my standards, my values, my feelings, all for other people. I wanted to be like-able and cool. I was so quiet and reserved because I didn’t want people to judge me. I regret this. Please know that you don’t have to be quiet. You don’t have to hide parts of yourself that others may not like, because hiding them will make you not like yourself. Wear that turtle neck, don’t throw away those converse, and please stop caring so much, the people around you don’t care about these silly things as much as you think they do.
The second thing I want you to know is that you’re worth so much more than you think you are. You are the bees knees, my friend. There will be times when you look at the people around you, and think to yourself, they have everything I don’t. I wish I could be more like them. I wish I had what they had. Stop it. You are incredible. While those people may have things you don’t, you also have things they don’t. Every single person you meet on this earth will have characteristics or gifts that you admire, but never envy them, because you have your own. You won’t look like everyone else. Nobody looks like everyone else. You will have a different face, different body, a different sense of humor, personality, different everything, and that is okay. There are so many times where I wish someone could have told me this. It’s such a simple concept, but so difficult to understand at times. I was so insecure. I was angry at myself for having crooked teeth, I was angry because my hair was shorter than most girls’, I wanted to be funny and flirty and confident. I was so angry because I wanted these things that others had. Looking back, I know that if I had the confidence I have now, I would have been happier. I wouldn’t have starved myself to look a certain way. I wouldn’t have hated myself for the way I looked. I would have been patient. After braces and learning how to fix my hair, I gained some of that confidence. That didn’t solve everything, but learning to love myself began with being comfortable in my skin.
I had to fake a lot of confidence at the beginning. I had to pin down that voice in my head that told me I wasn’t good enough, and tell it to leave me alone. I began to realize that I wasn’t hiding those negative feelings, I was simply letting the positive ones be louder. You will need to remind yourself more often than you’d like that you are enough. You are more than enough. Knowing me, I probably strategically planned your existence, so you are definitely not worthless. Your Father in Heaven has also strategically planned your existence. He knew you, and you Him. He knew that you would be sent to this earth, and He gave you to me with a purpose. He misses and loves you, and will trust me everyday to remind you of that. Know everyday that you are worth more than you could ever know. You may not be like everyone else, but you are you. And that is enough.
Third, I want you to be kind. Being kind, truly, genuinely kind, takes guts. There will be people, events, experiences and ideas that will make you think being kind is not worth the trouble, but you will have to be patient. Someone who knows that this world is not perfect, and the people around them are not perfect, but shows kindness is something rare that this world needs more of. Do not underestimate how powerful this can be. There are people all around you, at school, on the sidewalks, sitting next to you on the train, living next door to you, teaching you, learning with you, that you will never fully know. They will be struggling with things you will never fully understand, so be kind. To everyone you see, meet, love, and learn about, be kind. They will see something in you that they haven’t seen in anyone before, because it is rare for someone to be kind even when they know not everyone will be kind in return. I haven’t mastered this yet, so I can’t tell you that I know everything, but I have experienced the kindness in others that has shaped most of who I am, and who I want to be. I have learned to be patient with others, and to be something the world needs more of, something that I want you to be.
There will be people who take advantage of this. They will see that kindness and take it as passiveness, naivety, and weakness. They will expect you to tolerate things that you shouldn’t, to accept things you don’t want to, and to put your feelings on the back burner. But being kind is not a weakness, so don’t let it be. Don’t let yourself become surrounded by negativity simply because you are a nice person. Be strong, and if you need to let people go who take advantage of that kindness, then let go.
Fourth, you can do anything. This world is too big for you to be what a fraction of this population thinks you should. There are so many different places to go, things to see, people to meet, and things to love. Find those things you love and be good at them. You can be and do anything. Be who you are, and who you’ve grown to be, but become part of something that adds to it. I want you to know that success comes in so many forms, so don’t let others tell you differently. Success is how happy you are with your situation, not the approval that comes from others. If you truly desire to become an art teacher, and you love it and put more of yourself into it than anything else, do it. If you put everything you have into running a fortune 500 company, do it. If you feel that being a mother and caretaker is what makes you successful, do it. Do not think you have to be one thing, either. I’m not only talking about a career, but don’t stop learning and growing because you have found something that makes you happy. The only thing you can take with you when you leave this earth is the knowledge you have gained, so acquire as much as you can.
You are growing up in a world that can be so cruel, one that will judge your decisions as if they know who you are, but you are the only one who knows you. There are still people who doubt women, who doubt your strengths and abilities, who have preconceived ideas of who you are, so prove them wrong. Be proud that you are a woman, because you have capabilities that are more powerful and important than some will lead you to believe. While you do this, support those around you who share this goal. You are not the only one on this earth with the worth and potential I described earlier. Help and support those who have no voice, and empathize with those who do not have the same privileges as you. Listen to and understand your brothers and sisters on this earth to help them be successful too. You can be anything, but make sure one of the things you decide to become is an ally, a friend. Someone with integrity.
The fifth and final thing I want you to know, is that you need to live. Although there are billions of people who share that same worth and potential, you are still so important. Do not shape your decisions around others. Do not let the actions of other people dictate how you feel or think. Do not build your life around other people. Build your life around yourself, and allow others to build with you. You are so much more than 1 out of 7 billion, so much more than a friend, an ally, you are so much more than just my daughter. Build your life around that. Let yourself feel everything, do not think that you have to hide what you feel because it’s not right, or because it’s not what people want to see. If you feel something, feel it like you’re meant to. Experience this world in all the good it has to offer. There are terrible things that happen, negativity, people who hurt others and you will see and experience things that will make watching unbearable, but remember to live for the good. Just because there is darkness does not mean there is no light. Do not rush through life to get to the next best thing. Every minute and the minute ahead of that is the next best thing. Go to that football game, to that dance, and dress up for spirit day because it might seem stupid but in that moment it’s something to help you get through it. It is so small, but it’s so much better than the negativity you will see. Go on that hike even though no one wants to go with you, go see that movie by yourself, ask that cute boy in your apartment complex out on a date, eat that fricken cupcake, dump that boy that doesn’t call you back, stop being friends with those people who do nothing but talk about others, learn to play that instrument you’ve always wanted to, go to that zumba class even though you dance like a white dad at a barbecue, raise your hand if you know the answer, join the intramural bubble soccer team, say yes to things that might scare you. This life is not meant to be optional. Yes, you get to make these decisions and choose how you live it, but you still have to live it.
Do not be afraid to jump into that pool. Yes, the water might be cold for a second, but it will feel better once you’re in there. The shock comes from the transition, not the pool. We fear things in life because we anticipate the shock of transitioning. That fear is so temporary. You don’t fear the actual pool, you fear the change. You fear the shock. Let the shock happen. It will be quick, and you will feel so much better after.
I am going to make mistakes, I am not going to know absolutely everything, but don’t let that define you. I will teach you all I can, and I will do everything I can to make sure you know your potential, but don’t rely on me to help you define exactly who you are. You belong to you, and you belong to God and no one else. Live with that knowledge. Live with kindness and confidence and courage, but please just live.