Dear sweet girl—
Today you turn 33 but I’m remembering back to you at 13 and 23 and wishing I could whisper back through the decades and tell you some things you’ve learned.
Read and enjoy. Don’t worry too much.
Life gets better every day.
Hope these small reminders help you to really live it.
Learn to play to an empty room
Someday you’ll have these amazing, talented friends who play music for a living. These people will play to stadiums full of people. They’ll be followed by fans with cameras, begging for autographs. But here’s the thing that will really impress you: when they play to empty rooms. Because what you will see as you watch them create and thrive and perform is that these people are the same people, regardless of who is watching. And you’ll see how it’s the LOVE for what they do that makes them come alive—not how many people are or aren’t watching.
Do what you love. Don’t worry about the applause. The applause won’t do for you what you think it will. (Tweet that)
Have some useless hobbies
Give yourself the space and time and permission to do a few things that aren’t going to directly improve your life’s bottom line. Play the guitar. Sing by yourself on the floor of your living room. Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like you always need to be efficient. Don’t worry if it doesn’t always seem like you’re “making progress”.
Just enjoy the beautiful way your life is unfolding.
Swing in a hammock for hours, daydreaming about a boy you will never marry. Go ahead. I dare you.
Pretend to read books at coffee shops, while you’re secretly people watching. Go for walks to nowhere. Drive just to drive. Wander in circles a little. Take naps in the sunshine. Float in the ocean until your skin is all prune-y and you get a sunburn on your forehead. You don’t always have to do the productive thing. You don’t always have to do the efficient thing. You do not always have to be thinking about your progress (pssst… you’re making progress even when you don’t realize it). You are not a human doing. You are a human being.
It’s okay to JUST BE.
You don’t have to marry the first guy who asks you
This might seem like an insane piece of advice, especially considering marriage proposals aren’t exactly coming at you in droves. But what I mean is that you don’t necessarily need to think that, just because someone asks you to marry them, you should say yes.
Take your time. Weigh your options. Pay less attention to his accomplishments, his bank account, and his resume and much more attention to how you feel about yourself in his presence. Pay less attention to getting him to love you and more attention to getting you to love yourself. Getting married is not the point. Getting him to want to marry you is even less of the point.
You have a whole life ahead of you and you do not need to rush into anything. You are beautiful and talented and the only one of you. Wait for a guy who knows what a gift he’s getting to get to have you in his life.
Let yourself be stupid happy.
Too many people feel guilty for being happy so they go to all kinds of extravagant lengths to sabotage their own happiness—usually without even realizing it. Remember this always: it’s okay to be happy! Ridiculously, stupidly, happy.
Happiness is not a circumstance, it’s a mindset.
You won’t always be perfectly happy. You’ll have to learn to curate happiness, to fight for it in some seasons, to sink to the pits of despair so you can really understand what a rare and shimmering gift happiness truly is. You’ll have to learn that no matter how sad you get, you can always fight your way back to happiness. It is always at your fingertips.
Eventually you will realize that happiness is inside of you, not outside. And that even when your life sort of seems like it might kind of be a wreck, it is okay for you to be ridiculously, stupidly, freakishly happy.
Listen to yourself.
There will be a whole slew of people who want to weigh in on your life. Some of them will have your best interest in mind. Others won’t. It will be hard to tell the difference between the two. But either way, when it comes to taking advice, not all advice is created equal, and you need to know this.
Even those with the best of intentions might be blind to how they are guiding you to the place that is best for them—not necessarily for you.
The one source of wisdom you can always trust is your inner wisdom—that still, small voice. Learn to get quiet, to tune in, to pay attention, and not to let your own voice be drowned out by the noise of the world around you. Your intuition, you will find, is strangely and inexplicably accurate. Not always precise (our intuitions rarely give us details), but surprisingly good at pointing to something important and beautiful and true.
The more you listen to that still small voice, the louder and clearer and more reliable it gets.
Learn to say no.
No I would not like to go out with you. No you may not have my phone number. No I do not want to have sex with you. No I will not text you a picture of myself. No no no. No about lots of other things, too, but those no’s will be especially important.
You do not belong to anyone except yourself.
You do not have to do anything you don’t want to do.
I’m not sure why this feels like such a profound lesson when it seems like it should be so basic, but it isn’t. You are your own person. Your life is your own. Do not let anyone else think they get to choose for you.
Learn to stand up for yourself—as soon as you can
It will be tempting to sit around, waiting for somebody or something to make you feel what you’d like to feel—like you matter, like you’ve made it, like you’re safe, like you can be you. You might, at certain points, find yourself waiting for a man to pay your bills or waiting for someone to open the door to your dream opportunity.
But the truth is this waiting is useless.
Not that those men or opportunities or people will never come, but that there is no feeling the world which compares to doing it yourself.
I do not mean you shouldn’t ask for help—which may be one of the bravest things you do. I simply mean there is no feeling like the feeling of taking ownership over your life. Of supporting yourself. Taking care of yourself. Standing on your own two feet. I hope and expect that you will become the kind of woman who doesn’t wait to be rescued, but who knows you have the courage and the talent and the gumption to rescue yourself.
Say what you want.
Say it exactly and specifically. Don’t hem and haw. Don’t hedge your bets. Don’t tiptoe. Just say, “I would like you to leave now” or “I think you should hire me” or “I want more time to myself”. Say it to your parents, or to your friends, or in a prayer. It doesn’t even have to be a request. It can just be a statement. The things we speak out loud tend to find a way into our minds and lives and hearts.
You will be hurt. Anyone who lives life with an open heart will be hurt. So learn to forgive. Forgive your brother and sisters. Forgive your parents for not being perfect. Forgive the one who tried to love you but couldn’t.
And when I say “practice forgiveness” I mean it literally. It takes serious practice. Start with the small things so you are not so caught off guard when the bigger ones come.
Remember forgiving is not excusing.
Most people, most of the time, are doing the best they can.
Get yourself a good, strong right hook.
Take a self-defense class. Ask someone to teach you. Just in case. You know. You more than likely won’t have to use it. But it will make you feel a little safer when you have to come home alone.
Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Learn to laugh at yourself more than just about everyone else. Learn to fail because you know that the world does not depend on you succeeding.
As you fail with gusto, you will find your way to great success.
Take up some space in the world.
Be a little louder than necessary. Eat too much every now and then. Don’t shrink down or back off to make other people happy. Laugh your ass off—and say ass even though people will say it’s not “becoming” of a woman. Every now and then, remind yourself that you have choices and that you can do what you want and that no one else gets to make those choices for you.
Don’t worry too much about stepping on toes. Most toes are resilient. And the ones that aren’t could use a little stepping on now and then. It’s good for them. Builds strength. And whatever you do, never forget that you deserve to take up space in this world.
You are bold. You are brave. You are BIG and that’s okay.
Can’t wait to watch you shine.