After years of acting like a teenager, Chloe has officially entered the realm of teenagers. It’s hard to fathom, especially since I can still see myself – as if it were yesterday – holding her as an infant in my arms.
Turning 13 merits celebration. Chloe has turned the page on her “kid” days and is now starting a new chapter, one that involves increased responsibility and independence. It will culminate in a few years when she leaves the family nest for college, perhaps never to permanently live with us again.
Thankfully, we still have half a decade before Chloe packs her bags for university and we transform her bedroom into a study. In the meantime, here’s my birthday letter to her.
My dearest Chloe,
Having survived my years as a teenager many moons ago, I thought you might benefit from some words of wisdom (ok, the words may not all be wise, but at least they’re heartfelt) as you embark on this years-long adventure, which will often feel like the scariest yet most exciting rollercoaster ride you’ve ever experienced.
* Always be true to yourself and stand up for what you think is right. Don’t succumb to pressure to march to the beat of someone else’s drummer.
* Always be honest. If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, speak out. If someone treats you or someone you know unkindly or unfairly, assert yourself.
* Be diplomatic. Following the advice in (2) above doesn’t give you license to speak without tact. Choose your words wisely and be respectful of others, even if you adamantly disagree with their views.
* Be a team player. Volunteer to help and listen to the ideas of other people. You’re not an island unto yourself.
* Be humble. The world does not revolve around you, even though it might sometimes feel like it does. Don’t expect recognition for every little thing you do.
* Be self-aware. Know your strengths and be willing to acknowledge that you’re not perfect. And never take yourself too seriously.
* Be generous without the expectation of getting anything in return.
* Think like a chess player. When contemplating the pros and cons of one course of action over another, think about the consequences of each before you decide which way to go.
* Don’t always think like a chess player, however. If you constantly think too much, you’ll miss opportunities to enjoy precious moments of spontaneity and serendipity.
* Never lose your sense of humor. Even when you just want to cry. A good laugh helps cure almost any ill.
* Always nurture your love of learning. Your inquisitive mind will take you far in life.
* Don’t be afraid to love and be hurt in love. It’s ok to feel vulnerable and share that vulnerability with another person. A life without romantic love is a lonely life indeed.
* Take risks. Always use your brain, but don’t be scared to step outside of your comfort zone to pursue your dreams and experience life to its fullest, even if it means failing sometimes.
* Be confident without being cocky.
* Be willing to accept feedback, particularly when it’s hard to hear. Life is essentially a series of daily lessons in how to be a better person.
* Always challenge yourself. Taking the easy path may provide short-term satisfaction, but taking the path that pushes your limits will provide infinite rewards once you reach the end.
* It’s ok to safeguard your privacy. In today’s world of extreme oversharing, remember that maintaining an aura of mystery is a good thing and will set you apart from the pack.
* Make a mental note of at least one positive thing that happens to you every day, especially on days when it feels like nothing good has happened at all.
* Never forget that Papa, Sophie and I are here for you. No matter what, we will always be your champions.
I love you so.