My beautiful daughter
There is a poem called Walking Away by C Day Lewis that ends:
‘…how selfhood begins with walking away,
and love is proved in letting go.’
It feels like every time I blink we have reached yet another milestone and I have to open my hands a little bit more, give you a bit more freedom and start letting you go. I know it is part of the circle of life, you are growing up, but as your mom I wish I could just keep you safe from the world. The world can be a big and scary place, but it is also wonderful, exciting and beautiful.
I have to let you go, give you a chance to make your own mistakes and send you into the world. Here’s some lessons I’ve had to learn the hard way.
1) Never stop learning or trying new things.
“Ancora imparo. [I am still learning.]” ― Michelangelo, at age 87 in 1562
If Michelangelo at 87 was still learning new things, so can you.
When you were little you were so excited to come home and tell me what you learned today at school. You could not wait to learn how to read so that the world of books could open its doors to you. My wish for you is that you never lose that sense of wonder. That you always stay excited about the world and knowledge. Try new things. Learn to skydive, start a new hobby, or learn a new language. Listen to people, talk to your friends, but also talk to strangers. Listen to their stories, pay attention.
Learning new things will make you a more interesting person and you will find joy in knowledge.
2) Nobody is perfect, you should not try to be.
My little girl. I am a woman so I know that every time you open a beauty magazine you will be bombarded with unrealistic bodies.
No one looks like that in real life. Every photo has been airbrushed, the lighting has been set up to flatter the model and every model has a team of people doing her make-up and hair. If this is the standard that you are going to compare yourself to you are going to fail. Every time. Human beings love beautiful things, we like looking at a pretty face and this is something that is not going to change soon, but everyone has a different idea of what beauty is.
Here is what is important: people are attracted to confidence. And even if you do not have any, this is something you can fake.
If you act like you are confident people will think that you are and you will be beautiful.
2) “No” is a complete sentence.
There is a quote from Paulo Coelho that says: “Don’t waste your time with explanations, people only hear what they want to hear.”
As a woman you are conditioned to be nice. As your mother I will tell you do not have to be nice. You can be a good and kind person without being ‘nice’. If you do not want to do something, or feel uncomfortable doing something, or just need a little time to yourself, say “No”. Do not let anyone bully you into things that you do not want to do because you want to be the nice girl. I have not raised you to be part of the crowd and you never have to please anyone but yourself. Use a calm, even voice and clearly say, “No”.
Do not apologise, do not think of excuses and remember “No” is a complete sentence.
4) People do not change.
If someone shows you who they are – believe them. By the time you are a teenager your core personality is already formed. Do not choose someone to love that you think you can change, because people do not change. You do not need to find someone that is perfect, just someone that is perfect for you.
Love with your whole heart and being, but love them imperfections and all. If you are someone that likes to be on time and he is always late, acknowledge that, and make peace with it, because it is not something you can change. Decide if you can live with this or if it is a deal breaker or you will be fighting about this for the rest of your life. This counts for small and big things. In time small things can turn into really big things if you have to live with someone for a lifetime.
5) Let’s talk about sex
There is a lot of information about the mechanics, but very little about the emotional impact of sex.
Let me first say sex is wonderful, exciting and a great pleasure with the right person. The key to a successful sexual relationship is communication and consent. Sex is not something that men take from you, it is also not a present that you give them. The difference between a good sexual relationship and a bad one is the person you share it with. It should never be something that you feel you have to do to please someone.
If you choose to sleep with someone on the first, second or third date or on your wedding night, the best advice I can give you is that you should like him or her. If you are not prepared to make this person part of your life afterwards it is probably not a good idea to sleep with them.
Woman differ from men in that we have difficulty distancing the emotions of sex with the mechanics and if you sleep with someone keep the cliche in mind “you need to be able to still respect yourself afterwards. “If this person is not someone you could be friends with afterwards, why would you want to sleep with him/her?
There is great joy in sharing a sexual relationship with someone that you love, choose well and remember sex is suppose to be a pleasure not a chore.
6) Some relationships are not forever and that’s ok.
Things change. Relationships change. The person that you loved yesterday, might not be the person that you love tomorrow. Sometimes relationships fail. Know that sometimes it is ok walk away. Relationships are hard work, but sometimes you will fail. This does not make you a failure as a person.
7) It is ok to make mistakes.
Everyone makes mistakes, that is how you learn. Dream big, then work hard to make those dreams a reality. People will judge you for your mistakes, keep going anyway. Always, always try. Even if you think that you will fail, be someone that can walk away saying ‘at least I tried.’ Mistakes sometimes open doors that you might have missed if everything in your life worked out according to plan.
That’s it for today. Your mother is a well of infinite wisdom, which I say tongue in cheek, as the only way I acquired this wisdom was by making mistakes and failing. I have failed so many times, but when I look at each of my daughters it does not matter how many times I failed, the only thing that is important is that I should not fail you. And even though I know I will fail, know that you are loved and even when I’ve opened my hands completely and finally let you go, know that I will never close them.
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