Being a big sister is the best thing I have done with my life thus far. I replicate this dynamic in a lot of places. There are a million things I want to say to young women– which is hilarious because I am 26, which is still relatively young. There are things I wish someone had told me, things that may have softened the landscape of my mind. The list below isn’t comprehensive, but it is for you. For all of you.
- Quit worrying if you’re pretty. I spent my whole childhood praying to be beautiful, to be desirable, and then, I grew up to realize that my life is more than an ornament in someone else’s line of sight. You aren’t a object, my love. You aren’t some thing another person appraises for appearance. You define you. You decide that you are fierce and fabulous and sexy and powerful on your terms. Attractiveness vibrates in charisma, compassion, kindness, confidence. There are no hard and fast rules to attraction besides the fact that it’s a frenzied force. Rather than wondering if you look pretty, ask yourself: do I feel empowered? Do I feel confident? Do I feel comfortable? Whatever look facilitates your best self is magic. Go in the direction of magic.
- No is not a dirty word.
- Your body is not the enemy. The world is not better if there is less of you. I want you to take up space. I’m begging you to not waste another second exhausting yourself into a frame that cannot support you. Don’t flatten yourself into a conversationalist who can only spout about their latest diet. Talk about what NOURISHES your soul: art and politics and books and music and nature and the world and love and god and hatred and all the heavy shit and light shit too. People will have sex with you and fall in love with you and you can see the world at a variety of sizes. Your life is not on pause until you wish your goal weight. Life is happening right now. I wasted 23 years of my life starving and throwing up and taking laxatives and counting calories and it was utterly useless. Do not subscribe to the diet culture myth where you are better when broken in half. You could never be anything less than whole.
- Know your worth: in salary, in a relationship, on line with customer service.
- Buy your pants, bra, and top in the correct size if you can afford to. Vanity sizing is cancelled.
- Don’t worry if a crush likes you. Ask yourself first if you like you. Then ask if you like them. Don’t surrender your power so quickly, so willingly like it’s a thrift-store good. It is not. Your power is precious. You are not a yard sale find. You aren’t some bargain bind thing that is lucky to be found. You have always been here, always been worthy, a thousand times over. Never doubt that.
- Become your own best advocate. Because there will be jobs and lovers and things that pass over you, that take your for granted, that may leave. You cannot be one of those things. Because you aren’t disposable. You, as you are right now, deserve the endurance only you can provide yourself. Love yourself because when you love yourself fiercely, you do not tolerate things that don’t.
- Also, how people treat you typically has little to do with you. Everyone is the star in their own movie. You are a supporting player at best. Treat people with kindness and compassion, but know that a lot of times, people are shadowboxing their own projections. Most of it isn’t personal, even when it feels like it is.
- Find good mentors. How? You show up. You show up on time and excited and without pretense. Show up consistently and as yourself. They will find you. They will be your lanterns through the darkness.
- A yoga teacher once said, “you do not have to be perfect, but I ask that you stay 100% committed”. I love that. The point of progress isn’t to be good. It’s to move forward. You can fall or crawl or just breathe– just make it forward. That’s all you have to do. Erase the to-do list of how to get to your mattering. It remains now. You do not have to cure cancer. You do not need to climb Everest. You just need to get to the next step. All victories arrive one step or crawl or gesture at a time.
- Quit worrying about being too much, too loud, too opinionated. You are not origami, something that can be folded or manipulated in the clutches of forceful hands. Don’t worry about being too gross or not pleasant enough. You are not a satisfaction survey. You are a human being. You contain multitudes. Celebrate that as opposed to simplifying it.
- Run hard and fast toward all things, places and people who shake you awake. There are few wrong answers to this (outside of hurting other people). Don’t judge how other people find wholeness here. If it’s religion, great! Reiki? Dope! If it makes someone a better person when the world is ugly, it’s fine. It doesn’t have to be for you for it to be fine.
- Rest as hard as you train. Balls-to-the-wall is a great recipe for burnout and injury. Rest as hard as you study. Rest as hard as you care. You don’t need to out work people to prove that you work hard. You don’t need to grind yourself past functioning to deserve rest.
- Speaking of: if you don’t take a break, you will break. Life is not designed to sustain maximum effort all the time. Rest is sacred, is golden, is precious. Cherish it.
- Make choices and un-pick things as many times as you have to in order to design the life you want. Quit worrying about being “good”. You have better things to do in this existence than live someone else’s idea of life. Blaze your own way. No one else will lie with your choices on your deathbed but you.
- You’re not going to be happy when you get that grade, into that school, that race time, that boyfriend, that girlfriend, move. You will be happy when you understand that your ability to remain present and summon joy and be whole regardless. The satisfaction of your life isn’t checking a box, it a daily practice– which is both annoying and a relief.
- How you pay your bills may not be the why of your life. That is ok. Your passion does not have to be monetized to be valid.
- You also don’t need to impress others with your choice of career. Your education does not have to demonstrate financial merit to be valid. You don’t have to have an institutionalized education to be smart. You are allowed to make your own rules. This is YOUR life.
- People-pleasing is toxic. Be your authentic self. Raise boundaries where you need them. Get comfortable with some people disliking you. I promise it is a small price to pay for your freedom and sanity.
- Learn to say sorry, not as the beginning to a sentence, not as the overture to your existence, but when you really mean it. Be humble enough to know you’ll never stop falling on your face in some way. We all do. It’s humanizing, really. Lean into that. Lean into being a person more than an idea. Any friendship, relationship, job that expects utter perfection from you or tallies your blunders is not infested in your growth. Growth comes from making mistakes and learning. We trip into our better selves.
- Feel your feelings. There is nothing wrong with being sensitive. Sensitive people are like nerves with a little less covering so they react a little more but do the same job. Emotions are the pulse of life. When you feel them, they remind you that you are here. You are alive.
- People will doubt you, and they will always be wrong. They doubt you because you are so bright you are blinding. Whether it’s Greta Thunberg, Malala, Claudette Colvin, Joan of Arc the Parkland Students, Anne Frank. There is a rich history of powerful young women. You are powerful now. They will infantilize and sexuualize you because they are trying to dull your force. They are trying to weaponize your softness to cage you. But you are not a zoo animal. You are no one’s captive. Your voice and opinions matter, and you don’t have to soften them with a smile or excessively apologize to get a seat at the table. Take one. If there isn’t room, bring a folding chair.
- Find your people. Build a whole wide community because money comes and goes, life can be ruthless, our health is not guaranteed, and yeah, sometimes people suck. But we are all each other has. We are in this together.
- Conversely, don’t fall into the trap of believing that if you’re not a prodigy, you have no purpose. I thought I would be married with a house and a stable job by 26, and ya know what? I only have one of those things and my job is not a career! I’ll tell you something else: my life is not definitive at 26 or 30. I hope it is an ongoing, evolving thing. It’s not over. And just because someone is experiencing something you want right now does not mean that it is not in the cards for you later. This life is not a race. I’d argue it’s harder to be a rousing success early and life and chug through with such momentum. I’d also say that when you’ve had your ass kicked and success finds you after maturity, you receive things more gracefully.
- You’re doing a good job. I promise. You’re working so hard, and you feel like a screw up because you’ve made mistakes. But can I tell you something? Mistakes are signs that you tried and that you are human. Your purpose is not perfection. You were not places on this earth to repent and self-loathe and starve all the days of your life. You will do and be so very many things. And they are all enough because you are so very good, so very whole, so deeply enough.
Your Big sister on the internet