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38 Things I Want My College Graduate to Know About Life

“A Letter to My College Graduate” originally appeared on The Girlfriend Mom, and was reprinted with permission.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

What box does a woman check off if she’s in a committed relationship and living with a man who has children but she herself never wanted any? Enter the Girlfriend Mom. I guardedly learned to find the middle ground between girlfriend and mom. The choice was clear, tolerate the kids or lose my love — kind of like Sophie’s choice, only different. After some time (years) I lost my child-free heart and fell in love with someone else’s kids — and discovered aspects of parenting that I rather enjoyed — like telling people what to do. I’d gone from profoundly disinterested to fighting to keep them in my life after a devastating breakup.

So here’s a letter to my daughter on the eve of her graduation from college.

***

My dear graduate,

It’s hackneyed and a cliche but where did the time go? Where is that seemingly surefooted 13-year-old girl, who sat in the passenger seat of her mother’s car in the driveway, craning her neck to catch a glimpse of her father’s new girlfriend?

I am so glad that I was that girlfriend because you have enriched my life, changing it forever. My heart has expanded in ways that I never thought possible. Watching you grow and evolve into a funny, smart, stunning, and curious young woman has been a crazy cool ride.

This is such an exciting time, with all that is in front of you; endless possibilities and just as many opportunities waiting for you to grab hold. It can be scary — uncertainty, confusion, and choruses of “What do I do now?” will surely ring in your ears from time to time. What I can tell you is this: just do — simple but not always easy.

When you hit the potholes along the way, and you will, perhaps these gems will comfort you and get you moving again.

  1. Learn the art of listening.
  2. Only when we do things that hurt a little, or make us uncomfortable, do we receive the good juju.
  3. Keep moving your body.
  4. Know when being selfish is healthy.
  5. Fiber is your friend.
  6. You will not learn or grow as a person by taking the easy way out — of anything.
  7. Be tolerant and patient.
  8. Be kind to yourself and kill the naysayers with kindness.
  9. Never stop learning.
  10. Your words have meaning, choose them wisely.
  11. A sexy mind is a sexy woman.
  12. Unplug, unwind, and quiet the chatter.
  13. Think outside of the box. On second thought, don’t put yourself in a box in the first place.
  14. No tanning beds. Ever.
  15. Exfoliate.
  16. Forgive because you won’t ever forget.
  17. Remember the old folks; respect them, for you too, my beauty, will be old one day.
  18. Be compassionate, empathetic, and humble.
  19. Nobody can tell you what is right for you. That burden, and at times it will feel like a burden, lies within you alone. Suggestions will be made, opinions offered, but it will always be up to you.
  20. Ask for help. People will show up, as will the universe. Pretending doesn’t make you smarter.
  21. Don’t accept explanations as whole truths from people just because they have a business card. Question everything and do your own vetting.
  22. Explore, and travel. These will be the experiences that mold you, influence you, and identify you. “Traveling reminds us who we forgot to be.” — Anonymous, on a bathroom wall in Berlin, Germany.
  23. Indulge in any idea, peoples, culture, gadget, or philosophy that even remotely interests you. It will broaden you in ways that you cannot imagine.
  24. Take chances and risks. Have certainty that there will be someone (it just might be you) or something to catch you. I’ll always be on call.
  25. Don’t ignore the quiet voice that lives in your gut. It holds great power and it will never let you down. It’s your intuition and instinct. It may not be what you want to hear, but be courageous and listen to what it is saying.
  26. Don’t let fear paralyze you. Bravery is acting in the face of fear, making friends with it and moving past it.
  27. Share yourself and your talents with others. Give back and give often.
  28. Don’t spend too much time worrying. It all goes by way too fast for navel gazing.
  29. It’s okay to change your mind. Walk a road that you hadn’t envisioned, and when you’re ready, make a sharp left, and take that road.
  30. Keep your heart and mind open. You will find it, although it may not look like what you had pictured in your mind. You may find that there’s more than one it.
  31. The quicker you can distinguish between what you can control, and what you cannot, the happier and lighter you will feel.
  32. Surround yourself with positive people and let the others gently fall away. Don’t count people out. Sometimes they will surprise you. Gather those around you that will assist you on your path; those that support and encourage need only apply.
  33. Life is messy, complicated, unfair, and it owes you nothing. You will falter, fail, and flail. You’ll make questionable choices. Your mettle will be tested. It’s what you do afterwards that matters. Remember, it’s only a test and it can’t hurt you.
  34. Never excuse rudeness, disrespect, or bad behavior.
  35. Don’t save things for a rainy day or the perfect time. They don’t exist. Wear the new dress, say you’re sorry, tell someone that you love them, answer that email. (I love you.)
  36. You have to look at yourself in the mirror every day. Be sure that you can smile at the person looking back at you.
  37. People are doing the best that they can (most of them anyway), be patient with those that aren’t as capable as you are.
  38. It will always be more challenging, the closer you are to your goals; to your light, to your truth. The universe wants to be sure you’re ready. I have no doubt that you will be.

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