1. Keep your eyes forward.
As you’ve heard me repeatedly tell you and your brother, high school can suck. It even sucks for the kids who everybody thinks it doesn’t suck for. It sucks, but now it is over. And while we’ve spent this past year marking a lot of “lasts” — last soccer game, last school prom, last track team banquet — high school graduation is really about moving on. You will stop saying goodbyes and soon you will start with a fresh batch of hellos. There is a big old blank page of your next chapter just waiting for you to write it, so please just remember that regrets are a waste of energy.
2. Smart girls who pretend to be dumb are worse than actual dumb girls.
You are a smart girl. Never pretend or act otherwise. Why would you want to be around anyone who would prefer you to be stupid? And no, I will not be nice to anyone like that.
3. Listen to your heart, not your libido.
Libidos are noisy little blabbermouths who sometimes drown out common sense. They are kind of like the sloppy drunk at the party who is slurring his words and spilling drinks all over people. He may feel happy at the moment but man, will he regret things in the morning. Your heart, on the other hand, is pure and trust-worthy. Follow your heart.
4. Help everyone who needs help.
Don’t get caught up in making moral judgements of others before you help them. If someone needs help, give it without expectation of gratitude or appreciation. Don’t measure worthiness in those you help; just help. Help feed people who are hungry; help orphans in China as you have already been doing; help dogs in the shelters — and not just the cute ones. Also help people be the best people they can be by role modeling what that looks like. You’ve already done that for me and your Dad.
5. The Army had it right.
From around 1980 to 2001, the U.S. Army’s slogan was “Be all you can be.” It was good advice. But because I’m your mother and don’t want you in harm’s way, I would actually rather you didn’t join the military or any other high-risk occupation, including skyscraper window-washer. But that said, whenever you see a man or woman in uniform, please be sure and thank them for their service. As for you, indeed be all you can be.
6. Be humble, but accept praise.
There’s an ocean of difference between tooting your own horn and accepting unsolicited recognition. You are amazing and this was affirmed by all the colleges that wanted you to attend and all the scholarship foundations that are helping you to do that.
7. Ignore idiots.
The Internet has a lot of folks twisted up in knots. Hate and venom-spewers are all over the place. Ignore the fools and the cowards who post things anonymously. Ignore the ignorant who share things unwittingly. Ignore the strangers who think it’s OK to insult others or give them advice when they don’t even know them. But remember that while it’s OK to ignore them on a personal level, don’t ever forget these people have been reshaping our world — your world. Yes, Hitler was real and he started out small.
8. Being unkind is never cool.
OK, Sweetie — I know you know this. I’m including it for all the other nice people reading and sharing this post. As the bumper sticker says, “Mean People Suck.” In fact, they suck even more than high school sucks.
9. Be a creator.
Create something — make something — every day. Make someone smile. Make a new friend. Make a scarf, make a meal, make a ceramic dog. Just keep creating. (Dad says to “make a call home to your parents.” I swear, that was him, not me.)
10. Stay organized.
Organized people have less stress in their lives. They know where they left their car keys, don’t run out of a key ingredient mid-recipe, have never in their lives been stuck on the side of the road out of gas. Organized people write things down, don’t show up late to places, don’t miss deadlines or forget when they have a test. I love organized people and in our family, you are my last best hope. Now where did you put the potato chips?
11. Pick wisely.
The decision to pick a mate is likely the most important choice you will ever make. Yes, it’s even more monumental a choice than where you should go to college — and boy, did you agonize over that one. Pick someone who gets you. Pick someone who makes you laugh, whose kisses thrill you, who wants the same things you want. You choose the person, but make your commitment not just to them but to the idea of spending your life with them. Divorce is rarely pretty. So pick wisely.
12. Question everything.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask a dumb question. Don’t take things or people for granted. People in authority aren’t always right. Challenge, insist on proof, demand evidence, and then challenge some more. After all, that’s what good scientists do. Now just apply it to life.